Moments after the first leaves have changed from green to brilliant orange, our lives are abuzz with lists of things for which we should be thankful. However varied, ranging from friends and family to jobs and religion, there is one common theme. People tend to be thankful only for the things that are present in their lives, not for those that are absent.
Honestly, it makes sense. In assessing how we feel, we take into consideration the state of our health, home, employment, love life and even shoe collection. We think about the gifts that have come into our lives, via hard work or good fortune, but rarely do we think about the gifts that have left. Well, this Thanksgiving, I am bucking the system.
Tomorrow as I sit down for dinner with my sister, her baby bump, my brother-in-law, my husband and my two beautiful daughters, I will be expressing gratitude not only for the things that are in my life, but for the things that have left it.
I will be thankful as much for the marriage I have today as for the troubled one of just a few years ago, as it was those challenges that forced us to look closely at the weaknesses we both let damage our relationship-- and ultimately empowered us to majorly overcome them.
I will be thankful as much for the job I have today as the one I left at The Bachelor nearly three years ago, as it was the difficult decision to leave the excitement, stability and comfort of that opportunity which lead to tremendous personal and professional growth elsewhere.
And I will be thankful as much for the people that are in my life now as I am for the lasting impressions (both positive and negative) left by those that have gone.
The funny thing is, once you are thankful for the things that have left your life, they have an uncanny way of returning to you- multiplied abundantly.
Several months ago, Trista Sutter reached out and asked if I would contribute a story to her book, “Happily Ever After: The Life-Changing Power of a Grateful Heart”. Not long after we began exchanging ideas for what I would write, Trista sent a draft of her introduction to my piece. For me to learn of the impact of just one friendship I created while at The Bachelor, likely one I would have predicted as fleeting, brought me to tears. In fact, I had never been so grateful for the franchise.
Shortly after that, I arrived home to three enormous boxes delivered from my mother back east. In them were my Barbie Dream House (circa 1978) and all of its original contents from disco print lounge chairs to wardrobe even Lady Gaga would kill for. And while I have my mother to thank for meticulously packing and safe-keeping the items for decades, I am also grateful to my father (who we lost decades ago) for buying me the pad in the first place. His gift has now returned to his grandchildren, whose creativity and imaginations will benefit greatly from his aged generosity (not to mention the positive message about body image sent by a less sexualized Barbie).
So, there is real truth in the statement that if you love someone (or something), you should set it free. It may just come back to you in ways you never, ever expected.