Thanksgiving week is a time to express gratitude and appreciation and to acknowledge what we are thankful for in our lives. Many of us have Thanksgiving routines and rituals that take us out of the everyday routine of our lives and provide a space for us to slow down, unwind, reflect and give thanks.
This change of pace is important as our everyday lives tend to be focused on action and activities, completion and accomplishment. Few of us make time in our routines for reflection and thankfulness.
The breaking of routine allows this pause for reflection to occur. It allows us to reflect on the past year, prompting our minds to wander through the possibilities of the year to come.
It’s hard for me to reflect over the past year as so much has happened. My first thought is that it seems longer than a year. How could all the activities and events have happened in just one year?
During the first few months, I focused on my father’s run for the Republican presidential nomination. My family celebrated New Year’s in Iowa, while campaigning for the primary. Then came New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and Super Tuesday.
The pace was fast. There were nights on the trail when I would attempt to use the access card from the hotel of the night before and mornings when I would wake up and not know what city I was in.
Even now, I have to refer to an e-mail trail or calendar to get the order of events right.
After an incredibly fast-paced first half of the year, there was a moment during the summer when I thought that the rest of the year was to be uneventful.
I was wrong.
In early July, my mother went into the hospital with a compressed and fractured vertebra; in August, she suffered a series of strokes.
She could move neither her right arm nor her left leg. She had limited movement in her left arm and right leg. After weeks of tests, scans and confirmation of the diagnosis, she was transferred to a rehabilitation center.
There, she spent her initial few days lying in bed, moaning and crying. Her mental and physical anguish were evident to all those around.
More than two months later, she can now use both arms and hands. A miracle to me. Her journey is not yet over.
My husband, who supported and encouraged me during the campaign, has been patient as I’ve visited and tended to my mother. Our older child turned 13 this year and is more interesting and delightful than ever. Watching our 11-year-old grow taller, stronger and more self-assured has been one of the highlights of this year.
My sister Kathy and I often travelled together during the campaign. When it ended, I missed those times together. But not for long. My mother’s medical woes a few weeks later have had a silver lining — we again are spending much of our time together.
Being with people along the way makes the journey.
For me, this year’s main lesson, one that I am still learning, is that I cannot fix some things — not my dad’s campaign, not my mother’s strokes. Sometimes, the best that can be done is simply to be present, to be with loved ones while they are going through a difficult time, to let them know that they are not alone on the journey but are loved through the pain and sorrow.
I don’t know what next year will hold. But this week, I’m thankful to have survived the year so far and am grateful to those who have been with me during the travails and trials.
This week, take time to pause, reflect and give thanks.