On Gratitude

Grateful / Agradecido - Woman reflecting on hand mirror at home


Posted in: Stress

Topics: Healthy Living, Stress

Este artículo está disponible en español.

Thanksgiving Day is my favorite holiday and for many reasons, most of which have to do with food. As a child, my Cuban father and Mexican mother would bypass the turkey tradition and instead roast an entire pig seasoned with Mojo Sauce. They would pair said pig roast with white rice, black beans, fried sweet plantains, and boiled cassava. On the one occasion that my brother and I begged our mom to make a turkey (we wanted to be just like other American families), Mami complied but she seasoned the turkey with Mojo Sauce and stuffed it with white rice and black beans. Go figure. It tasted just like roast pig but at least we felt a little more “American.”

Whether we had turkey or roast pig made no difference to our parents; they had lived in extreme poverty as children and they fully embraced the spirit of Thanksgiving in their new home country. My father would always remind us that we were blessed to have each other, to have good health and a solid roof over our heads. Never did he mention how grateful he was for our new sofa or used car or my brother’s bicycle. In short, we learned to always be grateful for the things we could not buy. For this reason, I will always love Thanksgiving.

Each year, many of us come together to celebrate everything for which we are grateful: the love of families, partners, friends; the safety of our community, the dedication of teachers; a thousand marvelous intangibles that fill in the cracks created by our stressful jobs and never ending responsibilities. We give thanks for all the things that make our lives meaningful and worth all the headaches.

But have you ever given thanks for who you are in the grand scheme of things?

Does it feel too weird, too self-serving to explore the idea that you have something to offer, something for which you should be grateful? If so, maybe it’s because it seems more natural to beat ourselves up instead. I am not pretty enough. I am not smart enough. I am not interesting. I am a bad parent, a terrible partner, an embarrassing resident of Planet Earth. Yet no matter how much you criticize yourself, there’s something within you that deserves a place on Thanksgiving Day. Something that has gotten you this far in life but is currently buried beneath layers of self-doubt, insecurity, and harsh self-judgment.

So, before you pile your plate with whatever food your family or friends like to eat on Thanksgiving Day, before you give thanks to everyone and everything in your life, pause for a moment. Give thanks for whatever it is about you that gets you out of bed, whatever you do that lifts and encourages others: your strength, your patience, your energy, your sense of humor, your dedication to honesty, or your commitment to your partner. Say it aloud in the presence of others or write it down. Start a new tradition with your friends and family. Post it on Facebook, send out a Tweet.

You know yourself better than I do, so run wild and be grateful for your greatness.

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Yvonne C. Castañeda, LICSW

Yvonne C. Castañeda, LICSW

Born in Los Angeles to Mexican and Cuban parents, Yvonne Castañeda was raised in Miami, where she eventually earned a BA in International Relations from Florida International University. She has worked in the restaurant, cruise line, education and h...

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