Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Gratitude and Atonement

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I suck at gratitude. Forever thinking about the future and how to correct wrongs, both in my life specifically and with society as a whole, I often neglect to be grateful for what I do have.

The problem is not isolated to myself, or any specific subset of society. I can think of several people in my life that are great at showing gratitude. They make people feel good about themselves by giving compliments, and sounding grateful for anything anyone does for them. More importantly, they sound grateful to people just for being who they are and being in their lives. They are the ones that will occasionally just thank me for the way my mind works after I make some kind of comment.

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This is the exception rather than the rule. I have encountered far more people who are fixated on what they don’t have or what’s wrong. If I had to express my behavior with respect to being thankful vs. resentful, I would put myself somewhere in the middle of the curve. That is, however, not good enough. A lot of people recognize this as a problem. It’s now commonly recommend that peopleĀ keep a gratitude journal in order to alter their focus.

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A decade is coming to an end. A decade full of ups and downs. A decade full of experiences. A decade full of joy and pain.

Throughout the decade, I can point to times when my behavior was positive, selfless and encouraging. I can also point to plenty of times when my behavior was erratic, self-destructive and not exactly fair to the people around me.

In the new decade, I am done with the tyranny of expectations, the fear of letting people down and the need for approval from others; especially authority figures. However, there are people in my life who genuinely helped me, were there for me during some rough times, encouraged me, and enriched my life just by being a part of it.

This Thanksgiving, it is time to

  1. Show people that I am grateful for them being in my life
  2. Tell them why I am grateful for them, and tell them that I care
  3. Show remorse for those who I have treated unfairly or taken for granted
  4. Truly let go of some things I am still holding onto

What I did can be thought of as trying to cram multiple years worth of gratitude into a single month.

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I decided to write notes to people who impacted my life in a significant way over the course of the decade. I’m sure I still left some people out. It was a list I agonized over. In the end, I wrote about 85 letters.

I spent two weeks writing what I should have been telling the people around me all decade. The notes mention specific qualities about people I enjoy. They express gratitude for shared experiences. They described the positive impacts certain people have had on my life. They express remorse for the situations I did not handle well.

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Writing the letters was quite emotional. In some cases, it felt like reliving the ups and the downs, the moments I am proud of and the ones that make me cringe. Overall, writing these notes made me feel better.

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Bringing these notes to the Post Office turned out to be even more emotional than writing them. There was something amazing about the act of dropping all these letters into the mail slot. At that specific moment, a giant weight lifted from me. I had finally done the right thing. The past could be put behind me. This season of reflection, gratitude and atonement makes me ready for life’s next chapter.

I’m not sure how anyone is going to respond to these Thanksgiving notes. Some people, especially those I have not talked to the last few years, may even be a bit bewildered.

While I am sure I will hear from some people when these notes are received in the mail, I am not anticipating anything specific. That’s not the point. I wasn’t doing this to have anyone tell me how great it is that I am finally showing some gratitude or hear from people who have not been in my life for years. The point was to tell people they matter. Assuming nothing goes terribly wrong at the Post Office, that mission is accomplished.

My 2016 Thanksgiving List

Thanksgiving is a holiday we need more than ever. Like many holidays in the U.S., Thanksgiving has an “official” meaning that is often overlooked by many. While celebrating they holiday, some are prompted to share what they are thankful for. This serves a very important purpose, as it is often common, and part of human nature, to focus on our needs, desires, what is wrong, what we do not have (and wish we did), or what we wish were so (but isn’t).

At this holiday, we reorient our minds, onto what is right, what we do have, and what we should be grateful for. This is important because this celebration (Thanksgiving) will be followed by a period of generosity (Christmas), and a period of reflection (New Years).

Over the last several weeks particularly, it’s been hard not to, unfortunately, end up with our minds focused on what is wrong. Over the past three months, Americans just endured a very divisive election, had levels of daily sunlight decline by several hours, and many have not had a day off of work for a while. This re-focus on gratitude, thankfulness, and enjoying what we already have will provide for alliances end of the year reflection.

In that spirit, I provide a list of the 15 things I am Thankful for this year (in no particular order).

1. The Chicago Cubs World Series Championship team

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I’ve been following this team for 23 years, and it’s good to finally see them win one!

2. Being a part of the Boulder Co-Ed rec league summer championship team

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I find being part of a team like this to be one of the most rewarding experiences around.  I get exercise, get to spend some time outside, and do so in a social way.  I also believe we need to celebrate our accomplishments, both large and small.

3. Personal Growth

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For me, 2016 was a year of fantastic personal growth. I came to a lot of realizations about life, and worked on things such as being confident in who I am, not trying to please/ prove myself to others, enjoying the journey and not being too obsessed with the destination, trying to be a more giving person, and putting that which makes me anxious into its proper context. I’m hopeful this is setting me up for even better things to come.

4. Seeing people around me do the things they love

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I see people around me taking part in artistic pursuits, theater, performing music and other things that make them happy. I’ve seen some even start their own businesses; restaurants, non-profit charities, real estate, and side-hustles. I even know people who have done things like hike the Appalachian Trail, travel the world, and take part in overseas projects.

5. The adventures I had in 2016 and the people that joined me for them

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2016 included a couple of bike trips, a lot of skiing, some great hikes, a backpacking trip, a rafting trip, and trips to places like Iceland, Vegas, New Mexico, and Cancun (upcoming). None of these experiences were alone, and all were enhanced by each and every person who joined me for them!

6. Feeling appreciated by people

It’s easy to dwell on those difficult exchanges with people, and the times that people frustrate me, but there are plenty of times in life when people show appreciation for one another and give each other the gift of acceptance.  I recognize how lucky I am to have people that do accept me as I am.

7. People from past chapters of my life that have not forgotten about me

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Once someone moves to another city, it gets harder to stay in touch and stay involved in one another’s lives.  I am very much appreciative to still hear from people who live hundreds to thousands of miles away.  These enduring friendships have produced some great experiences, and there are more still being planned.

8. Where I live

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When I see what is going on in various places around the world, I must be thankful to live in a place where I feel safe, and don’t worry about an attack, military coup or anything like that. Denver also has a lot of fun stuff to do around me. I’m particularly blessed to live 3 miles from the REI flagship store, and around a lot of people who also wish to #optoutside.

9. It’s in the air

I guess I just have this feeling of optimism. That both me individually, and we as a society, are finally prepared to free ourselves from the limitations that have been holding us back and the outdated assumptions that are no longer serving us well, and advance to something greater. I hear it in dialogue of people around me-everywhere. I see it on shows, in books. The age of defferance is over.

10. The war on uprightness


That we’re fighting back, against all the “You should…”, “You can’t just….”, and “How could you….” stuff.

11. Emotions


I can be a turbulent person. But I am grateful for the emotions I experiences, including the negative ones. I reassures me that I still feel, I still care, and have not turned into a robot as I feel the working world wants us to do sometimes.

12. Basic comforts

Food. Water. Shelter. There are still a lot of people that suffer without them.

13. My health

I can still wake up every morning, even though there are some days I do not want to. I can run, bike, hike, etc. and still feel pretty good doing it. Many have health problems that are not of their own doing. I am blessed to have a body that permits me to take part in the activities that bring me joy!

14. Everything that makes the world interesting and magical


Waterfalls, buildings, rainbows, storms, rivers, tress, dogs, horses, the way people smile, children, lakes, compassion, enthusiasm, the smell of campfire in the woods, games, the taste of food, and, yeah, the list goes on and on- infinitely!

15. Music

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The fact that it exists, in a variety of different forms, and has the power to inspire, energize, and provide many with an outlet for creativity.