The days leading up to Thanksgiving this year felt difficult. Previously, I had been traveling and able to spend my holidays in the company of fellow travelers, mostly Americans who were also away from their loved ones and home country. None of the celebrations were anything like what we would experience at home: a multitude of relatives and family friends gathered together in the warmth and coziness of someone’s home, food cooking up in the kitchen, music, movies and games to imbibe in. I was thinking about my younger years and how I had taken them for granted: waking up in the same house as my family, dressed in our pajamas and sleepily heading to the living room to wait for everyone to get up. Breakfast was usually a feast and it was a beloved day, since our schedules seemed to not align so much as we’ve gotten older. It is the warmth and nostalgia of these days that I miss the most, now that I am starting my 30s. I think about the potentials of my own family and what sort of traditions I would create for my loved ones.
I feel that a lot of the growth that I’ve experienced these past few years have been deeply rooted in the lessons of gratitude. Younger Julia, as I hold her with a lot of love, was precocious, bold, defiant and had a lot of sass. She’s still within me but one of the things that she didn’t really learn was to be aware and conscious of feeling gratitude for the things in her life. Maybe she did but maybe not as much as she should have. Or maybe this is one of those lessons in life you don’t “get” until you mature. That the simple times of being in close communion with community, despite the annoyances and frustrations of close relationships, are the gold that you sift for through the sands of time.
This morning I woke up to the company of my kitty, York (whom I’ve tried to rename Sushi but hasn’t stuck), clawing at the window and meowing to indicate he wants to be let out into the courtyard. I allowed myself the joy of meditating to music and all of these cherished moments in my life rose up in my mind…such little things that I don’t find myself thinking of often but the holidays have a funny way of bringing them up.
I know that this time of year may not be the easiest for everyone. Some people struggle during this time for a multitude of reasons. Maybe they’re not so lucky to have friends or family to go to. Maybe they’re alone in this world. The simplicity of a comfortable bed, a roof to block me from the elements, clean water to drink and a hot meal in my belly…These are some of the things that I take for granted on a daily occasion. It’s such a funny thing how easily this feeling gets lost in my day to day life. That after self inflicting worries onto myself, the joy of being safe, loved, seen, known and cared for gets buried under things that don’t actually matter. Yes, you’ll always have desires, whatever they may be. To make more money, to buy this or that, to go here or there, to have a better XYZ…But learning to appreciate what is here and now has been poignant.
I feel I’ve learned a lot of compassion and sympathy that seems to eradicate the shield of ignorance that childhood and youth grants. It feels that it’s taken me the later part of the 20s to come to this acknowledgment and I’ve had to tear apart my entire life to do this. With this knowledge, I feel that I can even more so appreciate what I do have going on in my life instead of focusing on what I don’t. And I will admit that when I am with the people I love and I find myself bothered by something, it’s much easier for me to refocus. Not that I don’t still react in a way that doesn’t align with gratitude. I’m only human, after all. For now, as I sit in a cafe, I feel grateful for the friendly faces that come in and out through these doors, the delicious iced hojicha I sip on as I write this, the warmth of the southern Californian sun, the few friends I do have here, my health, that I get to experience this day and the fact that my family and friends elsewhere seem to be happy, healthy and thriving.