I don't have a gratitude practice, per se, but these days I can usually find something to be grateful for. On harder days my best friend and I play a little game we like to call Gratitude. We're creative like that. The rules are simple; you keep your eyes open and peeled for those little joys that present themselves every day. It's so simple to get bogged down in the negative emotions that can accompany an argument with a family member or a work deadline or, y'know, watching the news, so looking for the good can be a necessary part of one's day. I'm not talking about the big stuff - family, having a job and a home - I'm talking about a wave from a driver you let in in front of you, seeing a smiley face in the pattern of the ceramic tile in your bathroom, or experiencing a beautiful cloud formation.
Here's a smattering from April, 2015:
That last one was hard to write. One of our (two - we're not crazy people!) cats, Lucy, had just been diagnosed with kidney disease (with which comes much vomit), to which she succumbed six months later at age eighteen. I am grateful to have had her love in my life. She and her sister Marley showed me that it's possible to be both a cat- and a dog-person.
I've been thinking about them a lot this week, because Wednesday was their birthday. Marley died a year and a half after Lucy. For nineteen and a half years they graced our lives. Literally from Day One.
When I was going to Mount Royal College to study massage therapy, we were oh, so generously invited to live with an amazing woman who was the outdoor foreman on a dairy ranch in Springbank - shout out, Cindy!! <3. In the spring of 1997, Cindy brought home, well, I can only describe her as a living, breathing Nermal (of Garfield fame), the cutest kitten in the world. Beyond cute, Rosie was gorgeous, grey and white with black markings and curious eyes. Cindy brought her home at six weeks.
She was knocked up at six months. Her first heat. Famous last words, "There are no toms on the farm."
There was one. And he was orange.
By the time they were born, we had moved out of Cindy's, but on the morning of October 9, the call came in. "It's time!"
I rushed from our Bridgeland apartment and arrived at Cindy's in time to see the boy, Cheetoh, and Lucy (named for the orange patch on her head and her Lucille Ball scream) being born. Marley was already a squirming, sightless blob. I will spare you the details of the next several minutes (there was an ick factor), but Rosie had her kids cleaned up pretty quickly after, uh, fortifying herself with iron.
They lived the first six weeks of their lives in a Stetson box - you should have seen the little buggers learning to get in and out of it! - then our little girls came to Bridgeland to live with us. I was smitten. They were as different as night and day. If anyone wants to get into a nature/nurture debate, this is where I will start. Where Marley would come when she was called, Lucy would never even let you know that she was under the coffee table at your feet. Lucy favoured tinsel balls, while Marley played with catnip mousies. Though they both free fed, Marley was underweight and Lucy was plump. We figured it was because she was the runt, starved in utero then wanting forever after to be sated. Maybe not. In spite of always having access to food, she maintained a steady weight. She wasn't obese.
It's funny, now I think about it, just how differently the cats were judged. It was like there was something inherently off about Lucy. So many people told us that we should put her on a diet. She didn't understand their words, obviously, but the judgment sure made me want to rummage in the pantry. And that happened more and more as she got older. I'll admit, we did force her onto a diet, not because the vet told us to, but probably for appearances. What the vet did tell us was that she was the sweetest cat - a fact we knew well. (Marley was much less vet-friendly, but that had as much to do with the fact that she mostly went in there to get her anal glands expressed as her temperament, I'm supposing.) My point is, why did we cause Lucy undue stress? She was happy and healthy. She was arthritic at the end, but eighteen is the equivalent to eighty-eight in human years. Why wouldn't she have been? So, we carried her up the stairs when she seemed sore, and we put a cat-house-bucket-scratcher-thingy (?) beside the chest at the foot of the bed to make it easier for her to climb up. Now, you can say, "Sure, but Marley lived longer," to which I respond that I think she was actually the freak between them :D Nineteen and a half is like ninety-four for us, yet she would still tear around the house regularly. But only once.
Marley died in April of 2017. It was heartbreaking when it happened, but it was time. What I hadn't counted on was how hollow the house would seem without the cats' presence. I had been saying just that when, in early December, we got a text. A friend's daughter was splitting up with her fiancé and moving home. She had two cats, but Dad was deathly allergic. Did we want them? That text came on a Monday. We met the cats Wednesday. They moved in Friday.
And on this Thanksgiving Sunday, I want to express my gratitude for the love they offer us. We catch ourselves sometimes comparing them to, or even just referencing, "Our Girls," which isn't fair, I guess - Koza and Frankie are definitely our girls - but maybe that's how our mindset has to be. Eighteen plus years they were with us; I never want to feel like we replaced them. We didn't. We have tonnes of room in our hearts for all of them.
And for that I am grateful, on this and every day.
They make my world better.
Nope, I didn't have a farce clue where that was headed. That's kinda the way I like it.
I don't like turkey dinner. I know that sounds like blasphemy to many of you, but it's true. I spent many a Christmas and Thanksgiving listening to my mother talk about how much she dislikes turkey dinner. The stress of potentially drying out the bird, the timing of the vegetables, everything conspired to create tension in the house. Anything short of perfection is failure.
One Thanksgiving the bottom element of my oven burned out, and I produced a turkey that bled out on the platter. Sorry, Uncle John!
One Christmas I thought I'd slow roast the bird and managed to render all of its soft tissues into sludge. That one was for my parents and younger brother.
Through all of these years, though, I seem to have forgotten how much Thanksgiving really means to me. Not in a crazed, football-infused American way, but in a much sweeter and more thoughtful way.
When I was nineteen, in my first year of university, I got two Thanksgiving dinners, or suppers, I guess, as I was in New Brunswick. I was only a year into the university experience and had made some of the best friends imaginable - hell, I married one of them! I was a stranger and they took me in. I was welcomed into their homes like one of the family, so I using this moment to express my gratitude.
And to my mother-in-law Carol who is visiting, I would like to also apologise for those moments this week when I have allowed my stress to get the better of me. It's reflexive, and I am trying to do better. I will never forget your kindness all of those years ago. You brought me into your home - two years of Thanksgivings in a row and many more times besides - and even sent me home with leftovers. I thank you and know that your generosity of spirit has left its mark on me.
I love you.
What do you want your legacy to be?
Christie Morden is Calgary's premier mental health coach. Her unique and revolutionary Quicknotherapy, a blend of hypnotherapy and coaching techniques, helps her clients achieve results fast and get the healing that they and their families need to break the cycle of generational emotional trauma.