A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of Nov. 26-Dec. 2, 2014
GIVING THANKS EACH CHANCE WE GET
Happy Thanksgiving Week to everyone! I know that once we settled here, we Filipino-Americans did as the Americans have done such that we have learned to adopt Thanksgiving as our own holiday, too, although the historical reasons for celebrating it are largely North American in nature. The so-called first Thanksgiving was a romanticized account of how the colonists and the Native Americans shared a meal. According to History.com, “In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states.” For the record, we are neither ignoring the bad blood between the two camps nor overlooking the violence and injustice perpetrated by the “white man” against the Native Americans. Instead, during this season we just choose to focus on the many ways we are giving thanks for all the blessings we receive, and yes, even for the trials, from a God/Goddess who does not discriminate based on skin color and other markers of our differences. Personally, I believe that we are all united by love and compassion, which in my book are the only true religions. But then, that’s just me.
I have kept a gratitude journal for several years now. I do admit that there were periods when my entries were sporadic and uninspired. During those times, I may have been feeling depressed or frustrated. Perhaps during 50% of those “dry spells,” I remember trying very hard to write at least a couple of entries like, “I am grateful for a room of my own” or “I thank God for my comfortable, lived-in slippers.” I try to notice every single thing, every little thing, which normally I’d be taking for granted when I’m being thankful for the big things, the exuberant feelings, the dramatic events. Therefore, throughout the years, I have come to a personal conclusion: it is when I’m going through a dark night of the soul that I must try harder to find things, people, and events in my life to be thankful for, because you know what? Any which one of those could be taken away from me at any time. In short, what I’m trying to say is I’d like to exhort you to appreciate the people and things in your life and to be thankful for them. A wise woman told me lately that there is a difference between appreciation and gratitude, and I think I’m beginning to understand now. Appreciation is when we have a sensitive awareness of people and things just because they are there, while gratitude or thankfulness is usually our reaction when we asked for a favor and it was granted.
One of my adult learners, Benjamin, is also doing a gratitude journal and sometimes we read out our entries to each other during our tutoring sessions. Aside from being a springboard to correct any grammatical or spelling errors (if any), his handwritten journal gives me a precious insight into how he thinks and feels. There was one statement he wrote that I couldn’t forget because it had a profound impact on me: “I thank God that the earth is round with four corners. Even if people are different, they are all the same.” Benjamin even accompanied his entry with a crayon-drawn quasi-realistic globe with the continents mapped in and a cross in the middle of the globe to signify the four major directions. He really got into it.
Browsing through my latest gratitude journal, here are some things that I have thanked God and Goddess for:
1. I am thankful for the few friends that I have. They may not be that many but I have experienced their love, support, and loyalty. I am also thankful for my wonderful family.
2. I am thankful for my ability to read. This ability alone expands my world, influences my point of view, and spurs me into action.
3. I am thankful for my comfortable clothes and shoes that keep me warm even in the coldest weather.
4. I am thankful to be able to ride AC Transit Bus #22 (my main transportation to and from Chabot College where I go to school).
5. I am thankful that I went out on a date with him today (whomever “him” is at the moment).
And so on and so forth. The idea for me here was to give thanks every chance I got lest I just let the moment pass and take all those bountiful blessings and seemingly inconsequential things for granted. Our Great Father and Great Mother have been good to me. I have even come to terms with my disability, bipolar disorder, and somehow turned it into a wellspring of inspiration for meeting people with disabilities like me, as well as healers of the mind, body, and spirit, and other very interesting people. If not for my illness, I wouldn’t have had the privilege, 14 years ago, of founding the Biopsychosocial Support and Interaction Group (BISIG) which was the first support group for people with mental disorders in the entire Philippines at the time. If not for my illness, I wouldn’t have met my wonderful members, most of whom are living drama-free productive lives these days. I am thankful that after much trial and error, I have learned not to be ashamed of my mental illness anymore and to do my best to live as normal a life as possible given my limitations.
Now just this past Sunday, I happened to be at the Angel Light Books in Berkeley again for their Thanksgiving Psychic Fair. As a “thank you” to all the loyal customers who have frequented the shop, store owner Ms. Valencia Chan asked us to join her for complimentary hors d’ oeuvres, pumpkin pie, and ginger peach tea. All of us who were in the store that day received a free gemstone heart which we picked with our eyes closed from her elegant black velvet pouch. I got a red jasper which Ms. Valencia said is supposed to energize the blood and increase one’s stamina. Goodness knows, with finals week coming up soon, I need all the help I can get. There were readers there for Chinese Fortune Telling, Tarot, Palm Reading, and African Shell Reading available for $20 for each type for 15 minutes, as usual. Of course, I haven’t experienced an African Shell Reading yet so that’s what I went for. Ms. Khadijah Grant, dressed in traditional African garb, was my reader. There was an invocation to my ancestors since according to Ms. Khadijah, they are always available to help. She asked me to move my right hand three times among the shells, coins, stones, etc., heaped over a circular symbol on her table mat. The long and short of it is that I need to get more grounded and that I am being urged to use more of my gifts for the benefit of others. She asked me to do a “mineral meditation” since minerals stand for memories – part of my grounding work, acknowledgement of my ancestors, and a call for guidance from the Earth itself where I am to do my future work.
As I am wont to say to myself as I feel my beating heart, “It is well with my soul.” It truly is. It is well with my soul. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!
Find advisor Blesilda44 at KEEN.com, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567 either by phone or chat: Mon-Fri 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm Pacific. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings (fee required), email me here: firstname.lastname@example.org