I wasn’t going to cook a big Thanksgiving dinner this year. For only the four of us, it just seemed like too much work. I already struggle to prepare dinners even though I only do it four days each week. It’s a complicated task to work around the vast array of food sensitivities and personal preferences within this small family. Since no one seemed to care much about the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, I was all set to skip it.
Still, we would have to eat.
What would I cook? I could satisfy the lovers if I bought just drumsticks. Traditional holiday side dishes, such as mac and cheese, sweet potato, and green beans casseroles, were anytime favorites. Our daughter was all prepared to bake a cake for her dad’s birthday. That took care of dessert! Satisfied that I wouldn’t be preparing a “big Thanksgiving dinner,” I happily went to the store, bought the turkey drumsticks and the “fixins,” and went to bed Wednesday night prepared for an enjoyable day in the kitchen Thursday.
The trouble began with the cake. Our daughter likes to bake. She bakes late at night when everyone else is sleeping. She’s learned to be quiet, which is a good thing, and she enjoys the autonomy of having the house all to herself. The downside is that she leaves a mess in the kitchen! Usually, this isn’t a problem because she has all the next day to clean it up before I come home from work to start dinner. This was not so on Thanksgiving.
Picture me, with my habit of rising hours earlier than everyone else to enjoy my coffee in solitude, entering the kitchen to find the detritus of cake-baking filling the sink and half of the counter spaces! Taking a deep breath and my first cup of coffee, I retreated to the relative order of the living room. Seated in my armchair with the gas fireplace warming the room, I contemplated my choices. As I saw it, there were two:
- I could wake her up. (I’d just as soon wake up a hibernating bear!)
- I could clean it up myself.
The second choice itself had two options. They were:
- I could clean it up in a huff, allowing each action to fuel my upset.
- I could enjoy setting my kitchen in order before beginning the task of making a simple, yummy dinner for Thanksgiving.
I chose option 2.2: I set out to clean up the kitchen and enjoy doing so!
At this point, you might be thinking: How does this relate at all to your spiritual journey? A good question that I’m glad you asked. The answer is: Everything in my life relates to my spiritual journey! Long ago, I committed to the process of spiritual evolution. I stopped living like a human being having a spiritual experience. I embraced that I was a spiritual being having a human experience. Changes started to occur when those words stopped being a slogan and became my modus operandi.
Today, I genuinely see everything that happens to me and in my world as an opportunity to grow into my true identity as a spiritual being. Mind you, I don’t always see this the exact moment it’s happening! There is often a real lag time. Since I want, more than anything, to be changed by having lived this life, I eventually see that each experience offers me food for this growth. It’s not just the times when an obstacle, question, conflict, or challenge occurs. Every event, even the happy, easy ones, holds a wealth of information on how I’m seeing and being at that time. I learned this approach to life early on in my studies at Unity School of Christianity.
Myrtle Fillmore wrote: “Life is a school. The Great Schoolmaster knows just what problems we need to keep us alert and to bring out the wonderful qualities that the Father has measured out for us to come up to. That is our purpose in life, to succeed in bringing forth God’s perfect idea of the perfect man.” (How to Let God Help You, Chapter 2, “Life Is a School” Unity Books, 1994.)
The dirty kitchen and my decision to enjoy cleaning it changed my experience of preparing the complete, traditional Thanksgiving dinner I ended up serving five hours later! I let go of how I’d wanted to find the kitchen Thanksgiving morning. With that decision, the burden of judgment, anger, and frustration evaporated. Instantly, I was swept along in a pleasant dance, moving around my kitchen as I set things right by cleaning and organizing. Mentally, I calculated the sequence of actions needed to prep and cook every item. Effortlessly, I carried out the actions, even adding dishes I hadn’t thought of initially. The resulting feast was enjoyable primarily because of the spirit of ease and grace that filled me while preparing it.
Much later, I reflected on how different my day could have been. In times past, I was constantly embroiled in conflict. Mostly that conflict was within me. I was never satisfied with my life. I held grudges and wanted to get even. I wanted to win at almost any cost. None of this helped me enjoy life or feel like a winner. It wasn’t until I accepted that life happened without taking direction from me that I shifted my outlook. If I wasn’t in charge of life, what was I in charge of? The answer I found was: I’m in charge of my response to life.
This answer came from the books I read, the people who came into my life, and the path I eventually followed to ministry. It informs my life and infuses me with meaning and purpose. If I know anything, it’s this: It matters more how you BE in life than it matters what you DO. How I am being in this moment is entirely up to me. The power to choose how you will BE in any given situation is profound and empowering. If you make that your overriding purpose, your life will never be the same. It can change “Thanksgiving” to “Thanksliving.” Now, that would be an event to celebrate each and every day!