Thanksgiving

The Blessing of Open Hands

I wrote this post last year at Thanksgiving on my former blog and have had many requests for it to be re-posted. So here, GirlFriends, is my Thanksgiving prayer for you: Anyone who hangs out with me for long will frequently hear me use the metaphor of an open hand.

It's a hand gesture where each hand is cupped, palms up. Relaxed in a way, and yet, intentional enough that I could bring water to my lips with those fingers if needed.

The very act of making those open hands has become my own little mantra in life, inviting my heart to reflect the handmade sign. It's how I want to show up in life, especially in my relationships.

 

What Open Hands Are Not For when I see those open hands I am reminded of all that they are and, conversely, all that they are not.

  • If my hands are open, then that means they are not limp, by my side, unwilling, un-noticing, or incapable of being ready to receive.
  • If my hands are open, then that means I am not clinging, fists tight, trying to hold, control, keep or grasp.
  • If my hands are open, then that means I am not palms out, pushing away, putting up walls, resisting, defending, refusing to let life in.
  • If my hands are open, then that means they are not flat and stretched, unable to hold anything of value, refusing to be a safe container for that which is given in my life.
  • If my hands are open, then that means they aren't trying to stretch the fingers ever wider to hold more and more. For they would know that as the fingers spread, so do the gifts begin to seep out like sand through the cracks.

No, I want to step into life with gentle, but firmly cupped hands. Not needing to grab, push, cling, force or refuse. Rather, I show up with a readiness that says I will look for things to hold, people to love, life to relish, moments to enjoy, gifts to appreciate.

What Open Hands Remind Me Open hands remind me that I am deserving of goodness. I am worthy, willing and capable. I refuse to let past rejection, fears, insecurities and previous losses stop me from being ready to receive this time. I value living life fully and I will look for moments to cherish and love.

Open hands remind me that if I give freedom to goodness to land in my life then I also give freedom to see those same gifts fly away. In their own time. I can't not control one and then try to control the other. An airport cannot choose to only accept arrivals and not departures, there are valid times for travel in both directions. I cannot force people to stay here any longer than I can force time to stand still. I cannot manipulate, coerce, charm or trap gifts to last forever.

And should I ever be tempted to close my hand around something, I inevitably have just closed my hand to other gifts as well. Ironic, that the very gesture of trying to keep one thing can be the gesture that prevents other good things.

Sometimes we're so focused on refusing to let go of one thing that we miss the other opportunities. We hold so tight that we suffocate the very breath that we never wanted to lose. With tight hands we squish the bug we were trying to save, melt the chocolate we wanted for later or find fingernail marks in our skin because we clenched too hard. That which we wanted to keep, we lost anyhow. And now our hands are just messy and sore.

Open hands remind me to engage, to not give up, to expect, to hope and to cherish. They teach me to let go, to unclench, to find peace. They offer me moments of joy and loss, inviting me to find contentment in both.

My Open Hands Blessings My open hands invite me to embrace, hug and cherish the people in my life now.

My open hands remind me to feel grateful for those relationships even when they have flown away.

My open hands provide me a visual promise that I anticipate a future filled with more love.

This Thanksgiving, I hold my hands open. Grateful for the blessings. Those blessings that I have now, the ones I have had, and those that are still yet to come.

Happy Thanksgiving GirlFriends.

----------------------

On a related subject of gratitude, I am pleased to share with my GirlFriendCircles.com community that over the weekend I signed a book deal with Turner Publishing!  Woo-hoo!  You've been so encouraging on my blog (THANK YOU!) and there is so much more structure, process, examples, inspiration and in-depth teaching around healthy community that I want to provide.  So I'll be busy writing the next six months, with a publication date probably sometime in 2013! Keep cheering me on GirlFriends-- I need it!

Gratitude, Not Jealousy

Expressing gratitude, which all of November is always that for me, is a powerful practice when it comes to fostering new friendships. When we're not grateful, we tend to be much more susceptible to jealousy, envy and competition. It doesn't take an expert to see how those characteristics might not contribute to healthy friendships! I notice that when I'm grateful and have a sense of my own well-being, I show up in relationship better. It has something to do with self-esteem, but also simply holding a peace about my own life, that invites me to not feel threatened by theirs. I watch over-and-over in others, and myself, how easy it is to project my own insecurities on them.

And wow are holidays a breeding ground for jealousy and discontent! None of our families are perfect. Most of us will experience some form of loneliness. Our expectations go up. Our stress goes up. Our desire to project the perfect, happy, festive smile increase. Our finances won't be enough. Nor will our time feel adequate. Our energy will feel threatened many times over. We will feel losses acutely at this time of year. And regret the gap between where we thought we'd be this year and where we really are. And it will be easy to think that everyone else has the perfect life and that you are the only one lacking.

The Effects of Jealousy If I'm not happy with being single then it's harder to want to be at holidays parties with couples. If I struggle with my weight then it will annoy me to have my skinny friends complain about not fitting into their little black dress this season. If I'm exhausted by being up every night with a teething toddler then it's easier for me to judge others who seemingly have an easier life. If my husband and I are going through a rough patch then I tend to feel more frustrated with other couples expressing public displays of affection. If I don't have kids, I get more annoyed by others who aren't willing to get a baby-sitter to come to a party I am throwing. If I am working overtime this season, I'll feel anger at the women who seem to have all the time in the world to be baking and crafting all month. You get the idea.

Jealousy. It's one of those tricky and counter-intuitive feelings. For it's easy to mistake the feeling as something that someone else is doing wrong and be frustrated with them. But really, it's reminding us that we have an issue that matters to us. It's not about them. It's our own stuff. How we react says more about our story than it does about theirs.

Certainly their action might trigger the feeling. But we'd be wrong to assume that they did something wrong, when in fact, the moment serves as an opportunity to me that I need to look at my own life and ask "What is it that I want?" And just as important, "can I be around people who have that without holding it against them?"

The Opportunity to Respond to Jealousy The real question comes down to whether someone else's happiness threatens my own. In other words, can I figure out a way to not only show up with gratitude for what I have and hope to have, but can I also show up with with gratitude for what they have?

This season, I invite you to step into awareness in two areas:

  1. First, increase your gratitude. Keep a daily journal if you can, where you write five things down every day. Or, make one long list today where you force yourself to list up to 50 things. Look back over the year and identify milestones you're glad you reached, moments that mattered, growth in your life that you witnessed. You may not have what you want yet, but what little glimpses gave you hope that you might reach your goal? For example, with friends, you may not yet have that circle of local friends that nurture your life, but you can celebrate that you joined GirlFriendCircles to do something about it!
  2. Second, increase your awareness around your jealousy. When you feel jealous, use the moment to ask yourself why you feel so judgmental. What do you feel is missing in your life? As you take more responsibility for your feelings, you'll gain awareness about who you are and have more opportunity to respond to that desire in positive ways. Don't beat yourself up! Just gently hold those moments as touchstones that remind you of who you want to become and what you want to invite into your life this upcoming year. And own it for yourself. No need to punish others. Their joy will not diminish or steal from mine. There is enough joy in this world for all of us.

May I invite you to expand your gratitude this season where you hold your life with hope and contentment? May I invite to pay attention to your stuff and not risk it bleeding onto potential friends? May I invite you to not rule out spending time with people because you feel threatened around them from your jealousy? May I invite you to be generous to the mistakes that others will undoubtedly make this time of year out of their own insecurities? May I invite you to forgive quickly when others say things unknowingly that trigger your own fears and insecurities? May I invite you to show up with the best of you this holiday season-- celebrating the best in others and yourself?

Above all, trusting that the promise of Thanksgiving, if nothing else, is one of abundance. There is enough. Enough joy for all of us. May we want the happiness of others as much as we want it for ourselves. That's my wish for us all this month!