My Thanksgiving

This will be my last post in 2009; I have decided to take a break until after January 1, 2010. This post is a bit more personal (and therefore a bit more uncomfortable for me) than most. But I’ve been inspired by Don Henley’s “My Thanksgiving” lyrics for many years, and happened to hear them again today; it seemed appropriate for the end of one year and the beginning of the next. My favorite passages from that song:

Because I’m tired of waiting for reason to arrive
It’s too long we’ve been living
These unexamined lives
I’ve got great expectations
I’ve got family and friends
I’ve got satisfying work
I’ve got a back that bends
For every breath, for every day of living
This is my Thanksgiving

Here in this fragmented world, I still believe
In learning how to give love, and how to receive it
And I would not be among those who abuse this privilege
Sometimes you get the best light from a burning bridge
And I don’t mind saying that I still love it all
I wallowed in the springtime
Now I’m welcoming the fall

For every moment of joy
Every hour of fear
For every winding road that brought me here
For every breath, for every day of living
This is my Thanksgiving
For everyone who helped me start
And for everything that broke my heart
For every breath, for every day of living
This is my Thanksgiving

(Listen to the full set of lyrics with Don Henley in a great video here.) 

My gratitude list is built, a little at a time, daily. At the end of each day, I make a brief bulleted list in a personal journal of at least five things or people that I’m grateful for. Even the stuff that most people would be mad, sad, upset or frustrated about get a vote as I consider what I’m learning from them. I highly recommend this “journaling” to everyone; it has been a life-altering experience for me.

If I had to sum up the top ten for this year, here are the things that get my highest votes of deep gratitude in 2009:

  1. My family: A few years ago, my husband and I made a strategic decision not to move. We are blessed to have both of our recently married daughters and some wonderful sons-in-law in the area, and to have them over for laughs and good food almost every Sunday evening. My thanksgiving extends to my sisters Judy and Amy.
  2. The ability to make a difference: Is it arrogant to say that I believe I make an impact in the work and lives of the people I work with? I am so grateful to be able to touch lives in this way, with the work I do.
  3. The joy of writing: 2009 is the year that I discovered that writing can be fun. After years of writing a newsletter, blog and column, I get a lot of satisfaction in writing; particularly now that someone is reading it.
  4. The leaders who inspire my writing: All of my life I’ve been a people-observer. And I’ve been blessed to know and observe some really amazing leaders who inspire the things I write about. You know who you are.
  5. Social Media: This helped make #3 possible. Before Twitter, which I discovered in June of this year, I had very few readers for the blog. And I love the conversations and new learning I get from those who are willing to comment on the blog.
  6. My Health: Yes, including my aching back. It has been a year of challenge and high medical bills for my back. However, I’m grateful that it still bends, and reminding me that I am human and alive. It helps me to find joy in every day; even those that are painful.
  7. New and Old Friends: In the seven years since I left the corporate world, the people who surround me are almost all new and all are amazing. You are the positive people in my life who uplift me, give me strength and inspire me.
  8. To Be Okay – Financially speaking. Yes, 2009 was among the most challenging years my husband and I have experienced in our time together; we both own and operate businesses (in Michigan). But we made enough to eat, put clothes on our backs and continued to pay the mortgage (We are sad for those who weren’t as blessed, and do what we can to help out).
  9. My personal history: Really, my upbringing was pretty weird, often perilous, and emotionally painful. Everyone comes from a dysfunctional family in some way, but mine should be a case study (if I ever get brave enough, I’ll write a memoir). The road I’ve travelled has been unexpected and wonderful. Its brought me to the place I am now, and I’m pretty happy here.
  10. Beautiful Michigan and wonderful Kalamazoo: Springtime, fall, winter (that includes snow), and summer! This is an amazing place to live in – four beautiful seasons, and a city that cares enough to support all of  it’s young people with full scholarships to college after high school.

Look back on the year. What is your thanksgiving?  See you in the new year!

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Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.


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