Grateful to Remain Foolish ...

Updated: Nov 22


May we be blessed with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.

May we be blessed with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May we be blessed with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that we may reach out a hand to provide comfort and offer peace.

And may we be blessed with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so we may do what others claim cannot be done.

~~

This invocation is a personal favorite and has been part of our holiday tradition for more years than I can remember. Despite my deep appreciation for the sentiment - the admonishment to remain aware, open, and responsive to pain and suffering - I have an intense wariness of the word “Blessed.”

The notion of being blessed carries subtle undertones of “deserving” or “worthiness,” and I’ve lived long enough and hard enough to know that’s where the dragons hide.

What, then, happens to blessed when tragedy strikes? When health fails, career dissolves, access denied? If one day I’m hit by a rogue bus while crossing the street, does this mean I’m suddenly UnBlessed? Cursed?

Terrible, random things happen every day. My friend - also a physician - once quipped that, “being a doctor is an independent risk factor for terrible outcomes.” A few years later, we diagnosed my eldest with leukemia. A few years after that, this same friend died from cancer.

Were we UnBlessed?

Blessed lands as something that happens to us, and perhaps my disquiet stems from the lack of choice implied. This is where Gratitude triumphs.

As we move through this season where talk of blessings abound, it may be worth reflecting on what being blessed implies, and taking a closer look at the abundant, well-researched benefits of adopting a formal practice of Gratitude, instead.

The psychological and emotional benefits of cultivating a gratitude practice as part of health and spiritual discipline is extensive. Gratitude grounds us in the present, helping our nervous system rest and reset. Studies show that even the act of trying to think of something to be grateful for leads to improvements in mood, well-being, and to long-term, measurable decreases in depression and anxiety.

With time and practice, we begin to notice that existential gratitude, or Gratefulness, can permeate our lives through both joy and adversity, seeking the hidden benefit and the opportunities for growth in everything. Gratitude is a choice, and stepping into choice almost always improves wellbeing.

From this paradigm, I might re-work the invocation as follows:

May we be Grateful for our discomfort with easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships. Gratitude for this discomfort reminds us to seek depth, to sit with complexity and nuance, to guard against intellectual or emotional laziness, and to hold space for lasting, meaningful relationships in every part of life: with colleagues, with friends, with family.

May we be Grateful for our anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation. Rather than fearing, suppressing, hiding, or dampening our anger, Gratitude for rage at injustice allows conversion of this high energy emotion into a powerful tool. Well-directed anger can become sharp as a scalpel, and just as useful in the hands of a skilled practitioner. Correctly noticed, named, and channeled, anger can become a powerful change agent.

May we be Grateful for the tears we shed on behalf of those who suffer pain, rejection, starvation, and war. This is the heart of a being a healer, and central to our humanity. May we always be grateful for our capacity to empathize with those who suffer.

May we be Grateful when we remain foolish enough to believe we can make a difference in this world… Not naïve. Not grandiose. Grateful for the knowledge that what we do matters enough to keep going. Keep striving. Keep creating. Keep hoping. Keep connecting.

Gratitude puts us in choice.

And gratitude helps us remember.

Remember all we have. Remember all our dreams. Remember all we’ve overcome. Remember all the possibilities.

And what if gratitude is also a threshold to cross? What if Gratitude is that liminal space between who we are, and who we want to be?

~~

And though I admit it may feel a little … disrespectful? irreverent? … to dive into gratitude - as though we are dismissing or denying the pain and suffering all around us - I also believe there is a gift in learning to hold and honor the tension that exists between pain and the joy. Between grief and gratitude. Gratitude can be our bridge to radical acceptance, to a degree of serenity amidst our stochastic reality.

The floor is not stable, and we waste life attempting to wrest sense from the randomness, seeking patterns and making predictions amid pain and suffering and clamor. And though we can’t choose what happens to us, we can step into choice with our response.

I’m grateful for that hard-earned wisdom. For the tremendous collateral beauty that can be discovered and created even amidst the harshness of times such as these. For family and friends and colleagues who remind me that joy and light are always available, too. For vaccines. For science. For irreverent, raucous laughter. For the power of shared grief. For the ascendency of connection.

May peace be with you this season, and may 2023 bring the restoration and healing we seek.

Dr. K


~~



Be a lamp, a lifeboat or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal.

Walk out of your house like a shepherd…


Rumi





19 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All