Recently, while rummaging through the jam-packed closet located underneath the staircase in our living room, we excavated a large tote box full of photos that had been stuffed in the back of that closet for years, forgotten. A quick peek revealed thousands of photos so we let the box sit in the corner of the dining room, unexamined for a few days longer, because sorting through it seemed like just one more formidable task waiting to be accomplished someday.
LIFTING THE LID
But once the Thanksgiving feast had been eaten and the dishes had all been done, I decided to spend a couple of minutes looking at a few photos. As I settled into my favorite chair and removed the lid, a barrage of memories rose from the top layer of images. Here's Mateo as a toddler, sitting in the garden of our old house in King William; there's young Zet and Rudi, in the first flush of love, both wearing long, dark, curly hair and goofy grins, without a care in the world. And there's one of our parents, standing together at our wedding, looking bemused, but hopeful. And then those colorful shots of our first trip to Mexico together.
RELIVING OLD MEMORIES
We usually keep our files and papers fairly organized, but for whatever reason, there's absolutely no order among the images stored here. Curiosity aroused, I plunged my hand into the box at random, and grabbed a fistful of photos documenting the six months we lived in Manhattan and our five years in Berkeley. The next fistful contains old promo shots of my days as a rock-'n-roller, along with images of us planting an oak tree at our new house. There are many images of multiple trips to Amsterdam, plus Seattle, Jerusalem and lots of fascinating points in between; but many more of times spent hanging out at home, quietly cooking, gardening, parenting, and playing through the first 25 years of our relationship.
Time melts, and I ended up spending several hours looking at photos, feeling waves of emotions wash through my heart, bringing questions to mind: what was his name? Is she still alive? Where was that restaurant? What made us think THAT was a good idea?
RE-THINKING OLD NOTIONS
I've gotten so used to taking and viewing photos on our smartphones in recent years that I'd all but forgotten what it's like to go through paper prints like this. Just touching them, smelling them, seeing all these images jumbled together like this reminds me how non-linear our lives really are, despite our best attempts to plan and manipulate them into straight lines that will fit our pictures of how they "should" unfold.
I can't help but smile to think of how much energy I've wasted over the years, fearful about various Big Decisions, thinking they would shape my future. How important it all seemed while trying to decide which job, which house, which spouse to choose, how to get the Big Break that would make my career a success. But seeing these photos reminds me that, in fact, there was no need to stress over the Big Decisions, because my life was actually being shaped by thousands of daily acts and small choices, while the Big Things just sort of happened.
RETURNING TO GRATITUDE
It turned out that my life's work emerged one gig at a time. Zet magically appeared on my first day at a job I hadn't even sought. Years later, we were able to adopt Mateo because Zet's mother's neighbor's sister's lawyer's paralegal assistant happened to know a woman whose daughter was pregnant and hoping to find adoptive parents for a baby she couldn't keep. Then we lucked into finding our current house, at precisely the moment our family had outgrown our previous home. Again and again, it's clear that there was some Force, some Source, something much bigger than me in charge of my life, propelling me forward in ways I couldn't begin to imagine, much less plan.
It took quite a while, but eventually I learned that the Big Things will unfold by themselves; my job is to stay as awake and as aware as possible while handling the small, daily tasks, one at a time.
Sitting there on Thanksgiving Day, I feel deeply grateful for the many, many blessings of my life: an amazing wife, wonderful children, loving friends, satisfying work, excellent health and much, much more. But at the very top of the list is an awareness and abiding trust in the Sacred Source moving through my life and all of Creation - truly knowing that all is well, as it always has been and always will be. What a gift! At least, that's my Thanksgiving Story, and I'm sticking to it.