For as Long as We Have Voices


In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives.  In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices. ~Elizabeth Gilbert

A dear member of the Growing Gratitude Facebook family posted this on our wall yesterday.  I’d read it before, many times in fact.  Like all exceptional writing does, it stopped me in my tracks.  Again.  What a gift some writers have to cause us to read, to reread, to put down the page or screen we read it on and breathe.

I breathe to catch up, to dial in, to center my body so my heart and mind can take off in the direction of the door those words have opened.  What a gift.

Photo credit: OhAndrea / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: OhAndrea / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

My mind went to a birds-eye view of myself at home.  At home alone but not missing the kids too much at that moment.  At home doing many of the boring, routine things I do when I’m home alone (much of this involves putting away things the kids were playing with when they were here so they can get those same things back out again when they get back from their dad’s – plus computer work and daydreaming).

When I walk from one room to another, alone in the house, I feel this heightened sense of everything.  It’s like absorbing the spirit of the other people who share the house with me when I see where they sleep, what they’ve left behind.  It’s become a ritual, this pacing.  An outsider might think I have dementia or am terrible at getting things done, but I think Elizabeth Gilbert would get it.

It’s become a ritual, this empty-house pacing.  It’s the antidote to hectic schedules and stretched-too-thin-ness and the jagged circumference of the space where my kids should be.  It’s a litany of thank yous — my pacing, my half-assed cleaning, my ineffectual attempt at laundry, my feeling my closest people.  I acknowledge how it feels to have them away.  I feel it and try to let it move through me and beyond.  Then I think of the last thing they did to make me laugh, the last unexpected conversation or moment of connection, and I say thank you.  Thank you.

I’ve hung thank yous on the walls of every room and between winter coats, tucked them into outgrown kid clothes in bags in the basement and the toppling pyramid of toilet paper rolls on the floor of the hall closet.  They’re in every where and why, falling out of drawers and onto unswept floors.

This stream of thank yous feels like comfort and companionship, a surprising fullness within a still house.  They make it all enough — enough time, enough money, enough togetherness, enough effort into motherhood, into the working-mom grind, into building a lasting partnership, into the exploration of myself as a human, a woman, an educator, a writer.  The thank yous are sometimes the only way I know we’re doing okay — and of course so much more than okay.  They make it all enough.


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