Gratitude and Capacity
It is Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Our kids and their kids (6,4,2), five in all, are moving out of our house to their new home today. You might remember that they have spent almost 11 months with us after the duplex they were renting was destroyed by fire.
My heart is full of gratitude and I have found many ways to increase my capacity. As I reflect on both, I believe there is value in exploring what I’ve learned/feel and its applicability beyond our family.
The meteorological start to summer is June 1. It seemed fitting that we celebrated a little early with our annual gathering of friends and family to celebrate Memorial Day and the running of the Indianapolis 500 (a must if you live in Indy).
The day was full of sunshine, temperatures in the low to mid-70’s. I was in the backyard, alone when the pre-race festivities turned to the playing of taps. I stopped in my tracks and listened in reverence and thanks for all those that gave up the life they were living, and the one they would have lived, to protect my freedom. It always feel personal, and I believe it should.
Do your best and be well…
Gratitude and Capacity
“We do not learn by experience, but by our capacity for experience.” Gautama Buddha
Since I will use ‘capacity’ and ‘capable’ a number of times, I thought some definitional perspective might be helpful.
capable (adj.) “sufficiently able, having power or capacity, qualified,” 1590s, from French capable “able, sufficient; able to hold,” or directly from Late Latin capabilis “receptive; able to grasp or hold,” used by theologians, from Latin capax “able to hold much, broad, wide, roomy;” also “receptive, fit for;” adjectival form of capere “to grasp, lay hold, take, catch; undertake; take in, hold; be large enough for; comprehend”
I have written more than once about growing our ‘capacity’ for the best of our life. At first, it was curious that as I reflected on how my capacity has grown with the kids here, that my next thought was one of gratitude. The obvious gratitude was the fact that my son and his family’s lives were spared in the fire. I am also grateful for the experiences that I shared with all of them, and the things they taught me along the way. As my thoughts began to range across a broad spectrum of my life and the building of my capacity, I noticed that often gratitude was not far away. Gratitude that I had the chance to experience what I was experiencing. Is that also true of you?
Another piece I became aware of was how important it was for me to be ‘awake and aware’ of what those circumstances of capacity building were. I most often think of being ‘awake and aware’ as being that in the present. I still believe that is important. What I also learned is that sometimes it takes reflection after the fact to ‘see’ the significance of a given event or time in our lives, to create greater awareness of what I may have missed the first time. Often, it takes multiple looks over time to grasp the significance of certain events (i.e., going to college, the discipline of getting in shape for a sport and being part of a team, the discipline of staying in shape when you’re done playing competitively, the first love, the last great love, the birth of a child, the death of someone close…tragic fire, living together). The list goes on and on. I’m sure you have your own list. Do you refer to it? What thoughts do you have about an event in high school that occurred many years ago? Does it change over time? Do you have new insights? Is that helpful?
What I have observed is that not everyone ‘refreshes’ aspects of their life and their memory. I am saddened by this, as that retrospective aspect allows us to learn, to gain a new perspective, sometimes it helps us to ‘clear up’ thinking/feelings that we have held that were not true. Reflecting on aspects of our past has also helped me become aware of patterns in my life that were not helpful. That reminds me of a story I sometimes share with clients to help encourage a change they are thinking about.
I spent much of my childhood thinking that “I wasn’t good enough.” My reaction to this feeling was to ‘try harder’ to ‘do more.’ The ‘doing more’ was often tied to ‘doing for.’ I believed that the more I did for others the more I would be accepted, and the more others would like/love me. I maintained that philosophy into my first marriage and my 30’s. By 36 I was beginning to see that no matter how hard I tried to ‘fix’ issues/problems that I did not own I couldn’t. What I became more aware of was how exhausting my life’s philosophy was.
Having a therapist tell you that you are “over functioning” in many areas of your life dealing with people is quite the wake-up call; an invitation to do differently. In the moment(s) following the therapy I began to explore more of what I called ‘fractures’ in my life. What I came to learn is that all of us have fractures. I came to label them ‘paradoxes,’ something all of us have – light and dark, good and evil. All the energy that I used to ‘hide’ those ‘negative’ things about me was unnecessary – people who knew me were already aware of those tendencies. My journey to ‘wholeness’ was my acceptance of those same tendencies. It has not been a short trip, but the key trip to integration and my best self – not perfection, just showing more of who I was created to be and forgiving myself from time to time for not being the me I want to be.
Building capacity is foundational to how we grow, live, and experience life. It is foundational to becoming our best selves. Building capacity requires ‘action,’ action born out of an awareness of how well the direction that we are going is getting us what we want. That takes reflection and awareness. We hear a lot about people having capability. There is value in having capability, but until we convert capability into ability we’ve traveled only part of the journey; like having knowledge without converting it to something of greater value. The more we learn how to grow/care for ourselves Physically, Intellectually, Emotionally, Spiritually (Spirit), and Socially (our P.I.E.S.S.) the more ‘capable’ we become and the more capacity we have.
Having gratitude on this journey has been helpful to me being more open to change and to growth. Gratitude is the reflective piece that allows us to understand and accept that some of the capacity we must grow is born from great pain (i.e., the death of someone close). We may never be ‘thankful’ that we have had a certain experience, but I have always found some ‘golden nuggets’ that have been of value – even if the value is that it is part of my story and may be of benefit to another and their journey.
Coming out of 11 months with five other family members gave me an appreciation for: my family, their resilience and capacity to heal; that children are fragile in many ways, fierce in others, full of energy; we must take time to grieve what we lose; facing the unknown can be very scary; faith is an incredible asset during the unknown; what not to say; when to ‘get away’; being ‘in the moment’ with a child is one of the best gifts; forgiveness; acceptance; silence; laughter; tears; those who love me and I love; family that preceded me that taught me how to live and work together in difficult moments; how God loves and shows up to care for us. I like to think I have grown or renewed my capacity to deal more productively because of this experience. For that I am grateful.
Thanks for listening. Now go be the best you can be!
Toward a better you…