My January Thanksgiving

BY JEAN MARIE JOHNSON

2020 was the epitome of a very long, hard year. We are oh-so ready to move on. I’ve been thinking a lot about that: How do we best “move on” when there is so much hardship still with us? I’m not one for denying or minimizing hardship and loss, but I also know that it’s not a good thing to get stuck there. So I made the choice to begin 2021 with a reflection on the people and things that bless my life. An internal shift immediately occurred as the knowing and beautiful words of the late, great Toni Morrison came to mind:

“She is a friend of mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.” — Toni Morrison, Beloved

I am beyond blessed to have a handful of beautiful, kind, smart, deep, bad-ass women who are friends of my mind. How did I get so lucky? I am not waiting eleven months until Thanksgiving to give a major-big-time-all-out shout out to my friends of mind.

I am grateful for you for what we do for one another –

  • helping each other live our messy and complex human experience with more joy;
  • helping each other do our own work of reframing life’s hard edges;
  • recognizing and celebrating the gifts of experience: acceptance acquired, patience learned, challenges met, and yes, wisdom gained.

You, my friends of mind; you give it back to me “in all the right order.” And so I am grateful.

Perhaps the very best thing about being in this state of gratitude is that it’s there when I need it – a perpetual refueling station that turns my fragmented attention to what enriches and sustains me. I can go there at any time and in any moment when I am stuck in a “woulda-coulda-shoulda” an “if only,” or a yesterday that glimmered with potential but fizzled out.

I know that I am not alone in this. As women, I know that we intuitively understand that other women are a necessary part of our soul tribe. And so, in this first month of our brand new year, I am thinking about my soul tribe – the several, utterly unique women who are woven into the fabric of my life:

Those in the great beyond who grew and shaped me, and

Those who helped me to understand and to heal

Those in the here and now whose shoulders I lean on and from whose strength I carry forth

Those whose hands I count on when mine are simply not enough

Those whose hearts open up a wide space for me when mine is seeking or sad, and, also high on the list

Those with whom I dance…and dance

You know who you are. 

We come to one another raw and real. From there we gather: we listen, hear, create, challenge, console and conjure…and from that newly alive place, we carry on. And on, and on. I am so grateful for you.

The literary tour de force, the late, beloved epitome of a wise woman, Toni Morrison, got it completely right. As women, we gather the pieces for and with each other and then make meaning of them. Listen again:

“She is a friend of mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.” — Toni Morrison, Beloved

It is good, indeed, a blessing beyond measure. A large measure of my January thanks-giving.

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