There is fresh snow on the other side of my window and a rapidly dropping windchill.

Baby, it’s cold outside.

I’m safely tucked into my cozy chair as I write away, wearing the world’s softest leggings, cushy slipper socks, and a giant thermal shirt that says “skiers make better lovers.” I don’t know if this theory is particularly valid, but right now the words are making me smile.

It is a picture perfect Alaska scene as I sit here in my tiny little warm retreat on this chilly Thanksgiving Eve.

I’ve been looking forward to this mini holiday for a couple weeks now. It’s amazing what having one extra day off and the spirit of festivity can do to help your mind feel like it gets to take a short vacation from the stress of the every day.

I had big plans to have a merry little evening complete with all of my favorite things. Books, spaghetti, writing, friends, a warm heart… and the expectation that I would do my very best to make the next 5 days gay and carefree. Leaving adult responsibilities at the office and adopting the role of joyful holiday celebrant instead.

Best laid plans.

I spent part of my night at the ER. Someone I care a great deal for isn’t doing so well, and I didn’t realize quite how bad it was. I showed up to lend support and whatever other unspoken messages a caring human presence brings when our lives have taken a sudden plummet and we need to know that someone is still standing there.

This wasn’t my expectation for how my evening would go. The ER and a spirit of gay merriment do not particularly mix. But I think one thing this past year has taught me is that expectations are seldom met. I know that when I declared Year 2013 “The Year of the Peaceful Heart,” my expectation was for a year of peace and stability in my life.

As I look back at all the landmines that exploded over the past 11 months I can only laugh at what I expected verses what happened.

Best laid plans.

I wrote these words on my facebook page earlier today, and tonight I am challenged to put my money where my mouth is and live them.

Reflecting on what it means to be thankful, and how as amazing as it is to cultivate gratitude for the good gifts life has in store for us in the present and future, that I think thankfulness can encompass more than just the good. It can also include the hard stuff too that stretches our limbs into being more fully human and challenges us to expand beyond who we previously were.

In my own mind this doesn’t quite translate into giving Life a giant fist bump whenever something not so great happens, and shouting a giant thank you to the skies. It’s more of taking a deep breath and thinking about the gifts I can learn from whatever moments come my way. Embracing the All that is Life. Our ability to feel it all… there are gifts to be found here I think.

Sometimes the gift is the recognition that the ability to feel pain deeply means one also has the ability to feel love and joy on the same deep level. Sometimes it’s resilience. Sometimes it’s brokenness… which really just makes space for more love. Sometimes new found compassion. Sometimes you find yourself walking on a new trail you never would have found if Life hadn’t expanded you beyond your previous landscape. Sometimes an awakening of a part of yourself you’ve never met before.

One of my favorite quotes by Mary Oliver: “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” There are gifts in all experiences if one looks for them.

Life is light and wonderful and beautiful. It can also be hard. Sometimes dark. I like the former better than the later, but I still strive to receive the gifts of the year with an open heart and challenge myself to find those gifts. Wherever you are at this Thanksgiving, whether it’s in the beautiful space of light, with ease in your heart and a smile on your face, or whether Life is stretching you beyond your previous shell…. may you receive the day with a grateful heart.

Happy Thanksgiving

Tonight may not have gone as I expected, the year of “The Peaceful Heart” may not have been what was expected, but I think it is easy to find peace during times of peace. Perhaps Life had grander gifts to offer us about what having a peaceful heart truly means.

As I’m sitting here, a mix of contentment that comes from the coziness of my winter scene and a warm Pup curled in my lap, a mix of stressed concern that comes from thoughtfully considering what the days to come will look like for my friend, I find I have peace. Real peace. Having nothing to do with circumstances and everything to do with a stillness inside.

I have this year to thank for it. All the landmines. All the unexpecteds.

Peace didn’t teach me much about peace.

Unexpected did.

The unexpecteds made me see the full that is Life. The complexities. The nuances. The joy that comes from pain and the pain that comes from joy. All the different sides to the very same coin.

It gave me the gift of acceptance and taught me peace isn’t contingent on stability, happiness, and everything going the way we expected.

Peace is contingent on our ability to let go and give Life permission to shape us.

I think this realization, that deep sense of wellness within, I think this is the true gift of a peaceful heart.

And for the rest, let life happen to you. Believe me, Life is in the right, always. (Rilke)

There are gifts in this unexpected Thanksgiving weekend, festivities colored with extreme concern, if I have the courage to see them. Gifts in this year of the Peaceful Heart filled with best laid plans that chose to lay otherwheres and teach me what real peace is.

Sometimes Life knows something we don’t.

Life = Best Laid Plans.

As for tonight, I sit here in my warm thermal staring out the window into the chilly ink outside and pausing to say thank you for My All. The full of this year. The full of myself. The full of these rich experiences.

The ability to sit in this moment. Present. Holding comfort and concern, joy and sorrow, light and dark?

It is a great, great gift.

Happy Thanksgiving.