TGIF: Thank you, India. Thank You, Ammachi. Thank you, Ann Voskamp.

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On sobbing extravaganzas, being in a thin place and the practice of gratitude.

October has been a big fat bully.

My sweet grandmother (Ammachi) passed away.
My dad’s lupus started acting up.
My friends got laid off.

On the flip side, I celebrated…

My dearest friend’s 40th birthday.
My beloved’s move to Vancouver.
Not to mention, our first year anniversary.

I’ve been crying on good days and bad days. I (sometimes) carry a hand towel in my purse because mere Kleenex fails to absorb the scale of moisture and hysteria released during a sobbing extravaganza.

I’ve been heart, soul and bone weary, friends. You know how Leonard Cohen insists that there is a crack in everything because that’s how the light gets in? Well my cracks are starting to show. On my face.

One of my colleagues (let’s call her “Marge”) often remarks, “You look tired. Very tired.” She says it in the same cadence as “Bond. James Bond.” To be fair, the first time she said it: my hair looked like the infamous 1991 Gulf War oil spill (i.e. Day 4 sans wash); and I may or may not have only brushed the front row of my teeth.

On a day when I’m feeling particulary scrubbed and shiny, I’m all, “Hi Marge!” And she still shakes her head from side to side like a windscreen wiper and says, “You look tired. Very tired.” #doh

Maybe Marge is on to me? Maybe she knows that, every morning my arm shoots out like a Venus Flytrap to silence my overly chirpy alarm. Maybe she knows that I lay in bed wishing I could use my duvet to saran wrap myself in bed–safe from deadlines, wedding planning, financial woes, sick family members and inconvenient career curve balls.

My heart feels like a giant vat of grapes crushed underfoot and left to macerate in a potent concoction of heart-juice: grief, joy and other miscellaneous emotions. My tender heart softens, breaks down and thins out.

I’m in a thin place.

I love the wisdom Mary DeMuth shares about being in a “thin place”:

“The Celts define a thin place as a place where heaven and the physical world collide, one of those serendipitous territories where eternity and the mundane meet…where we see a holy glimpse of the eternal… Thin places are snatches of holy ground tucked into the corners of our world where if we pay very close attention, we might just catch a glimpse of eternity.”

Who knew that my thin place could be a portal between two worlds: the holy and the mundane! To think that I’ve just been too fatigued and numb to recognize the “serendipitous territories” laying lusciously before me. I’d kill for a chance to get a glimpse into eternity.

On a good day, my arm is prying open the elevator door that could transport me to holy ground, even if my body is stuck in the physical world; a place where the “mundane” melts like a Popsicle on a hot summer’s day.

Heaven and my physical world do collide. I have just not been awake enough to: see it, discern it, celebrate it.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in church post-sobbing extravaganza and the pastor said, “The opposite of honour is to treat something as common.” I wanted to blow one of those traffic cop whistles and say, “Woahwoahwoah! Slow down. Let’s not get carried away.”

Dishonour can’t be the same as treating something as common or ordinary, because that would make me a self-entitled little snot.

[cyber crickets chirping]
[puts down imaginary traffic cop whistle]
[cries Costco-sized tears, sans hand towel]

I don’t mean to be blasé. Familiarity breeds apathy, I guess. Life happens.

About a year ago, I hesitantly read Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.”  Even though I’d heard amazing reviews about the book I’d put off reading it for months because [cringe] I judged this book by it’s cover. I figured that a city-bred ‘can-barely-slice-cucumbers’ gal like myself wouldn’t have much in common with a quaint book that had a tiny nest on the cover. [hangs head in shame]

This book is not a page-turner; it’s a page-lingerer. To untangle Ann’s inimitable prose you have to let her words simmer on medium heat and stir often like a fresh batch of homemade strawberry  jam.

In the book, Ann wrestles to “find joy in the midst of deadlines, debt, drama, and daily duties.” Like a joy archaeologist, she digs deep to uncover the heartbreaking beauty present in her seemingly ordinary life. By embracing the practice of giving thanks she discovers the transformative power of gratitude and experiences a motherload of joy.

Fast forward to big-fat-bully-October when my life hits a spectacularly thin place.

A whole year later, Ann’s dormant words suddenly came to life. Every time I felt  helpless, overwhelmed and confused; every time I wanted to throw my zen bamboo plant through the window, I pulled out a yellow post-it and started scribbling a gratitude list. After minutes of furiously writing, I’d feel myself unclench and breathe. I’d read over my inventory of joy and I’d suddenly feel sane.

“When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.” ― Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet

Today I am sharing this inventory with you. I’ve been adding to it over the past few weeks and posting it on Facebook for my friends:

Here are some things from my October “Me-So-Happy” Gratitude List:

October 12th: Kupa’s arm draped across my shoulder, fingers playing with the rim of my sleeve.

October 17th: The sun peeking through rain clouds.

October 18th: Conversations that happen in this room. (@idelette)

October 20th: : Mediterranean Tartlets – Puff pastry with tapenade, homemade hummus and cherry tomatoes with a sprinkle of herbes de Provence. #ridic #yummies #rockstarsister

October 21st: Soulgasms with my Mamafrentors (Mamas + Friends + Mentors). #nostalgic

October 22nd: First date-a-versaries +  good men who are straight shooters + don’t play games + love their Mamas. #eeek

November 1st: The courage to own my gift. ERMAHGERD! I’m a photographer.


______________________________________________________

So, my plucky chickadees, I’d love for  you to join me in putting together a gratitude list of your own.  #doitdoit #peerpressure #feast

Here’s the link to my “November “Me-So Happy” Gratitude List that I will keep updating all month! There’s also a link-up for your own list. Will you join me?

  1. What is on your gratitude list?
  2. How do you find your joy?

Love you more than Pulla (Finnish Cardamom Bread), #omnomnom

xoxo,
Teen

To read more TGIFs from Tina: Click here.

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Tina Francis
My name is Tina. Loved ones call me: Teen. Words are my chocolate. Music, my caramel. Photography, my bread. Girlfriends, my butter. Confession: Some girls dream about Manolo Blahniks or their next Hermes bag. Not me. I dream of freshly baked bread, perfectly barbecued meat & steaming bowls of Pho. My dream lover *cue Mariah Carey song* is someone who would read out a menu to me in Barry White’s baritone voice. I celebrate food, ask for help, interrupt conversations, laugh and cry hard, acknowledge the elephant in most rooms, fight for the underdog and believe in the power of storytelling. I was born and raised in Dubai and currently live in the beautiful city of Vancouver, known for some of the best sushi in the world.
Tina Francis
Tina Francis