‘Thank You Therapy’ — give it a try

Thanksgiving brings me to think of my late sister Barbara and the “talking to” she gave at the lowest point of my life.
I was about 43 years old and my world was falling apart. A divorce was imminent and with it my two children, 10 and 7 at the time, would be moving to New Jersey to start a new life with their mom and soon-to-be stepdad.
There was little optimism in me in those days. And that’s why Barbie, as I called her, sat me down. No one knew then she was entering the final years of her life, that the seeds of the cancer that would eventually claim her had already been planted. She was just my older sister — by a year and a day, mind you — doing what she did best: loving me.
“You’re so focused on what’s wrong with your life that you’ve lost total sight of what’s right,” she lectured.
And that talk blossomed into something I began to call “Thank You Therapy.”
Barbie knew I was not sleeping so she told me when I put my head on the pillow I had to start thinking of all the things I was thankful for. It was a version, I suppose, of what Bing Crosby sang about in the song “Counting Your Blessings” in the movie White Christmas: If you are worried and you can’t sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep …
But it was more than that.
“Go crazy with it,” Barbie said. “Don’t just think of the obvious stuff, think of everything.”
She said to be thankful for a nice warm bed to crawl into, and fresh sheets beneath me. Be thankful for whomever invented sheets in the first place, or better still, whomever picked the first cotton ball and figured out how to spin it into cloth. Be thankful for the pillow, the blanket, the jammies, and the people who made them. Be thankful that the sun goes down at night to signify a time for rest, and then rises again in the morning to light our day. Be thankful for a reason to get up in the morning, for having a job to go to and the skills to perform it. Be thankful for the coffee or toast or raisin bran waiting to help you launch your day, or the glass of wine or snifter of brandy that helped you end it.
“Do that,” she said, “and you’ll find you have so many reasons to be thankful you never get to the end of the list. You’ll drift off to sleep long before.”
I turn to Barbie’s Thank You Therapy in situations other than bedtime and have discovered going through life with a spirit of gratitude makes everything better.
If I’m raking leaves I’m thankful for everything from the shade my trees provided just a few months earlier to whoever came up with the idea of these paper leaf bags that stand up by themselves.
If there’s a big line at the check out at the super market, I just start listing the things in my cart I am thankful for. And that I live in a country with such things as super markets in the first place.
Of course, Thank You Therapy is still the way I fall asleep at night. Sometimes I think of all the things about Barbie I am thankful for. That list definitely never ends.
(Note: this was first published as a Greater Pittston Progress column on Thanksgiving Day in 2014)

Ed Ackerman