2020 has been a tough year for most of us, but as we head into the holiday season, it’s important to count our blessings. Here, some thankful local women share their perspectives and insights about gratitude.
OWNER OF GEAUX FIG — AN EXECUTIVE ASSISTANCE FIRM
To be grateful means to show appreciation for kindness — to be thankful. Sometimes the very people we need to show kindness to are ourselves. We often don’t realize that our own minds are our very first friends, fans and naysayers. We can be our own biggest supporter or our greatest deterrent.
When considering what I am most grateful for, self comes to mind. I am truly grateful for the love of self that at one point was void. There is no truer statement than this: If you can’t love yourself, how can you love someone else? I am grateful for the ability to love myself, the strength to forgive myself and the opportunity to share this powerful love with others.
I am grateful for love, peace, shelter, stability and ups and downs. Yes, downs. You can’t truly appreciate or be grateful for the highs in life until you have experienced the lows.
Love covers a multitude of sins, and love conquers all. That is why I am grateful for the love I have found in this life. Because I love me, I have so much love to give that I cannot contain it. Therefore, I have given love to my children, to my husband, my colleagues, my friends, my enemies and everyone in between — from the UPS driver to my landlord.
Gratitude is not taught. It is a grace that is experienced. Gratitude allows someone to grow. It opens so many opportunities and relationships that may not have been possible otherwise.
You see, when you learn to be grateful for your own existence, being kind to others and appreciating their existence becomes second nature. I am grateful for you and I am grateful for me. I am grateful for blue skies, and I am grateful for the trees. I am grateful for life’s challenges, and I am grateful for life’s wins. I am grateful for the good Lord above, who became my very first best friend.
30 YEARS AS THE CO-OWNER OF CHATEAU BLESSEY, BILOXI
As the 2020 holiday season approaches, we may struggle with the concept of gratitude. Unprecedented stressors have come our way this year. As women, we often set the emotional tone for our families. Our attitudes are felt, and even mirrored, by our loved ones — especially our children. They are looking to us for constancy, guidance and hope. Cultivating gratitude is essential, and I learned that from the two most important women in my life.
My immigrant parents, who arrived in America and settled in Wiggins in 1949, modeled gratitude for me. My mother’s signature phrase was, “God bless America!” To me, it was both a prayer and a sermon because she exclaimed it whenever she was overcome with thankfulness and awe at this amazing country. The first time she visited a small country grocery store and saw the many varieties of coffee available, she burst into tears — overwhelmed at the contrast of having come from such famine in her native country, Ukraine, at the hands of Stalin. Mother was grateful for everything.
Joel and Marion Blass welcomed my sisters and me into their home so that we might attend Vacation Bible School nearby. There, I eagerly observed from Marion how to formally set a beautiful dining room table with china, silver and crystal for Sunday brunch after Mass. I learned from Mrs. Blass the true value of having beautiful things is not found simply in obtaining them, but in sharing them with friends and loved ones.
Sometimes, the losses in our lives teach us the most about gratitude. The end of a marriage, the loss of loved ones and natural disasters bring us to crossroads where we are forced to choose, sometimes by the minute, to be grateful for what we had while we had it and for what we still have. Life will challenge, and even mock, our attempts at gratitude, but practicing thankfulness has saved my sanity at times, including rebuilding in Biloxi after Katrina and after losing my husband of almost 35 years to cancer in 2017.
In these confusing and troubling times, may we be grateful women inspired by the words of Maya Angelou: “Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.”
*Blessey’s eldest daughter, Michelle Walker, contributed to this piece.
DIGITAL CONTENT MANAGER, GULF COAST WOMAN
Certain moments in our lives remind us what is truly important. For me, being directly affected by this pandemic taught me about cherishing my family and my health.
At the end of March 2020, I started not feeling well, and my condition quickly declined. Within a few days, my head was buried in my lap while awaiting my diagnosis in an outdoor pop-up tent turned testing drive thru. The doctor explained I was suffering from pneumonia due to COVID-19. As he rattled off the next two weeks of procedures and medications, I could not believe what I was hearing.
“Wait, what?” I thought. “What’s happening? This can’t be real.”
I shifted from a daily routine of remote work, home schooling and dinner at my parents’ house to lying in bed for hours and wishing I could do normal things like make my son breakfast or take out the trash. I’ve never felt so helpless.
I remember my son wondering if his mom would be OK as he stayed six feet away from me at all times. I was isolated in my room and could only use common areas like the kitchen and one side of the living room couch, disinfecting as I exited and wearing a mask.
One day, my breathing was really tight, and my I had an asthma attack. My dad rushed over and saw me on the floor struggling, puffing on my inhaler.
“Breathe, baby,” he urged.
I’ll never forget the look on my mom’s face. She tells me frequently, “I was this close to driving you to the hospital myself!” For the rest of my recovery, life became about breathing and sleeping.
My parents stepped up in such a big way, cooking all the meals, watching my son and helping him with school. Ironically, we were supposed to take a family vacation to Disney World in April. None of us could have predicted what we would face.
I’m forever grateful for what they did for me. At a time when I felt at my worst, I was humbled and grounded in knowing that I was surrounded by love and support. Today, simple things like being able to hug them and sit together in the living room, laughing as we guess answers to Family Feud, has a new meaning.
It’s so easy to take things for granted in life. We get caught up in day-to-day concerns and forget to smell the roses. For the first time in a long time, I saw my family. I recognized that when everything has washed away, my only wish is to have spent time with them — connecting and loving one another.