I have a blogging side-gig, and, as November rolled around, I was plugging away at my responsibilities.

One of the best parts about online blogging is that I can take a Saturday at the beginning of the month and knock out a month’s worth of content, scheduling the pieces to go live at regular intervals. I tried to compose this week’s blog in advance.

“Oh,” I said. “It’s Thanksgiving. I should write about thankfulness. This will be easy!”

Anyone who reads this column regularly knows that things I declare easy are never, in fact, easy.

About halfway through, I thought, “Wait! I’ve read this before.”

As a writer, that’s a terrible moment. I’d rather have writer’s block than recognize something I’m writing as unoriginal, especially when I’m halfway through and the ideas are flowing out of my fingers like they’ve been rehearsed, the sources are appearing in my search bar as if they’ve been searched before.

I checked the folder where I keep track of my blogs for this company and, sure enough, I wrote the exact same blog a year ago at Thanksgiving.

Nothing says sincere thankfulness than rewriting the same blog about thankfulness two years in a row.

It took me another week to come up with a blog for Thanksgiving 2021.

I find that I get myself into these patterns with holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Andy Day (which is what I call my birthday) – they’re all just mechanical rehashing of the same old traditions, the same old activities, and the same old platitudes. When I was a kid in church, I noticed that the adults in the pews would thank God for the exact same things over and over as a kind of litany. I wondered why that was. It took me until adulthood to figure it out.

Life can become episodic. If you grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, not everyone had a way to record shows and watch them later, reruns were unreliably scheduled, and syndication often jumbled episode orders. In that world, a multi-episode story arc was impossible. Therefore, shows were episodic instead of serialized – self-contained stories. The show opened with the cast in status quo, something disrupted that status quo, the cast resolved it, and life returned to status quo before the credits appeared. Pick any episode, at any point in the series, and unless it was a two-parter or season finale, you can watch it without watching any other episode.

That’s what adult life can become. I wake up at the same time every weekday morning, get ready for work the same way every morning, go to work on the same roads every morning, do my job, come home, eat dinner, do family stuff or more work, go to bed, and repeat it. The outfits change, sometimes I play a different game with Tim or watch something new with Joy, but the overall structure is the same. And I even like my job! I can’t imagine what it’s like for people who hate their 9-to-5s.

Coming up with something you’re thankful for is difficult when you don’t stop to think about anything happening in your day. You get into a rut, doing things automatically with little notice to what happens around you. If something big happens – a tragedy, a surprise, etc. – then you notice; that’s something you remember. But day-to-day? Nope. And when someone asks you what you’re thankful for, you break out the tried-and-true lists, the easy things that you can just rattle off. You probably are genuinely thankful for those things, but the irony of a list you can rattle off quickly is that you may also be taking those things for granted.

What I think I want this year isn’t just thankfulness. I think I want to be mindfully thankful. I want to be aware of the little things that happen through my day that aren’t quite so episodic. What we have now is a lot of bad stuff going on – a resurgent virus, a divided country, an upside-down economy… Finding little things to be thankful for is more difficult than it used to be, I think.

Personally, I think I need to do more than list what I’m thankful for. Maybe I need to focus on the people, places, and things that make me feel thankful. Maybe I need to move my thankfulness from words to actions before I become too much of an automaton to notice the good in the world.

That’s just me. Your Thanksgiving results may vary.

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Andrew Bundy is a husband, father, teacher, writer, and nerd. You can reach him at bundycolumn@gmail.com.

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