Teri Orr: With gratitude… | ParkRecord.com

Teri Orr: With gratitude…

Teri Orr

You know what I am thankful for this year? Almost everything. Not COVID of course, but since it came anyway, I appreciate the slowdown it forced. The quieter days and nights. The chance for The Great Reset in priorities. The forced time to read and write notes and take drives in the country. The great surprise and delight in bumping into someone at the market or the post office and having time for a real conversation — even with masks. The treat it was when restaurants were able to open up again with indoor seating and we returned with newfound appreciation — to a favorite booth in a corner for lunches that lingered.

Park Record columnist Teri Orr.

I love the time I have spent in my yard with friends in porch chairs in the sunshine with a beverage where time just stretched out and stayed warm enough for long conversations that had been years in the making.

During this time, I have looked around my house with new eyes because let’s face it — I was suddenly not spending huge chucks of time in a meeting someplace else. I couldn’t look past some serious decorating errors — anymore. The painting that belonged to someone long gone in my family that meant something to them, I realized meant nothing to me. It went. The bare space on the wall that needed more than white wall? It got (yes … another) Navajo rug. The study with books and papers and office supplies all over the place? Well, that still isn’t any better because not everything gets attention with chunks of unfettered time.

But it was more than that. When a neighbor said “Hi” as I was driving in or out of my driveway, I stopped and we caught up. Ditto when I said “what’s new?” and they found time to really share with me what was new.

One surprise turned out to be the handwritten little notes. A pretty card or a clever one with a simple message and a handwritten signature. Mostly these came in the mail but some days they were tucked inside the frame of my front door or on the porch with a rock on top to hold them down.

Everyone has acted … kinder.

Those conversations that were extended in person and with longer notes and more frequent phone calls were precious. They were welcomed breaks to days that seemed to be on a loop without clear-cut beginnings or endings. But when the humanness broke through — it was a gift of such unexpected measure — I was, most often, instantly emotional.

I have seen more sunsets and, on rare occasions, even more sunrises. I have followed the phases of the moon and walked outside on my tiny little upstairs deck and tried to identify stars and planets and constellations.

As we started to emerge last spring and summer, as we became double vaxxed and less dangerous, hugging became therapy. Through thick sweaters and with clumsy awkward gestures we were reminded we still require human touch. There have been studies done that an eight-second hug (which sounds very quick but turns out to be a relatively long time) can re-engage our nervous system in powerful ways. Eight seconds. Right now, stop reading this and slowly count to eight. Better still, find someone to hug and count to eight. Doesn’t that make you feel better? And of course, the hug has the benefit of making two people feel better — hugger and huggee.

I am thankful for my wonky, slightly dysfunctional family, who made Zoom cocktail hours amusing. Ditto those Zooms with friends. When we could be in person again, we seemed to have a new appreciation for how hard they all had tried to be animated on screen. I watched more movies and read more of everything — except books. My concentration was terrible for books — my lifelong friends. Only now is that starting to return.

So, this year when I gather with the half of my family who isn’t away with in-laws, we will go around the table and say three things we are thankful for as we have done for years. You can’t say family or pets or material possessions. Or anything anyone else has already said. This means you have to work a bit on your answers. And I am grateful my family still indulges me in our tradition.

And I am — thankful and grateful and grateful and thankful — as my goofy friend likes to say, for you, the folks who show up here reading this column. You let me know what resonates with you and as importantly where you think I stepped sideways. You encourage me to take on stronger topics and speak up and out when it sometimes feels — for me — a bridge too far. You give me ideas on topics I might have missed and make me reexamine topics I thought were over. Or at least over being current. I learn from you every week.

So this Thanksgiving I guess I am most grateful for the ability to have slowed down enough to feel gratitude again for the little things which turn out to be the Big Things, every day including these Sundays in our Park…

Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the founder of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts. She has been a member of the TED community since 2007 and founded TEDxParkCity in 2009.

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