Last week I turned 60 years old surrounded by family and friends. As I anticipated their visit in addition to the color-coded schedule I had to create to manage all the comings and goings and ensure they saw the best parts of my new landscape, I also tried to find one word that would sum up all the changes since I was last with them all. The unbidden word was beholden.

Beholden was assigned to me by my landlady/roommate/and dear friend Kathy last Thanksgiving. It was my first Thanksgiving away from home, but also my first Thanksgiving with my sons who have lived here the last three years. Kathy not only invited me to join her family, but she also invited my sons, as well as several others. All of us strangers, some new to the holiday–a community giving thanks for one short day.

Kathy assigned everyone a synonym of “thanks” through a place card and after the meal asked us each to tell our word and what it meant to us. Each person who went before me was overcome with emotion when describing what they were grateful for. I was becoming anxious as it gets closer to my turn as my assigned word was beholden.

At first, I looked at the word as having a negative connotation. I didn’t want to admit I was beholden to anyone or anything. Then I had a flash of inspiration, of truth, of light. Beholden is a positive concept. That my past year of travel and upheaval was only possible because I was beholden to so many who spoke truths to me, who supported me, who encouraged me to “leap and build my wings on the way down”

My mind was filled with all the memories, faces and experiences of the past year–and then brought back to the present moment realizing I was beholden to Kathy, for opening her home to me, her life and family to me–even her friends to me.

Now it was my birthday and she asked each person to share one word they thought of in relation to me, requiring me to listen, not deflect. As each person spoke and shared I was overwhelmed with love and joy. I also realized that each word they used was also true of them–that word was what bound us together in love and friendship.

Kathy’s word was generous. This from someone who moved out of her house to accommodate my guests, someone whose generosity is renowned by her friends and family.

Now beholden is the word I use to stay in gratitude, no man is an island and I am the person I am today because of every person whose life has touched mine.

My loved ones are generous, thrifty, fun, exuberant, inspirational, ebullient, creative, inflow, adventurous, connectors, passionate, badasses, spontaneous, incredible, live in the moment, love family, support each other and are driven. I am beholden to all of you for your gifts–your words, your love, and support.

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