Wednesday, November 25, 2009

So Very Much To Be Grateful For

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve blogged. Back up. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve written at all. My absence was, in part, the result of the unceasing demands of my day job. But a lot of it was self-imposed, too, a retreat from a world that depends so heavily on one’s Muses. And mine had taken an extended holiday, leaving me to tackle some heavies that had exploded my 2009 in ways that I both expected and wasn’t sure that I was ready for. Suffice it to say that it’s been a difficult year, one that caused me to consider, and reconsider, and reconsider again, where I fit in this world, what I expect out of myself, what I expect out of others, what I want, what I need—essentially everything I thought I’d already figured out. And in an insomniatic moment of self-reflection, I made a balance sheet of my life, the pros and cons of being me, as if writing them down could possibly organize the myriad thoughts that were zig-zagging in my mind. Ludicrous, perhaps. But what I discovered was that my pros list was much longer than my cons (mostly because I believe that inanities like, “awesome collection of ruffled shirts” and “full head of hair” count as pros). And that recognition colored my greater perception, made me realize how truly, ridiculously, unfairly fortunate I really am. So much so that I made a list the things I am most grateful for on this day nationally sanctioned to give thanks:

1. My family. Yes, they are insane. And yes, I am the progeny of a mother who once said, “Sweetheart, family is what God puts in your life because no normal person would ever pick these people to be their friends.” True that. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate my family—my mother especially—for what they are. And what they are not. I’m grateful that I can watch a movie, curled up against my mom on the couch, without having to say a word the entire evening. I’m grateful that she knows me so well that where she once was enormously hard on me, she is now constantly worried that I am too hard on myself. I am grateful that my family—for all of its faults—is kind and generous and affectionate and open-minded. Most of all, I’m grateful that they are always, always there for me. And that they frequently tell me so.

2. My friends. The ones I’ve known for years, the ones I’ve only just met; the mature sages who understand my neuroses, the ebullient imps who share my childlikeness; the viscerally unfiltered who revel in my frankness, the thoughtfully discreet who bring out my introspective side; the hysterically funny who make me laugh until my back seizes, the heartbreakingly vulnerable who rouse my protectiveness; those who are always ready to give a smile, a laugh, a hug, a hand, a heart, an ear, a shoulder; those who make my heart beat faster; those who slow down the frenetic pacing of life; those who are all of the above and infinitely more. For them, there shall never be anything I won’t give, or do, or say, or be. And for them, it shall never take a holiday or special occasion to say what I feel on a daily basis—that I love them to no end. That I will always be there for them. Unconditionally.

3. My job. Okay, maybe not the exact job I have right now, which is apparently that of an indentured servant, complete with a cowbell noosed around my neck and a cattle prod positioned over my hind end. But it does come with a bimonthly means to afford my pros (ruffled shirts and hair products, for example), and it does flex my gray matter in ways that I wouldn’t have otherwise known. It’s given me instruments that I can place in my toolbox of skills and an exposure to some rather incredibly awesome people. And it has introduced me to creatures so bizarre that they will inevitably make it in my next novel as a character. Congrats, you soon-to-be-immortalized weirdos! Which brings me to…

4. Writing. ‘Tis been eons, dear, elusive passion of mine. And oh, how thou maddens me with your creative blocks and word gluts and crises of confidence. But when it’s good—when the ideas flow, when the characters speak, when the words harmonize just so—it’s so very, very good. Words thrill me, and if you’re a fellow writer, then you understand the quest to find just the right word, the one that fits perfectly into a sentence and creates the perfect string of notes, the melody that makes you read the sentence again, just because you like the sound of it. Characters consume me, become a real part of my consciousness. They compel me to become a keener observer in real life, a better listener, a student of the whys and logic of the human mind and spirit. And if I may torture this analysis even further, I dare say that the exercise behind writing makes me a better person, makes me more thoughtful and reflective and compassionate, less critical and judgmental and narrow-minded. It has been too long since I’ve put musings to paper, but I am grateful for the temperance of time and the fact that my pie of life contains a slice so incredibly beautiful. At least to me.

And finally…

5. The small things. I read somewhere—probably a verbose fortune cookie—that I shouldn’t sweat the small stuff, and that everything is small stuff. I don’t like this. For one, yes, there is big stuff. There will always be big stuff. And if you don’t believe that, try telling this little axiom to a person who’s just lost a child or has a loved one in Iraq and see if you don’t get a swift upper hook to the jugular in response. More than that, though, I don’t like how it connotes a discounting of everything to the repressed trivial when it may be anything but. Because I used to think that life was a series of big things—graduation, career, marriage, children, death—connected together by the little things, like major organs supported by the interstitial. I don’t think that way anymore. I think of life as being the interstitial, the little things that often get swept aside in favor of the proverbial big. It’s the little things that inform my view on a person’s character, the quickness of one’s temper or smile rather than one’s resume of accomplishments, the kind act when no one’s watching rather than the lifetime achievement banquet in his honor. It’s the smile in the midst of a harried day, the offered seat in a crowded bar, the text from a friend just to make sure I’m all right. That, to me, is life. It’s what makes the big manageable, what tempers it and places it into a context that neither aggrandizes nor belittles. And when it comes down to it, when I am lying on my deathbed, I doubt that I will be dwelling on the fact that I won a landmark lawsuit, or that I’d published a book, or that I’d discovered the cure for chronic fatigue syndrome. No, I imagine that I’ll be reminiscing about a road trip with a special someone, the grand old time I had a friend’s party, the exact words my brother uttered that made me feel like everything was going to be better than fine.

And so, I guess that’s my takeaway from this year—that, despite the difficulties that will always shade our backdrop, there is so, so much to be grateful for. There is beauty in the seemingly nothing, delight in the ostensibly mundane. There is optimism and hope and an ability to look at the bright side of things. An ability to take the big and break it down into precious littles, an ability to take the littles and mold them into an object of import. I am grateful because I can be grateful, positive because I don’t know another way to be, blessed when I don’t deserve to be, fortunate in ways I can’t describe.

And so are you.

Happy Thanksgiving. May you eat so much turkey that you fall asleep before you realize your stomach has exploded.