Last Wednesday, my Facebook post red “I’m grateful.” I was thinking that day about the people in my life, especially my partner and children, and about our good health and life promise. Then Thursday morning my colleague and friend, Karen Cajka, died, and pockets of our campus were racked with pain and turmoil. I wrote that day about gratitude in the face of loss, in an effort to keep grounded amid the gales of shock and sadness that threatened to level me. Saturday I attended and spoke at the memorial service for Karen, thankful to cling to tasks of writing and speaking my piece that would absorb some of the buffeting. My life has delivered occasion to consider, well before this day on which many many people gather in thanks, those things for which I am grateful.
It’s easy to throw down thanks for the obvious—family, health, life, love—especially when a national holiday prompts us toward it, despite the emphases on consumerism, consumption, waste, and even harm that are its trademarks (if you are interested, by the way, in some no harm, vegan, or vegetarian recipes, here are several from my friend the VeganAsana). I am grateful today, for example, for the fact that my father is no longer in a hospital bed because he is home in his own, next to my mother who is no longer on the floor in a sleeping bag next to my father’s hospital bed. I am grateful that I have sisters who have been able and willing to care for my parents. I am grateful that, amid the grief and confusion over Karen’s death, the people with whom I interacted offered up plentiful and thick doses of tenderness, even through the pain of it, and there has been a great healing among us as a result.
The harder part, though, is in recognizing the everyday. Taking time to note the small. Valuing the rather uneventful. Acknowledging the regular moments that just get taken in, ample but without notice, like so much oxygen. So I’m continuing my focus from last week—articulating the simpler, the mundane, the seemingly insignificant—both as a way of being present and being less buffeted by the major gales, and as a way of exercising greater agency in defining what matters to me in given moments. Yesterday I felt (uncharacteristic and) notable happiness and peace. My partner Patrick felt the same way; his feeling is that this was a parting gift from Karen to many of us–awareness and gratefulness. Pulling from that energy, I offer below some fragments from my daily life, and some snapshots from my last week, as a way of giving my gratitude, as Gloria Anzaldua said of writing, “a handle so I can grasp it.”
Guitarist Jeff Beck made and sold a recording of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” for his Emotion and Commotion CD, which I’m listening to right now. There is a melodic rainfall outside as I write, and it is warm enough to have the window above my desk open. The pansies I planted in September are growing strong and, though they iced after a cold rain, they’ve bounced back and afford me all manner of metaphor. There is warm water at the bathroom faucet in my building at work, which I use for brief Zen moments, eyes closed and hands immersed, when I wash my hands there. One of the funniest people I know happens to be my very good friend Kelly; she makes me laugh all the time—in person, by phone, by email, and by text. The people who are renting the home we can’t sell haven’t called me this month with any problems. My teen son gets himself up, and speaks sweetly to me unprompted, every morning. My friend Melissa and I decided this week that we like each other too much to spend absolutely no time together like we do, so we’re going to fix that, beginning with breakfast next Saturday. My house is filled with the smells of good food today, and I will have leftovers. My partner discovered a great crockpot recipe for bread pudding. My chronic illness generates a flare only about once every six months and though my doctor is really, really, really, really strange, I am in good care. I can’t seem to do anything to keep my partner from believing I am brilliant and beautiful, and our household labor is evenly divided. Plus, cleaning the kitchen is part of his half. Plus, my bathroom towels always smell clean because he put them in his half too. My daughter is wending her way through college successfully and has the courage to locate herself in this world exactly as she chooses, no matter what others think, including me. And this morning, though she lives on her own now, she is asleep in her room at my house. I am able to surround myself with books, books, books, and more books. The student child care center is located on the first floor of my building, directly below my fifth floor window, and this means, even five floors up, I get to share in the life force of children—laughing, playing, crying—while I work. There is a family who lives behind and over from our house and even though my son swears their children have been four years old forever, I can hear and feel their life force from my home office window. I planted a dozen bulbs this fall; not the 3 dozen I bought, mind you, but exactly 12 bulbs more than I’ve planted any other year, despite my annual plans to do so. People read my writing now and again. And finally, though not a snapshot because I relish it all the time, my partner has an expansive vocabulary that I find totally hot.
I give thanks today en masse, and will work to give thanks each day, individually, to moments like these in my life.