The Giving of Thanks
Updated: Dec 29, 2020
This piece was originally published on Medium in November 2020.
This morning, the first thing I thought of when I woke up was food. Recently, I have been making this dish that I first had when I was in the Catskills last month because my husband likes it so much (read: wants it every day) and I like to make food to share. Sharing food makes me happy, so I double the recipe and share away. That turned to thoughts of Thanksgiving and who we would be sharing food with. Given the pandemic, and the upswing we’re on again, it will likely be just Paul and I and hopefully, my brother. And that will be plenty for me. We’ll make a special meal, watch football and movies and enjoy the day. I’m hopeful my brother chooses to spend the day with us even though I know we bore him sometimes, but he’s been responsible about being safe during the pandemic, so I’m hoping that’s the case on a day I know he’d rather be at a big gathering like those we had as kids.
My thoughts turned from food and Thanksgiving to the things I am thankful for this year. Yes, in 2020, I have things to be thankful for. And it’s easier to acknowledge them now that the election is over, I ain’t gonna lie. Though I read this morning that Donald Trump has set up an election defense fund, which is basically a PAC that funnels money to…Donald Trump. And that made me angry, but then I got thankful again because whether he acknowledges it or not, he will be gone. Soon. Not soon enough, but soon. We made it this far, we can get through the next 2 months, y’all.
So, here’s some of the things I am thankful for in a year that could be bereft of any thanks at all by literally anyone and would be totally understandable. But I have actively worked on giving thanks and feeling gratitude since the beginning of the pandemic and despite the less than ideal circumstances of this year, it has gotten easier over time.
My physical health. After 3 surgeries, many months on the couch and a year and a half of fear and misery, I no longer take my body for granted. I’m older, so changes have come more slowly than I would have liked (Thanks hormones. Okay, not for that part, but for other stuff? Yea, THANKS. “The change” is a beautiful thing once you reach the other side.) I exercise daily, eat better, don’t drink or smoke and am amazed at what I am capable of.
My mental health. Thanks to a trusted friend, I found an alternative to traditional therapy that allowed me to make strides I previously would not have thought possible. I meditate. Every day. The thought of closing my eyes, being still and simply being and breathing was ludicrous before. Now it’s my lifeblood.
Leaving toxic environments that were turning me into someone I didn’t recognize. This started with leaving a job that I thought I loved, but the feelings of relief I had immediately after doing so allowed me to reevaluate what was really at work. This led to me deciding to scale my own related business way down, and while that was sad, it’s also a relief. To be honest, I was super tired of talking about dogs and their problems and how so-and-so was messing them up and how everything seemed like a competition or a fight for….dominance. I didn’t see how messed up it all was until I was gone. Actually, I knew it deep down inside and I ignored it. I am thankful for the day that the voice inside said “enough” loud and clear and I listened.
Leaving Facebook, another toxic environment. I had been wanting to leave Facebook for what felt like forever. But I needed to be there for my work. And then once I didn’t, it took a few months until I was ready to go. At first, it was supposed to be temporary. And then it felt so damn good to be away from the endless memes and meanness and the politics (of all kinds, but mostly U.S.) and the lack of boundaries between people’s work and personal lives (not unique to the field I came from, but rampant) and the pettiness and even the accolades. I was successful at what I did by many measures, but it wasn’t until I left Facebook completely that I realized how little I actually cared about being publicly acknowledged. Yes, I loved that my work helped people and I am super proud of that, but the rest of it was actually super uncomfortable and I am thankful that I realize now that’s not what or who I am about and not what my hard work was about.
The courage to make decisions I may not have made in more “normal” times. Like my job and my business, the time has come to move on to a new home. I’m not sure how, but I am convinced that there is a direct correlation between leaving my former industry and moving. Maybe courage grows from the courage that came before. Maybe the internal feelings of something being right give us the trust we need in ourselves to keep moving forward. That sounds about right.
6. Everyone I love is healthy. I don’t know anyone who was diagnosed with COVID. Probably because the people I know are smart and cautious and stayed home and wore masks and took the necessary precautions when out in public. In spite of the pandemic, some of my relationships have gotten stronger and I think there’s been a deepening of trust, respect and enjoyment among my small but deeply valued friend group.
7. MooMoo is going strong! At the beginning of the pandemic, we were sure our elderly cat was dying. Her kidneys seemed to be failing, but thanks to the patience of Dr. Jessica and the staff at Lambertville Animal Hospital, we’ve gotten her on a medication regimen which has not only improved her health, but her overall attitude and interest in us has gone up tremendously. The increase in treats when we thought she was dying probably didn’t hurt. 😉 I’d say increase in petting and affection, but those are less her thing, and that’s just fine. She’s chatty and cheek-rubby and leg weave-y and happy as a clam. Or a cat tucked into a cozy papasan chair.
8. I got involved in politics. Well, kind of. I sent postcards to voters in swing states. I like to think it helped. I’m doing it again for the Georgia runoff elections. Democracy is not a spectator sport, people! And I am considering- mulling, if you will- returning to school for public policy.
9. Did I mention that we’re moving??? No more people stomping around above me while I am trying to work. Or sleep. Or eat. Or watch TV. I am hoping that having more control over my environment will get me back to writing more often. I am the type who finds it hard to pick up where I left off when interrupted.
I have already put up bamboo fencing so Hazel can’t see the deer who pass through a few times a day quite as easily and am looking forward to making this back deck into a little oasis similar to the way our front courtyard has always been.
10. Most of all, I am thankful for having made it this far through 2020 without breaking. Between my career, which was a big part of my identity, the pandemic and politics, I was sure my cat being sick would put me over the edge. But we’re both still here.
If anything, I am stronger than ever. My boundaries are better. My self-esteem is more internally focused. I learned more about what I am good at and what I like and what I don’t. This is astounding to me, especially given the omnipresence of fear and confusion related to the man we soon (thank the sweet baby J) no longer have to call president.
In a year full of more uncertainty than most of us probably thought we could handle, I hope you found things to give thanks for, too. ❤️
Extra Thanks: Hamilton! OMG, I’m not sure I knew what joy, perfection, talent or magic was until I watched. And then watched again. And again…I still don’t know all the words, but I get better all the time! 🤣