Sometimes we spend so much time and energy thinking about where we want to go that we don't notice where we happen to be.
Dan Gutman, From Texas With Love
One of the main reasons that we lose our enthusiasm in life is because we become ungrateful..we let what was once a miracle become common to us. We get so accustomed to his goodness it becomes a routine.
Joel Osteen, Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living Life at Your Full Potential
It seems almost formulaic to be talking about gratitude and thankfulness this time of year. After all, today is Thanksgiving, that day the Pilgrims set aside to thank their God for the fact they’d survived another year without being cut down by disease or natives or the cruel hand of fate.
Today Thanksgiving is, of course, a relatively risk-free holiday (if you can discount COVID-19). And so I once again find myself reflecting on what I have to be thankful for, and it’s a long (and growing) list.
The past year has found all of us dealing with the ravages of COVID-19 in one way or another. I’m thankful that I was able to get my booster shot last month and that I’ve been- comparatively speaking- disgustingly healthy over the past 12 months. No one I’m close to has contracted COVID-19, though, like anyone, my life has been impacted by the pandemic. I’ve yet to lose anyone, but, given the course the pandemic is traveling, it’s only a matter of time. With many people, including some in my own family, refusing to get vaccinated, it’s easy to wonder what things will look like 12 months from now.
For now, though, just living in the moment and dealing with what the here and now have in store seems challenging enough. Why get out over my skis, eh?
I find myself wrestling with the realities of getting older, and it’s not always fun. That said, it beats the alternative, and so I figure that every day I get to open my eyes again is a good one. So far, so good in that respect. I’ll be 62 in April, and while my body constantly reminds me I’m not 25 anymore, my brain has yet to adapt to that reality. As a result, I’m regularly doing things I probably shouldn’t be- and then paying for it later. Except that later seems to come sooner with each passing day. Age may only be a number, but each number comes complete with its own impact and consequence.
The flip side is that I realize now why wisdom would be lost on the young. I’ve reached a point where I still make bad decisions- I just understand them better now. I still have my “It seemed like a good idea at the time” moments. They’re still so frequent that I’ve decided to make that phrase the title of my next book. Stay tuned for that one, eh?
On a purely personal level, I’m a pretty damned fortunate person. I have numerous people in my life who love me and whom I love in return. In addition, I have exactly the number of friends I need, which means that I have people I can lean on when I need to…or borrow a tool from when the situation requires it.
I have a woman in my life who, for reasons that still escape me, adores me and comes through the door every night with a smile on her face when she sees me. It’s not because I’m easy to live with; I’m definitely not.. I’ve been diagnosed with ADD, I’m possibly somewhere on the spectrum, I’m easily overwhelmed, and I can be quick to anger when I’m feeling that way. My sense of self-worth can often hover somewhere significantly below the minimum daily requirement. Sometimes, life feels HARD. Despite all this, Erin comes home to me every night- smile intact and excited to see me. She’s been my biggest fan, advocate, editor, and sounding board. I only hope I return that to her in kind.
I don’t often feel like I’m a big deal or that I’m anything special, but I feel like a million bucks when I'm with her.
Erin helps me get through my days, and though I might not always be openly appreciative of her, I can’t imagine my life without her.
Together, we’re blessed with the financial resources and the shared desire to experience life together. We travel a lot- it helps not having children to siphon up any disposable income- and many of our conversations revolve around where we want to go next. We have a beautiful house, and a condo in Erin’s hometown of Longview, Washington, for her parents. All in all, our retirement looks promising.
For a kid who grew up in far northern Minnesota and didn’t know much of the world, I’ve been able to write a pretty decent story. I’ve been fortunate to be able to see and do things I had no business dreaming of as a kid growing up almost literally in the middle of nowhere. It’s been a helluva ride so far.
After years of feeling estranged from my own family, I’ve been able to begin rebuilding relationships with my brothers and my mother. Since losing my father in July 2020, we’ve pulled together to help Mom get to a secure and stable place. It’s helped me to feel as if I belong in a way I haven’t ever felt before. I no longer belong to Minnesota, but it is where I grew up, and it will forever be where I’m from. It took many years before I could say that I was proud of where I’m from, but this summer I had the area code (218) and zip code (56484) from Walker tattooed on my left arm. Wherever I go, my hometown goes with me.
I’m thankful for Erin’s family, who welcomed me with open arms from the day they met me. I’ve felt closer to them over the years than I have my own family. Part of that is geography (they’re all in Washington State; my own family is in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and New Mexico), but it’s also the fact that there’s genuine and mutual affection that’s helped me find a sense of belonging to something bigger than myself.
I’m grateful for my ability to express myself through my writing. My creativity has added a richness and depth to my life that has become essential to my well-being. It’s an addiction that feels good and worthwhile, and it’s the one thing in my life that I’m absolutely confident about.
There’s a lot to be thankful for, and I truly am. Things could be far worse. I know this because they have been in the past. Now I’m in a place that feels right, like it’s exactly where I’m supposed to be. It may have taken a long time to get to this place, but it would be difficult to find anything to complain about now that I’m here.
I hope that anyone reading this will be able to take time today to reflect on the things they can be thankful for. In an era when we spend so much time engaged in verbal conflict, it might be helpful to take stock and realize just how fortunate we are to be alive in America today. We know not what tomorrow has in store, but today is a good day to be thankful for what we have.
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!!
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