Day one of vacation. In between Googling "How to Lower Cholesterol Without Drugs" and doing about two weeks worth of laundry, I sat down to write a gratitude list. I know, how Oprah. It went like this --
1. For Nate dancing in the kitchen to a really bad Fall Out Boy song, but dancing nonetheless
2. For the ability to buy groceries of any kind
3. For a nice evergreen candle burning in the --
I look up and the pug is peeing all over the Christmas tree, one leg lifted, although I'd let him out 5,435 times so far.
I was writing the gratitude list in an attempt to shift focus from the other list in my head, the one that goes like "car electrical failure and mom and dad's stomach bug and mom's important doctor appointment and get ready because tornadoes may be coming and why did I get the high cholesterol talk I'm too young."
Days before, I was driving home and started crying. Big ugly tears. I couldn't shake the crud I got in New York, and utterly worn down series of long days, weeks, and months. A long year, really, in which I'd checked too many boxes in the "Life Change Index" -- you know, the one that calculates stress by adding up points for things like death of a friend, change in the healthy of a family member, change to a different line of work.
So I cried sometimes, and slept a lot.
But. This is life, and bad and good things happen to bad and good people, often simultaneously.
The gifts also keep coming.
When, the car was broken down at the BJCC, meeting a group of Ottowan tourists at a coffee shop, and getting to draw them a guide to Birmingham on the back of a napkin.
A pair of pug adorned mittens showing up in my mailbox from an anonymous elf. A gorgeous book of poetry too, by my neighbor Donna's late father. A lineman for Alabama Power, he wrote his poetry in his truck. He passed away earlier this year, and Donna assembled his poems, pairing them with heirloom family photos.
The taste of sable, a whitefish, on an everything bagel in the Lower East Side, with my friend Carmen sitting across the table. Writing out our 2016 manifestos on the back of menus.
Being in New York to see my brother get engaged, which, prior to June 26, he couldn't have done in all 50 states. (Well, he could have gotten engaged, but not married. So that's a big deal.)
And in Atlanta for my best friend's surprise 40th party, despite having stood curing in a parking lot in Birmingham 12 hours prior (see: car) thinking I would not make it.
Mary Karr's "The Art Of Memoir," waking me up after a long slumber of not writing consistently.
Being able to be home with my family after many years of being somewhere else.
And the slow, gradual process of letting go of the notion I was ever in control.
In wiping up the dog pee from the floor, I think of the Zora Neale Hurston quote, "There are years that ask questions and years that answer." 2015 was an asking year, separated into "before" and "afters."
Before my mom's surgery, and after.Before I started a new job, and after. And most importantly, before I got honest with myself about how I was coping with stress of life that is, well, life.
Last night I did something I haven't done since I was a gangly teenager -- I did a reading at Mass. Standing in the gym with a "Go Knights!" banner behind me, I read from Isaiah:
"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom, a light has shown."
When I was a teenager, reading at St. Cecelia's, I didn't really try to understand the words. I mostly cared about ann-un-ci-ating as my father advised and getting home to listen to Cure tapes.
But now, to get to read them, in a gym, with both of my parents, my husband, and my son in the front row -- more than I deserved.
"You have brought them abundant joy." It was all true. With that, I'm thankful for real hope, for gifts in darkness, and for the chance to get to begin again thanks to this day.