I was inspired this week by a friend who posted on Facebook that this year, she is grateful for the ability and chance to battle depression without medication. While she was not advocating that this is the right path for everyone (nor am I), she was bravely transparent about the fact that it is the perfect healing journey for her. Her courage and honesty about something that a) might ignite criticism and b) doesn’t fit into the conventional mold of a Thanksgiving gratitude list really got me thinking. Her gratitude was unusual. It struck me.
It’s no secret that this has been a hard year for us. We’ve faced our older son’s prolonged and complicated illness, the death of our second son, and a handful of other concomitant difficulties. I’m thankful for some obvious things this year, like a strong, amazing family that has stood by our side, friends like no other, regained health, etc. But if I go deeper, what am I really grateful for?
It’s easy to rattle off the usual things we’re thankful for, and I’m not suggesting we don’t mean them. I know we do. But what about the hard, the ugly things in our lives we are grateful for (or want to be)? What about the unusual things, the ones that people might not understand or relate to? Or the things that some may even criticize?
I’m not talking about a generic, cliche “I’m thankful for all of the hard things that have happened to me because they have made me a strong person” kind of thankfulness, although some may fall into such a category. I’m talking about digging in and finding the things that have changed me, that have shaped me, things that are specific to this season of my life and what I’ve experienced.
So, after some digging, here are 8 “unusual” things I am grateful for:
1. I am grateful to have a womans’ body that can grow and stretch and change and heal and be beautiful in all seasons, a body that remembers.
My two most vivid memories are those of my sons’ births. They were both hard in different ways, and beautiful in different ways. I am grateful that I can remember Rowan with such a physical memory, that even as my body slowly goes back to “normal”, it refuses to forget my son. I have stared at the mirror with more love and acceptance for myself than I ever have in the last few months, aware of all it’s power and magic and memory.
2. I am grateful that I haven’t lost my faith in nature and my body, despite what may seem like the ultimate betrayal by both.
I was raised to believe in the innate wisdom of our bodies, of nature, of the profound intuition that we are gifted with from the beginning, especially as mothers. My world, my faith, has been rocked, but I have somehow been able to hold onto these gifts. In fact, my sense of faith and connection to something bigger than our little life has only grown.
3. I am grateful that my son’s death has taught me that we are all connected through our magical yet merciless humanity.
I wrote about this here, the idea that nothing is more equalizing than the fact that we are all born into the same world, each subject to all of the beauties and changes and horrors of life. No one is above this dimension; we are all in it together. I am grateful that I’ve had a chance to reconnect with many old friends who have become distant through miles, passage of time, or differing beliefs. Somehow, all of those things matter a lot less to me now. I believe, more than ever, that life is built and sustained in the trenches of our humanity, where we all hold on for dear life and feel each others pain and glory.
4. I am grateful for a big family (in both heart and number).
When our son was stillborn, they took turns visiting us for several weeks. They made sure I never had to be alone or cook a meal. They give and give and give without reservation, each one of them. Being with my family is like cocoa by the fire/favorite slippers/one big game of mafia (don’t ask).
5. I am grateful I get to work and build with my best friends.
Our upcoming return to the Pacific Northwest is eagerly anticipated for many reasons, and certainly at the top of that list is the comfortable and comforting relationships we have with my two partners and their families. I am increasingly grateful for this rare and unusual gift, which I plan to steward carefully forever.
6. I am grateful for a husband who can let the world in without condition – into his pain, into his joy (and his antics).
Without him, I would easily retreat, build walls, find silent ways to fight my battles. He is forever an example of transparency, of delight in sharing ALL of life with others. He is obnoxious and offensive and real and trustworthy. I am grateful to share my life with him.
7. I am grateful for a son who is wild and strong-willed, and who challenges authority, reason and gravity.
He asks questions, explores boundaries, and builds elaborate lego creations that inevitably frustrate the hell out of us all. He can befriend anyone, and never forgets the people he loves. He will be a strong and capable man that takes the world by storm.
8. I am grateful for the cracks.
My friends post reminded me of the lyrics from a Leonard Cohen song:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That is how the light gets in
Like my gratitude for my body, I cannot reject these cracks or deny how they have become a part of me. They’re beautiful. They let the light in.
9. I am grateful that 2013 is almost over.
I’m not really a believer in New Years resolutions or counting too much on a fresh start. Yet somehow, I like the idea of this season of uprooting and sickness and death being packaged up into one chronological year, that it has some kind of definable end. I don’t believe that the next year/season owes me anything – and yet, I do believe that something new is ahead. Goodbye, 2013, and good riddance.
Here’s to finding the things that we’re really grateful for. The difficult things. The unusual things.
What is your unusual gratitude?
*photo by martha_chapa95.