Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Gratitude List 2011

I complain. And whine. And grumble. A lot. Too often I see the glass chipped and half-empty. To counteract that tendency, last year I drew up a list of 25 things for which I'm grateful.  Cataloging the many ways in which I am rich is becoming a yearly tradition, a welcome antidote to all the fretting about silly junk. 

Here is the list for this year. I tried not to peek at last year's until I finished this year's, but the similarities are striking. I'm still incredibly lucky. 

So without further ado, and in no particular order, Thanksgiving Gratitude List 2011.
  1. Model horses rock!
    photo credit: Thomas A Daffron, Jr. (my grandfather)
    My sister: She's my best friend, not because she is my sister, but because she is courageous and funny, smart, kind, and honest. She puts up with my endless rambling and whining and reliably responds with wit and a healthy dose of reality. And – bonus! – she makes really yummy cookies and chocolate zucchini bread among many other tasties.
  2. My parents: In very different ways, they are both remarkable people. I am clear in the love we have for each other. The older I get, the luckier I know I am.
  3. My cats: As oldsters, they're largely fluffy doorstops snoring in one chair or another, and they do nothing to decrease the cricket population in my apartment. But they purr when I pick them up, come when I call them (yes, even though they're cats), and never tire of the excitement of dinnertime. In the winter particularly, they cleave to me for warmth and affection, and viceversa. They still groove on catnip and playtime and their hedonistic lifestyle of dozing in the sunshine.
  4. Painting: Expert technique is still far, far out of reach. But what I do have is a corner of my living room set up for the right side of my brain to play. Five minutes or an hour of messing with color and shape calms me while letting me explore, a stellar combination.
  5. Writing: Since I started keeping character sketches of friends and family as a preteen, through the many years of journals, stories, poems, novels, essays, and blog posts, writing is how I organize my thoughts, express my hopes and fears, and clarify my values. It's where I find forgiveness for myself and others, where I play, and where I mourn.
  6. Running: Breathe in, breathe out. The steady beat of Vibrams Five Fingers (my running shoe of choice – ask me, and I'll tell you more than you ever wanted to know about how much I like them) on a quiet path. Running strengthens me while it relaxes me.
  7. Hiking: Sweating through summer haze or sloshing through fall rain, hiking makes me look around at how gorgeous and how simple and how awe-inspiring the natural world can be -- if I just pay attention.
  8. Leo hard at work on a craft project
    Driving: I know, it's not environmentally conscious to go for a Sunday drive. But the joy of windows down, radio up, and singing loud is hard to beat, as is the curiosity of seeing what's just up around that corner or on the other side of the country.  
  9. My Aunt Kathy: My aunt spent much of this year helping my mother during her treatment for cancer. She also dealt with my moments of panic and insanity the bubbled up through some of the tougher times. Kathy remained endlessly patient, gracious, practical, and efficient. She is one of the kindest people I know. And she likes a good bowl of popcorn and a road trip, so we have many common interests.
  10. Friends Old & New: It's been a bumpy year with family stress and financial bummers, but through that, I've had a steady stream of support from people I treasure. I've spoken unspeakable things to phenomenal people who have in turn shared their struggles and successes with me. I recognize that being close with the people I am over many years of friendship, being with people that bring out my best side, is a tremendous gift. I look forward to growing even closer and supporting those friendships to the best of my ability in the coming years. 
  11. My Freelance Writing/Virtual Assistant Business: My commute is about 10 feet to turn on my computer. I never set my alarm clock. I run errands in the middle of the afternoon. While it's true that my retirement is nil and health care nonexistent, I believe this business will, in time, provide me with a wee bit more financial security to go with the freedom and intellectual stimulation of doing what I want to do.
  12. St. Pete Beach, FL
    Time: Time trumps money, I concluded this summer when I turned down a (relatively-speaking) lucrative, but time- and soul-sucking job. To have opportunity to choose that was liberating however much I still panic when the rent comes due and still kick myself for not being a more normal, socially acceptable person. For me though, happiness requires enough quiet daydream time (preferably with a cat purring in the window) to relax into it, and I'm thrilled that I have the luxury to choose that life and still be able to eat.
  13. Letting Go: Sometimes you can care deeply for people and still find yourself arguing with venom over pointless crap, banging your head against one wall or another. There is value for everyone in letting go of anger and those connections that feed into unhealthy patterns and instead putting energy into more peaceful places of growth.      
  14. Free & Cheap & Fun & Creative Stuff: Necessity is the mother of invention, and because it would be unreasonably frivolous even for me to go out and buy endless electronic gizmos I don't need, I've become better at realizing what I do need (food, shelter), what I don't (a Ferrari), and creatively re-purposing what I've got to fill the gray zones in between the extremes. I found goodies at thrift stores that speak to my sense of humor, scanned free piles for ugly mobile parts, recycled canvases to create my new (sometimes lumpy) paintings, and removed a lot of waste from my consumer diet, from deleting pricier junk food to making better use of the library.
  15. Light: Given my increased focus on the visual arts, painting, photography, and crooked suncatchers, I'm more aware of the magic of light, the angles of highlight and shadow, the splintering by prisms, the benevolence bestowed by its alchemy.     
  16. Family: The more I see how family can go radically wrong, collapse in anger, neglect, fury, abandonment, despair, violence, the more amazed I am by the collective kindness, intelligence, loyalty, and humor of my immediate and extended family.
  17. Health: Having spent time pacing hospitals hallways this year, I hold an even higher value on the dumb luck of my own good health.
  18. Kids: No, you haven't missed anything exciting -- I don't have kids. But I enjoy spending time with my friends' kids and smile when I see happy crews running amok at playgrounds or parades or wherever.  I love the creativity and chaos and unbridled fun that kids generate by keeping the world wondrously new and immediate.   
  19. Radiator Heat, Indoor Plumbing, Electric Lights, Maintained Roads, Public Safety: All those bills and taxes go some place to keep a sprawling, radically complicated system chugging along. Sometimes it clunks more than purrs – vitriolic government rhetoric, the poor distribution of wealth, blackouts, shutdowns, riots, dishonesty, greed, natural and man-made disasters. But every day, most days, millions of cogs in the wheels turn smoothly without breaking the machinery, a consistency I take for granted.
  20. Possibility: Emily Dickinson wrote, “I dwell in possibility,” and while she was talking more specifically about the life of a poet, for me, imagination and change provide great hope, vehicles for shifting to a new approach.
  21. Memory: Some moments and some people are, for good or bad, gone forever. There is much that I would choose to forget, but much, much more that I am so glad that I can remember, re-live, and enjoy again.
  22. Learning: Learning takes place in many environments, so while I have had lots of formal education (and that has given me a lot of tangible opportunities as a result), I'm mostly talking about the capacity to learn in any environment, be it an ivory tower or muddy cave.
  23. Aging: Am I happy about the gray hair frizzing over my head or the wrinkles by my eyes? No, not so much. But I'm grateful for the time accrued and perspective. As my father is fond of saying, getting old beats the alternative.
  24. Being Sentimental & Cheesy & Mushy: Sure, there is something just a little schmaltzy about gratitude. But I'm grateful for it nonetheless, as I bask here in my riches. So there.
  25. Food! Thanksgiving turkey, mashed potatoes, homemade chocolate chip cookies, horribly bad for you French fries, popcorn, a perfectly done steak with horseradish sauce, spinach salad with walnuts and strong cheese, cheese, chocolate, did I mention cheese?, strawberry smoothies, pomegranates and, of course, ice cream. I've had lean financial moments, but I've never truly faced hunger and have enjoyed many a gourmet meal. That's not the case for millions of people around the world.  
So that's my list this year. I encourage you to make your own if you want to feel super rich.

On Thanksgiving morning, I'm running the So Others Might Eat Trot For Hunger 5K. If you feel like contributing to a good cause that serves the homeless and poor of the Washington, DC area, you may do so here:

Happy Thanksgiving!


  1. Beautiful idea and list!!! Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Great list! You say you put the items in no particular order, but I have to believe that popcorn is higher than #25. ;-)

    My list would have some similarities to yours. For example, being thankful for Susie.

    I hope you have an excellent Thanksgiving!