On Being Grateful And Not Dead Yet

Yesterday was Thanksgiving here in the USA. If you’re reading this at another time of the year, that’s okay as long as you accompany the essay with some leftover turkey. It can be deli turkey. I know getting an entire roast turkey in June is difficult.

I’m grateful for a lot of things, in both November and June. The rest of the year? I sway between (1) utter disdain for my circumstance and acquaintances and (2) disdain that is slightly less utter. But today, given the crisp fall or drippy summer air, I’m feeling especially reflective. That’s probably just the sweat and turkey grease giving me a healthy sheen.

But in addition to being glossy, I’m also thinking back on the year and all the things for which I’m grateful. I’ll share a few with you here.

I’m grateful for my health.

I’m 46 years old, which means I’ve successfully dodged death for a while now. Those years have been filled with ridiculously dangerous activities, not the least of which is “existing in the United States.”

Tens of thousands of carcinogenic processed food-shaped items have made their way into my gullet. I’ve been the recipient and flipper of many birds along our nation’s lawless and maintenance-less roads.

But most scarily of all, I’ve been known to venture into inherently unsafe places like elementary schools, high schools, movie theaters, nightclubs, parades, Walmart, universities, churches, synagogues, and grocery stores.

The fact that I’m still alive is a testament to luck and determination. Luck did all the heavy lifting, to be clear. But apparently, God also wants to continue to inflict my nonsense-wrapped wisdom upon all of you.

“God’s not done with me yet,” is a reference to the undercooked, gooey center of my frontal lobe. It’s firming up, just give it time.

Seen here: an avian representation of the author.

I’m grateful for my family, my dog, and my friends.

The vast majority of people with whom I share DNA have rejected common sense and kept me in their lives. My instinct is to dissect that, but I’ll skip it and just offer my gratitude. Through countless ventures and misadventures, they’ve continued to love me. More impressive, they’ve relentlessly taken my side, even when “my side” was destined to be the last-place horse. And often when that loser horse was being a complete shithead the whole time he was losing.

My long-time partner has unconditionally supported me through an odds- and logic-defying ten years together. And she still likes me! That, or she fakes it extraordinarily well. I’ve always suspected she might be a spy, and masterful acting is an important part of that career path. Hmm.

My dog, Lemmy, is the best dog in the world. He’s comic relief and unconditional love with orange fur and a triangle head. He’s my buddy, my son, my redundant doorbell, and I don’t know what we ever did without him. If he could read, he’d openly weep at my gushing words.

And despite my asocial tendencies, I’ve got a network of friends who’d come to my defense at a moment’s notice. That’s an accomplishment that no amount of money can buy.

It’s a good thing I’ve kept my vast wealth a secret from all of these suckers, so I know their affection is real!

I’m grateful for perspective.

In the last few years, I’ve had opportunities to traverse the emotional spectrum, from “everything is AWESOME!” to “[indistinct gurgling sounds from being face down in a mud puddle].”

And, through no effort of my own, I’ve been lucky enough to travel to several different far-flung and a few more closely-flung countries. Did you know that the United States is not the only place on earth? I certainly didn’t know that, but as it turns out, it’s true!

Somewhere along the path—I think it was when I was meditating under a large fig tree 2500 years ago—I started trying to openly and fully experience every feeling, good or bad.

I don’t like feeling bad. No one does. But worse than feeling bad, I don’t like the idea of constantly being in a state of wishing things were different. Things are, and that makes up much more of the game than things being perfect.

And if the subsistence farmer in Kenya and the street vendor in Egypt can be happy, it might mean that happiness is independent of circumstance.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m dissatisfied with lots of things. I’m annoyed that Lemmy keeps eating the doorframe. I’m pissed that the 7-Eleven cashier won’t let me use the bathroom. My back hurts, my butt hurts, I’m missing the hair on my head, I’m extra hairy elsewhere, and I’m still not a world-renowned  writer.

But I’m grateful to be actively experiencing these parts of the human experience.

Given my default state of acting like a complete ingrate, it’s good to take the occasional and intentional moment to give thanks. And all the better, our national day of actively giving thanks comes with a fat 4500-calorie dinner. In the absence of the promise of turkey and green bean casserole, like each of you, I would probably skip gratitude altogether.

My hope for the next weeks and months is to retain the gratitude while eating less than two days’ worth of calories at each meal. The hypothesis is that gratitude doesn’t have to be dependent on tryptophan, pumpkin pie, and bourbon.

It’s a risky experiment, and I reserve the right to retreat to the nearest buffet if I’m wrong.

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