Illustration by James Callahan
Every year around Thanksgiving, I try and take stock of all of the things for which I am thankful. It's not exactly an original idea, but I try to put a creative spin on it. Back in my single days, when I had a lot of free time on my hands and certain people weren't constantly leaving the caps off of my colored markers and letting them dry out, I would make big, glitzy gratitude posters and hang them over my desk. Strong coffee! Pumpkin spice candles! Comfortable underwear!
I would put the big stuff on there, too, of course — my family, my career, my fantastic Carytown apartment and my health. But my friend Karen, who got me started on the poster idea, told me that you had to imagine that anything that wasn't on the poster was going to be taken away. So comfortable underwear definitely got high billing.
Nowadays I don't have an uninterrupted block of time to sit down and decorate a gratitude poster. Some days I feel fortunate if I have time to dash off one-line replies to the list of emails that never seems to end. (Note to universe: I am grateful that I get emails, both business and personal. Please keep them coming.) But that doesn't mean that I'm not grateful. Far from it. I wouldn't trade my harried, overcommitted, disorganized life for anything.
The Boy is No. 1 on my gratitude list, even when he is at his most trying. When he is really working my nerves, I remind myself that the things that can drive me crazy about him — his incessant curiosity, the constant stream of chatter and his tendency towards obsession — are characteristics that will take him places, and although they may not feel like things for which I should be grateful when I am trying to conduct a business call in his presence, they are blessings all the same.
Without getting too maudlin, I'll share a story a friend of mine recounted about being in line at the post office with a mother and her over-talkative son. The mother was not having a good day, and she snapped at her son, telling him to be quiet because she was tired of his voice. My friend has a nonverbal autistic son. I think of her often when I am tempted to ask for a few minutes of blissful silence from my own son. And I do ask for just that sometimes — but I try to remember to be grateful for the less silent times, too.
Tad ranks tops on my gratitude list, too. We just celebrated our 10th anniversary in September. I use the term "celebrated" loosely, since we are not sentimental, and we marked the occasion with Thai takeout and Netflix. But I love him as much as I did 10 years ago, and I think we've done a pretty decent job of this whole marriage thing. We have days when one of us has to remind the other that we are on the same team, but so far that's been enough to remind us to get it together, and most days we don't even need that.
Our house always comes up on my gratitude list. Even though any mention of the beast starts me rolling on an ingratitude list against my best intentions — the cracking plaster, the peeling paint, the crazy-high cost to heat it — I can't deny that this house is a blessing. It came along at exactly the moment we needed it, and the pittance of a monthly mortgage payment has allowed me to take time off from work to write two books, and to stay at home with The Boy for the first two years of his life. It may be creaky, cracky and drafty, but you've got to love a house with a payment so low that some months we were able to scrape by just by selling old Guns N' Roses T-shirts on eBay. (Note to universe: Just because the house is on the list doesn't mean I want to live here forever. Please remember that when we we're ready to sell it.)
My body is another reluctant entrant on the gratitude list. There's more of it than there was last year, and there was more of it last year than the year before. But it still works relatively well, except for once a year when I wrench my back towel-drying my hair. This was also the year that I belatedly discovered yoga (featured on the gratitude list with gold stars around it), and that has helped me regain a little of my youthful flexibility. Still, I wish I could regain a little of my youthful proportions as well, which would also help in the "comfortable underwear" department. (Note to universe: I put them on the list like you told me to, and you still took them away. What gives? I demand a recount.)