Grateful

 

I generally enjoy Thanksgiving. The revisionist history behind it is extremely suspect, but the simple act of eating amongst loved ones and expressing gratitude over what you have in life still strikes me as the most basically earnest celebration anyone could ever hold. And as much as I complain in life, I truly am grateful for a lot, but I’m not sure I’m grateful for the same things everyone else is.

I’m grateful that I can keep myself from arguing over politics. This is a big deal, as I’m one of about two liberals in a heavily red family. My cousins are the type who enjoy getting drunk as fast as possible, as a prelude to expounding on some truly amusing, though distressingly racist, political conspiracy theories. I receive phone calls from elderly relatives in Alabama who bizarrely refer to Obama as “your president,” though I’m pretty sure Alabama’s in the same country Georgia is. The guy who mails my holiday cards snorts over the “Happy Holidays” stamps he sells me himself, and wonders aloud where Christmas has gone. But since I’m not related to him, I tell him it’s probably right where it was when Bing Crosby first sang “Happy Holiday” in 1942. People always forget how old that phrase is.

I’m grateful that the women I’ve been attracted to in life have been ones who weren’t afraid to put me in my place when I needed it. I wish I could’ve avoided the general trap of male entitlement, but of course we’re a few generations away from that scourge ever being truly wiped away clean. I was once scolded by a friend I also had a crush on, when it dawned on her that I valued our friendship only as far as it took me to being intimate with her. Even I didn’t realize this at the time, but she was right. That revelation stayed with me a long time. Understanding my transgression helps me remain close with my ex, to be there for her when she needs me to be, and only as far as friendship will allow. It’s why I refuse to indulge petulance from other men, who feel scorned when another autonomous human being turns down their advances. It’s helped me realize you only ever grow up; you’re never truly grown.

I’m grateful I understand that cats and dogs are basically the same animal. Gerbils, ferrets, rabbits too, for that matter. Love them, care for them, show that you care, and they’ll follow you to the end of the world. I have friends who adamantly disagree with me on this. I never say it to their faces, but I would never trust them around any of my pets. There are no pets that take care of themselves. I feel that understanding this keeps my animals safe. When they curl up to me at night, purring or wagging their tails, I’m so grateful for their presence I could explode.

I’m grateful I understand the difference between acquaintances and true friends. I can enjoy a beer with an acquaintance. I can talk for hours about books and TV shows with them. But I can make jokes about my sex life with friends. I can tell them I can’t go out because my anxiety meds aren’t working that night, and that panic attacks will hit me if I step out the door. I can let honest emotion creep into my voice with friends. I can trust them around my phone and my wallet, my family and my pets.

I’m grateful I can type this inside a house. It’s such a basic thing, but we take for granted how fortunate we are to be under a roof when rain comes, to be against a wall when the wind blows.

I’m grateful my body moves when I want it to, that I understand the meaning behind letters that, when you get down to it, are little more than arbitrary swirling lines.

I’m grateful for cigarettes and alcohol, for sunny autumn days and wooded places where other people never go. I’m grateful for sex and food and clean water and the smell of burning leaves. I’m grateful to be here, and alive, and aware.

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