Here we are, on the eve of one of those holidays that has the potential to suck a lot this year and for the foreseeable future. Not only that, but Bill's birthday (and by design, our anniversary) is on Saturday.
I could choose to be a miserable mess. Not only does that sound like a really bad idea, it would be a really selfish way to be, since this isn't just my holiday. It would also make Bill really really unhappy. Yep, that was a lot of "really"s. Really.
That's why I have chosen a different route. I'm cleaning the house for company (at least as clean as it's going to get), shopping for the ingredients for our favorite side dishes, and working on my gratitude list. One of those old fashioned things I do when I find myself in full-blown Pity Party is to count my blessings, name them one by one as the song goes. This year I am going for the full Monty, A to Z and I am trying for three things in each category. See if you recognize any of your favorites, (or maybe even your name).
AIR: Breathing is one of my favorite things!
April: My birth month and the time of year when life begins anew.
Angels: So many of them in my life right now!
Barbara: My sister and my friend. Your gift of presence to me this summer cannot be measured in its value. Along with the Bob-in-law, you helped carry me through. Do all sisters come through like this? What a gift!
Berinda: My daughter, not born of me but no less a part of me. You cannot know in this life what a gift you are to this world, but you will surely be blessed in heaven!
Bill: My partner and my heart. I miss you every day and continue to be grateful for all the gifts you brought to my life, in life and in death.
Butterflies: Especially those that reminded me all through this terrible spring and summer that this is all temporary and it is supposed to be. We are constantly transforming, changing, metamorphing into the next creation -- from one moment to the next. It goes on.
Creatures: All of the creatures of the air, the sea, and the land. What a marvelous world!
Costa Rica: The first place I heard the world singing my song.
Cancer: For the lessons you've taught me about living and dying.
Christmas Lights: Welcome back! I'm so glad to see you this year!
Diamonds: A beautiful reminder that pressure can be a productive and creative force, as well as a destroyer.
Dogs: Of all the world's creatures, the one that warms my feet and my heart when they are cold.
Dad: The more I understood your humanness, the more of a hero you became to me.
Death: Sure has a way of putting your life into perspective, don't it?
EARTH: Home, sweet home. For now.
Eyes and Ears: When I close my mouth, they work a lot better. My dad tried to tell me that. My teachers tried to tell me that. Most of my bosses have tried to tell me that. I'm a slow learner.
Emily: My baby daughter, the apple of her father's eye, and on the short list of people I always want standing with me when the going gets tough. Can't wait to see you tomorrow!
FIRE: Warmth, light, healing, knowledge, protection. Is it a coincidence that I was born under a fire sign? Family: A lot of people say it. Mine lives it. From the closest to me to my cousins and second cousins. I love you all throughout all the worlds of God! Thank you for your everlasting support!
Fun: It ain't always fun; so I am real grateful when it is!
Friends: I wouldn't have made it through this year without them.
Grandpas and Grandmas: Everything I know about animals and growing things I learned from my grandfathers. Everything I know about cooking, caring for a home and shepherding family assets, I learned from my grandmothers. When I pray for help and guidance on my journey, I always look to the grandmothers and grandfathers in that host of witnesses that surrounds us at our Thanksgiving Table.
Gidget: Jack's best friend. The little chihuahua-terrier mix that came to live with us last Christmas. My foot-warmer by night, and constant companion by day.
Great Spirit/God: Who I have come to know is too big to be held or owned or described by any single group of people, no matter how good or nice or how terrible they are. That God IS is no longer a question for me, not that it really ever was.
Home: In my mother's last days, she frequently said she wanted to "go home," but she said she wasn't sure where home was. In the months after she died, I pondered this and realized I felt the same disconnection from that which is home. After the two major losses that followed the loss of my mom boosted this disconnect into a full-blown anxiety, the realization dawned that the home we long for may not be our earthly home at all. The desire is a built-in homing device to take us HOME. And we don't need to worry; it will be there.
Heart: So glad I have one and that it works so well. Grateful that it held on for this roller coaster ride we call life. Talk about your ups and downs! I am additionally grateful that it has been a heart that was open to get in and take the ride at all.
Hospice of Denver: You all are the best. Thank you for being on Team Frizzell. May you have a year filled with blessings, especially of the monetary kind!
Happiness: Grateful that it is a choice, and that my heart is up for that journey as well!
Ingrid: One of the dearest friends I have ever had, and a constant example to me of strength and resilience, of giving and taking time to nourish yourself, of grace and beauty. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Intelligence: I believe that contrary to popular opinion intelligent life does exist on this planet. It is how we were created. All of us possess it; most of us fail to access it regularly. I am grateful for those who do and make this a better place to live.
Intimacy: The path to discovering ourselves in other human beings. Dangerous as hell, but critical to becoming!
Information: As an intelligence analyst, I learned that information is not the same thing as fact. But information always fills in a part of the picture -- even if what it tells you is something about the bearer of the information.
Joshua: My favorite son and my own gift from God. With a keen instinct for finding fun, another on my short list of those I want beside me in troubled times.
Jobs: I always had one when I needed one, including now, and it was always what I needed to be ready for the next steps on my journey.
Jackson Brown: Miniature poodle and friend to Gidget. Chief Jester.
Kitchen: One of my favorite places to be -- the heart of the home! It is where the family gathers for nourishment of all kinds. I love that I can be in my kitchen and with my family at the same time.
Kitsch: Because it makes people smile and forget about all the serious shit. I don't like it when it collects in obscene amounts, unless it's in somebody else's house and then that's cool because they're happy and their stuff has made me smile. Konsequently, I try to keep a kap on the kitsch.
Knees (and hips and other joints): I have become much more aware of them as I age, and a great deal more appreciative of all they do with only a mild amount of complaint, considering how abused they have been. So I have to have a parts replacement or maintenance now and then; it's a small price to pay.
LOVE: Only when your heart has been truly broken can you know that you have truly loved. Only when you have lost your love do you know how greatly you have been loved. In this year of most exquisite heartbreak, I know both of these truths. I also know I would do it all again, but I am not sure I could live through it another time.
Lips: Aren't they nice? Not just mine, I mean. Lips in general.
Longevity: It runs in the family. This is good news for me, but more importantly it meant that I got to know my great grandparents and that I had a relationship with my grandparents well into my adulthood. My maternal grandmother (Rosalie) called me on my 50th birthday to relay her good wishes. I was able to visit with her one last time before she died at age 98. Her twin (Mathilde) turned 102 years old today. Happy Birthday, Aunt Mathilde!
Mothers: Me, mine, yours. It's a tough job: terrible hours, all kinds of crap from the customers (literal and less literal), and if you do it right (and you are very lucky) the job never really ends. The loving part doesn't, for sure. Ever.
Men: I confess; I always liked them. I complain a lot about them, but I complain about the weather, too. Mostly if it interferes with what I want to do or with the kind of day I want to have that day. But I love the weather, all kinds of weather...
Milk: It was the first nourishment we got as babes, and for me remains the go-to drink when my tummy is empty. And you simply cannot make a proper roux without milk; that's a fact.
Marianne: For coming all the way out to Colorado to bring a smile to my sweetheart's face as he was leaving us, a thousand thanks. You always were his favorite!
Music: It has soothed me when I was agitated, energized me when I was feeling low and slow, gave word to my heart's prayer, and helped my loved one sail away, sail away, sail away...
Nothing: As in doing nothing. I needed this. I need this. This is helping. I'm probably ready to start doing some things now; but I am still going to guard and protect doing nothing. It is my right. I have earned it. In spades!
Nasty Odors: Don't misunderstand. I don't find these any more pleasant than anybody else does. There are some odors that make me vomit almost instantly. But I am as grateful for those odors as I am for the ones that calm or energize me. It's the nasty odors that tell you that things aren't as they should be, or you aren't where you should be and it's time to be moving on.
Nature: Nature is where my personal energy gets its greatest charge. I love the sky, the geography, the plants, the creatures. It all works together to create the magic that is this ongoing ever transforming creation. And we are a part of that. It totally humbles me while giving my spirit a giant-sized jolt. If I am talking you and suddenly look skyward and seem distracted, don't be offended. I've caught sight of my brother Hawk and have taken a moment to greet him.
Orgasms: I thought that would get your attention. Os are pretty far down in the list, and I wasn't sure you were still reading. Glad to see that you're still with me ;-) And yes. This is a legitimate entry :-O
Orchids: I just love looking at them. They are among the most beautiful things in the world.
Open(ness): I look for it in others, and avoid its sisters Narrow and Closed. I strive for it in myself, and catch myself in the lie that I have achieved it the moment I begin judging another.
Poker: It's fun. I'm not bad at it, and I have learned a lot about myself and other people at the poker table. I don't play as much as I did when Bill was alive. (Wow! I think that's the first time I have been conscious of using that phrase. My pulse just started racing like crazy. Deep breath.) As I was saying, I don't play as much as I did, but I think I am playing better.
Past: When I get a little too big for my breeches, as my father used to say, all I need is to be reminded that I have a past. Sometimes that past was just yesterday, and sometimes it comes all caps and in bold letters PAST. It's usually enough to take me down a peg or two. Sometimes I need it. Sometimes I don't. My letting you know is not generally a good indicator of which is which -- for you or me. Generally it takes some time and by then, it's in the past.
Pets: For a while, they were all that kept me moving through the day. Thank you, Bob-in-law, for your wisdom in knowing that I needed to keep them close.
Poets and Poetry: I'm grateful for the risk they take as they expose themselves because it helps me understand myself a little better.
Quilts: One day in October, I had to add an extra blanket to the bed. I used the quilt my paternal grandmother quilted and handpainted for my parents' 25th wedding anniversary in 1974. What a wonderful connection I felt, with all kinds of healing soothing thoughts. I'm so grateful that my mother kept it all those years, long after she had the right-sized bed to put it on.
Queers: Some of my best friends are. I love them. So, I won't tell. Don't ask. Please, just make this stupid policy go away!
Quiet: Not the kind of quiet you might imagine. Not soundless. The world is not soundless. We are so busy adding sounds of our own that we scarcely know what the world sounds like. If we could all just quiet down a little, we might hear the hawk cry or the wind whispering in the pine or the owl hooting in the night. I'm convinced they have things to tell us, if we'll only listen.
Recreation: It's what I am doing this year: re-creating. Like any endeavor worthy of a word like endeavor, sometimes there are setbacks; sometimes there are breakthroughs. It may not always be clear which one is which, so I am grateful no matter what. It can't hurt, and it always makes me feel better.
Rabbits: While I do not approve of their dining in my garden, I am grateful to the rabbits in my yard for reminding me, as they hop away, that in this moment I have nothing to fear and I don't need to be worrying about the next moment. I'll get to that moment whether I worry or not and it will be what it will be and I will do whatever I need to do. Silly rabbits.
Rest: Also a big part of this year. I am so tired, worn out, yada yada yada. I relish rest. At first I struggled with the whole Puritan guilt thing. Gotta go, go, go, do, do, do (sure hope you aren't reading this aloud). Not anymore! Go back and read Maslow. All those physical symptoms I was having? Ah, rest. Only eight more letters to go, and I am off to bed! I'm cooking for my little family tomorrow, and I want to savor the day!
Sleep: I know. I just covered rest. I wanted to say a few words about sleep because there was a time when Bill was ill in 2007 when he could not sleep for days and had become quite psychotic from the effects. Ever after I was grateful when he slept soundly and peacefully. No more so than when he was ill for the last time.
Scenery: I guess this could be the same as the Nature thing, but to me it's more like admiring fine art or a moving picture. Some of my favorites this year were the bayou in Mississippi in May; the summer storms in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida; the snow storm in Estes Park in June; the jewel-colors of Maryland from the air in October; and the panoramic terrible beauty of Arlington in November.
Self-confidence: Beginning to feel it again. Welcome back. It's been a while. Don't get too cocky. You have a past, you know.
Tenderness: Now I think I get it. I sure hope the world does before it really is too late. Given the pain that it is in, I'd say that we're working on it. I know it took a lot of pain for me to get it.
Toughness: Toughness is not the opposite of tenderness; it is one of its closest allies. I saw both demonstrated day in and day out this summer by an entire household. I am still in awe.
Teachers: I am grateful to all of my teachers, the intentional and the unintentional.
Travel: I always appreciate the opportunity for a change of scenery.
USA: Let's be honest, we ain't perfect. That's how this all got started -- people who refused to happily conform to governance that did not make sense to them. They created a system that could continue to change and grow while adhering to some really sound principals regarding individual rights and protections. We are the guardians of that system. Some of our best and brightest are on the front line of that guard. I am grateful for them and for their families who wait for their homecoming.
Used Cars (and Trucks): Would any of us have had a first car if there were no such thing? Or a second, third, fourth, fifth... Ah yes! I remember them well.
Urologists: God bless them! Somebody's got to go in there and do it! It's not what I would choose. It would take all the magic right out of it for me.
Vali: My sister friend from all the way back. She knows my past because she was there for part of it. I can't tell you how many phone calls and letters and prayers have passed between us over the past 40 plus years, but I can tell you that there were times she kept me from the edge (and vice versa, because friends do that). We haven't spent a single day in each others presence since 1992. I think we should change that situation.
Voting: I'm grateful and proud that I can, and I do.
Valleys: The Rogue Valley. The San Luis Valley. Both are dear to my heart.
WATER: The last of the four elements and so important to life! I treasure water, especially clean water. I used to think it was mostly a western thing, because I grew up in the western US and the western states are so drought prone. However water is pretty important in the scheme of world history. Check out water politics or hydropolitics in Wikipedia if you don't believe me. Politics aside, one of my favorite spots in the world is sitting alongside a Rocky Mountain Creek in the summertime, listening to the water singing its song.
Wonder: I am deeply thankful that my sense of wonder is totally intact. It makes it possible for me to be deeply thankful.
Weeping: Sometimes its the only thing I can do to express what I feel, happy or sad. I bless the person who taught me that tears are a gift.
Xylophone: Love the wonderful tones of the xylophone, vibraphone, marimba.
Xerox: Made my life easier, mostly.
XI and XU: Killer words in Scrabble.
You: Thank you for reading this far. Thank you for reading me at all. It helps to know that you are somehow in this with me, cheering me on. Thank you.
Youth: I loved it!
Yams: It's Thanksgiving, after all!
Zones: Especially the temperate zone, but the subtropical, tropical and erogenous are also nice, particularly in February.
Za: I've won some serious Scrabble games with this gem!
ZZZZZzzzzz It's way past my bedtime, and I am grateful for my comfy bed and the pillow which even now whispers my name...
Note added on 11/27. Here are some thoughts on keeping the gratitude going beyond the annual recognition day we call Thanksgiving: