Some late-day exploration of gratitude in the hours before the great-American Thanksgiving had me, yet again, at a loss for words.

IMG_0023

It’s hard to give pause, reflect, and make an expression of large-scale thankfulness when we, as humans, find a greater ease in focusing on what is wrong than what is just right. Plus as I, like so many, recall all of the sitcoms, romcoms, cooking show specials, morning show specials, television shows, movies, and cartoons from grade school, I can honestly say that I’ve never had a serious “let’s go around the table” expression of appreciation.

It’s not real life.

I was just reading I am Not for Everyone on Jeanne Grey’s Grey Layers Blog, and it reminded me for what I can honestly say to the universe a big and honest Thank You.

Just as society shapes so many people’s conception of what a successful life looks like: big house with a wrap-around porch, a white picket fence, a garden, and patio furniture; it shapes our conception of such holidays, leaving so many with the same generic sentiment. In the next few days, you will undoubtedly hear the following for which people feel indebted to the powers of the universe: family, health, any cute thing, and their love.

But, why am I thankful for my family? Because they are wildly caring and loving, even if it means– and often times does– tough loving. I grew up in an uncensored home, not valuing that until I became an adult and saw the products of families who viewed illnesses, fights, separations, and pain as secret things. I have seen firsthand the repercussions that may occur down the line when someone shields their child from discussing difficult and natural topics. In recent times, I have come to appreciate the fact that my parents let me experience pain and suffering along with all of the freedom and joy that they could generate, because I have a greater understanding and closer connection with a greater range of people whom I have come across.

IMG_0146I am beyond appreciative for the sassiest, smartest women, whom I call my sisters. We were raised to give each other the same real-world loving that our parents gave us. And even if that comes out in shouting matches and days without talking, I can rest easy each night knowing that when push comes to shove, I have three of the strongest women in my corner. And as we have become adults, there seems to be so much more that bonds us than just sisterhood. Myriad common threads have caused us to grow into the greatest friends I could ever know.

Why am I grateful for my health? I guess the better way of putting it, is that I am grateful for the body that the universe gave me. It is tiny, but it is mine. It tried to kill me, but it is still mine. It is the one thing that I, at times, have no control over, while all of the control that anything could ever have over it, well, is in my hands. My body has endured bumps, bruises, cuts, and surgeries, and with each trauma, I grew stronger. My health, even the cancer, taught me more than some educational classes and courses. Perhaps that is the greatest source of my gratitude this year: I made it five years past a cancer diagnosis and I simply would not trade the lessons that experience taught me for anything in the world.

In writing about my health the other day, it was so great to see the outpouring support from my readers and those on Facebook. Childhood friends reached out to offer their support and apologies for not being there, friends who experienced it with me firsthand let me know that they are still there, and there were the perfect people who just acknowledged my words with a like. Life happens, and we will drift apart, but I am so grateful for everyone’s reaction in any form it took.

IMG_0391Every year I am grateful for the sweetest bunny in the world. I’ve said it so many times, but adopting her when I was sick was one of the single-most selfishly rewarding acts of my life. There are so many times that the world gets ugly, and she is just the cutest ray of sunshine. She has been wonderful to and for me, plus, she has brought The Man and I so much closer.

IMG_0272Which brings me to him. The Man. He is my love and my pain, and the single greatest teacher of tenderness, compromise, and communication in a romantic relationship that I have ever known. On top of everything that he has taught me about love, motorcycles, music, and classic movies, he is also the greatest source of knowledge when it comes to learning about myself. He has pushed me beyond anything I’ve experienced in any romantic relationship, and continues to do so, every day. Being a firefighter’s partner is unlike anything I have ever known, firsthand. As he is learning to be a firefighter, I am right next to him learning to be a firefighter’s girlfriend, future wife and mother to his children, and supporter. It is a bumpy and messy journey, but I could not ask for a better co-pilot.

Finally, I thank his family and friends back in Buffalo. His parents brought into the world a hero for the masses, and a best friend for me. Every step that everyone in his early-life took, chance that they gave him, opportunity that they handed him, and voyage that they sailed with him, led The Man to where he is, and a major part of that is with me. Each event in his life shaped him, his sense of humor, his stubbornness, his ability to love, and his drive to become more. They have all supported him, and never let him feel alone. For all of this, I am grateful.

My life isn’t perfect. I don’t have the perfect big house, and I’m ok with that. My place is an old, small apartment with creaky floors and doors, encased in walls that have heard too many secrets, declarations, and altercations. It has seen the loving gathering of friends and family, and the bitter departures of past connections. Scratches on the floor and fingerprints on light switches are telltale signs belonging to a former time that new visitors can only wonder what or who caused them. Most importantly, I love that my door has never been locked to anyone. I’ve asked some to leave, but I have never had the need to seal the door after them.

IMG_0063

Just like Jeanne Grey, my life’s apartment isn’t for everyone, and it is not what I envisioned for my life at 29, but it is mine. Maybe one day I will have a home with patio furniture, but for now this is real, and on this Thanksgiving in 2015, I am thankful for everything it is.