Friday, November 18, 2016

A gratitude list

I am gearing up to decorate for Christmas, yes (and in the course of putting some things away, I found the origami manatee an ITFF friend made for me last year - manatees are kind of a thing on ITFF and she was offering to send one to anyone who asked. I'm glad I kept it - I thought I hadn't.)

But I feel like I need to at least nod at Thanksgiving first. I have no idea how many, if any, embargoed posts I will have between Tuesday and Saturday - I leave Monday night and should get back Saturday, although a student already teased me about "what happens if the train tracks freeze up" - he was in a class I was late getting back for a couple years ago because of the Polar Vortex. And they have a big, big paper due that day. I laughed and said that it wouldn't happen, and even if it did, I would FIND a way to get back even if it meant flying. (But I do not anticipate it being a concern).

But I do have a lot of things to be grateful for, even though this year has seemed to be more bad than good.

First up: the things many of us share and enjoy, but that I think it is good to stop and think about, because some people don't have them:

1. Clean running water, where I need only turn on a tap and I have abundant water that is safe to drink - and it is almost free; I use as much as I need and I only pay the minimum charge per month (for the water itself, about $20).

2. Hot water. I lived without a functioning hot water heater for ten days  or so a dozen years ago and it really brought home how much an effort bathing can be when you don't have hot water on demand.

3. Climate control. It's supposed to get cold tonight, I will see tomorrow if I have to flip the gas switch on my furnace and turn the heat on, though up until now I've used the air conditioning (though there were several blissful days when I needed neither, and with the way I've been carefully budgeting, yes, I do appreciate that.)

4. Electricity in general. The fact that I don't have to risk burning the place down with candles if I want to read after dark, the fact that I can keep food cold and cook things easily and have access to radio and television and the Internet and stuff like that.

5. To live in a country generally free from chaos. I've mentioned before how on occasionally particularly "busy" Fourths of July, sitting in my house listening to all the firecrackers, I idly thought: this must be what living in Mosul (or Kabul, or Sarajevo, or any of the places where order fell apart in the past however many years) is like. And I was very grateful that for me, the noise was a mere annoyance, and would be gone in a day or two, whereas people in those places have to deal with it regularly.

6. That despite things like school and workplace shootings, I can pretty much trust that I can go out to the grocery store or the coffee shop or the Five Below without worrying about getting killed. Most places in this nation are really pretty safe - I think of the people in parts of Israel, or the people in London during the heydey of the IRA, or any of the other places that was besieged by small-scale bombing type terrorism, and wonder at the sort of fortitude it would take to keep going out, day after day, knowing that one day there might be a canister full of nails with your name on it.

7. All the freedoms we enjoy. (And a hope that they remain protected....) The fact that I can go to church on Sunday, whichever church I want (or, were I a different person, synagogue or temple or mosque) or nowhere at all....and I am not subject to official harassment or additional taxes or loss of other freedoms (as sometimes happens in countries where there is a "state" religion. And without saying too much that is too pointy, may this freedom be protected for *everyone* in this nation, not just folks like me)

8. Being able to drive and having enough money to own and keep up a car. My life would be much more challenging otherwise (I probably could not live in the semi-rural area I do without it). Being able to pick up on a Saturday morning and go grocery shopping and not have to worry about how I'm going to get five pounds of flour and a gallon of milk and a package of hamburger meat and a sack of potatoes and everything else home....

And then, some more personal things:

1. My faith, and the way it keeps me going and lifts me up and challenges me to be better in so many ways than I would be otherwise. That fundamentally I have some kind of a hope, even though there may be bad times now. And that it connects me to other people who believe similarly who may be very different from me otherwise (color, national origin, socioeconomic class, even sexual orientation) and yet we still have that one big thing in common, and we can love each other even though there might be many things we disagree on that are "of the world."

2. That the congregation I belong to, even though it's small and broke and struggling, is still going. That people are working to try to make things better, that the people in it love each other, that I go to church on Sunday morning and then come home and think, "Oh, I feel so much better for having gone to church" - that it provides me with that uplift I need for the rest of the week.

3. That I have a lot of interests. Sometimes I wonder if being a dilettante like I am is undesirable and if I'd be better off with a laser-like focus on just one thing - I think of those kids who grew up to be Olympic athletes by giving up nearly everything else, and I wonder if that might be a better path....but I kind of like being a dilettante and being interested in a lot of topics and having a lot of hobbies.

4. That I have a generally-fulfilling career. It's hit some bumps these past couple years with budget cuts and the like, but by and large I'd rather be doing this than just about anything else I could earn a living at.

5. Some of my students: the ones who are kind and polite and considerate of others in the class (and of me). The ones who are super-engaged. Even the ones I can tell, "You're really overthinking this and don't stress too much, you are doing a good job" because that student is like I was and I see a kindred spirit in them. The students who laugh at my dumb jokes. The students who bring up things they have read or heard about that relate to the topic at hand, and sometimes it's something I don't know so I learn from them.

6. That I have enough funds to cover my needs and some of my wants and also to be able to give some away to groups I consider to be deserving.

7. That I have generally good health. Oh, I'm a little too fat and a little too anxious and apparently perimenopause (or the Real Thing) is hitting me kind of hard this year and messing with my stomach and my moods, but in general I enjoy good health - I tend to resist most of the viruses that go around, I don't have anything too dire in the way of chronic conditions, I'm still pretty strong and flexible.

8. That I can take care of myself. By that, I mean that I learned how to cook and balance a checkbook and do basic home repairs and do laundry without turning my underwear pink and just in general all the life-maintenance tasks that a few people I know IRL don't seem to be that great at, and I kind of wonder, "why didn't they learn that?" That I have just plain good practical knowledge. (And that I'm wise enough to know when to call in an expert rather than trying to fix something myself.)

9. That my family is still mostly intact, despite the losses we've suffered over the years (most recently, my cousin Chum). That my parents still have okay health and that even though my dad's knees may be shot, his brain is still good - I think (and he agrees) it's far preferable to have terrible knees but to recognize who his kids are and be able to converse with them when they come to visit than the reverse.

10. That once in a while, I get what I really need when I need it most, even though maybe I didn't realize it was what I needed until I got it.

11. Being able to get into bed at night, and stretch out, and be warm enough (or cool enough as the case may be) and feel safe in my own house and to be able to sleep. And to have a ridiculous number of pillows on my bed because they make me more comfortable, and to have a ridiculous number of stuffed toys on my bed (especially for a woman my age) because they make me more emotionally comfortable. And for the super-fluffy and cushy velour blanket I bought at Target a month or so back.

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