Today is a day that we sit down with our families and friends and give thanks for our blessings. We are thankful for our good health, for our warm homes, for the people we love (and who love us), and for the food on our tables. We spend the day visiting, eating, watching parades or dog shows or football. It’s a nice pause at the end of the year. All these things are certainly things for which to feel gratitude. I have a few more I’m grateful for this year as well.
I’m thankful for the people who walked out of my life. While they were in it, I learned from them. I learned how to really love, how to be a good friend, how to be a shitty friend, how to deal with a shitty friend. I learned that no one is perfect and that sometimes people leave. I learned I am not perfect and that I sometimes need to leave. Even though they’re gone now, I learned from each one of them, and I appreciate that.
I’m thankful for the exhaustion I feel on a regular basis from parenting two teenagers. The amount of emotional work I do is off the charts, but I truly wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m glad my kids come to me with questions or looking for advice. I’m fortunate that I’m the first person my daughter calls when something difficult comes up in her life. I don’t always have answers, and sometimes the answers I do have suck. Parenting is hard as hell. The exhaustion, though, means I’m engaged, and I care, and I’ve got to be getting at least some of it right.
I’m thankful for almost two decades of unemployment. Because of it, I was able to be home with my kids when they were small. Although I may not have those years of work in the retirement bank, I know I made an impact with two people who mean the world to me. It also means I appreciate the paid work I get to do now. Being back in the classroom – even as a substitute teacher – is rewarding and has me excited about teaching again. Getting a paycheck after 18 years has been a huge reminder that there is value in what I bring to the table.
I’m thankful for the pain. Excruciating though it was, that pain taught me that I’m strong and capable and smart and resilient and worthy. Without it, I might never have come to those conclusions. With it, I suffered in a really dark place for a long time, but it was the greatest teacher I could ever have had. I don’t take anything for granted anymore. I don’t think I have all the answers anymore. I am gentler with the people I love. I am changed for the better.
My Thanksgiving table looks a little different from the way it used to. Some people I thought would always be there won’t be. People I never knew would mean so much to me will be. I will be thankful for all of them and the lessons they taught me and continue to teach me. I will count all the blessings – both positive and seemingly negative – and remember that they all have made me who I am. I will be grateful for it all.