(This one’s long, but I would ask you be patient and read the whole thing. The best part is at the end, I promise.)
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the United States. Many families gather around the dinner table to spend five minutes expressing what they’re thankful for and an hour or more of small talk about one another’s lives while eating a meal that could feed an entire village in a Third World country before settling in to spend the rest of the day watching football on television in a tryptophan-induced haze or climbing in the car and getting a head start on the holiday shopping.
Please don’t misconstrue the above paragraph to mean that I’m not a thankful person; I am, as you’re about to read. I just think sometimes we put a bigger emphasis on the meal or the football or the sales and not as much thought into what we’re truly thankful for.
So with the day looming tomorrow, and with tomorrow’s blog post already outlined in my head, today I want to take a moment to talk about the things that I’m truly thankful and appreciative of every day.
I am thankful of our men and women who serve this country in uniform, to make sure that we are safe in our homelands. This country stands on the shoulders of those who defended our freedom and our way of life in the face of those who would take that away from us. All gave some. Some gave all. And for every sacrifice that was offered with the Oath of Enlistment, I am eternally grateful.
I am thankful of the men and women that serve this country during times of strife and crisis. Our police. Our fire departments. Our EMTs. Our ER doctors and nurses. They are the faces that we see whenever things go wrong in our lives and they often suffer right alongside of us when they do. Each of them plays a critically important role in our country’s infrastructure, and they very frequently receive neither the pay they are worth nor the appreciation.
I am thankful of the volunteer corps serving this country and around the world. Stop and think about the incredible things that are being done by volunteers around you. Houses are being built for the homeless. The hungry are being fed. Companion animals are being rescued, brought to health, and care for until they find their forever home. Villages are being provided basic needs like food and clean water and basic sanitation and healthcare. People are raising awareness and funds to fight diseases for which we have no known cure yet. There are millions of people working in their own way to make this world a better place to live in, with no more payment than the experience of a job well done and the thanks of those whose lives they touch. Without them, this world would be a much darker place.
I am thankful that my basic needs are met. I have a roof over my head. I have clean clothes on my back. I have food and clean water every day. I have doctors to tend to me when I am sick and to treat chronic illnesses that I suffer from. I have a method of transportation to be able to carry me from place to place. I have often noted that my financial struggles don’t allow for a lot of discretionary spending. I don’t note enough that my family is, for the most part, self-sufficient and not lacking in meeting basic needs.
I am thankful that I have a loving wife who knows me as well, and often better, than I know myself. She can point out that I have a headache often before I myself am aware of it. She sacrifices so much in order to make sure that I’m well-cared for. Above all, she is my very best friend in the world. There is no one on the planet in whose company I would rather be. She makes me laugh, makes me think, makes me cry at times, makes me smile even when I don’t want to, makes me see reason at times when I really can’t find it myself (although it admittedly takes some time for me to see it), makes me feel loved and special, and above all, makes me want to be a better person on a daily basis. I cannot thank her nor love her enough. I know she will be reading these words. Most of them are for you, the reading public, but these are just for her: I love you more than there are stars, and until they all go out.
I am thankful that I have a good relationship with my immediate family. My mother and I have a history of not getting along well from time to time, and I’m very glad that we’re growing tighter as time marches on. My daughter and I still have a blossoming relationship, as we’re still trying to get used to the idea of being in one another’s lives, but I am inordinately proud of the young woman that she’s become and cannot thank her enough for being willing to accept me into her life at age 23.
I am thankful that I have an astoundingly large support network of friends and acquaintances that encourage me, challenge me, and welcome me with open arms, faults and all. I can’t thank them enough for making me feel at home with them when I have spent so much of my life feeling like an outsider. If you are reading this and we’ve met one another in passing, even for a moment, know that I am including you in this and that I’m very grateful that you are a part of my life, even if my anxiety keeps most of you at a distance. I really wish that weren’t the case; I love your company and wish that we could spend more time getting to know one another. You have been there for me more often than I can count, and I want you to know I am here for you, no matter what, no matter when.
I am thankful that a small tuxedo cat wandered through our door one May morning. She left of her own free will that first day, came back, left again, and came back once more. She’s never left our home since. She has calmed me in times of stress, made me laugh at her antics, and given me a faithful companion during the many hours that I would be otherwise home alone. She has often been capable of pulling me out of a rough emotional spot just by offering her belly for rubs, something that is very frequently a genuine offer and not a bear trap in disguise. (I once spent almost an hour straight rubbing her belly. She fell asleep soon after I started and slept the rest of the time.) She is the sweetest, most adorable cat anyone could hope for, and there is a reason that some people swear they visit our home to see the cat and not the people.
I am thankful for the good days that I have. Regular readers of this blog, regular listeners of my radio program, and my followers in social media all know that I struggle from day to day, and that sometimes a bad day will come out of nowhere. Presently there are more neutral and good days than there are bad, even though there were some bad days of late. i am also thankful that I have the presence of mind to realize that I’m having a bad day and that I need to practice even more self-care on those days than I usually do.
I am thankful that I know when times are getting desperate and when I need help more intensive than can be provided by medication and therapy alone. I have never actively attempted suicide, despite having ideations for much of my life. I am so very grateful that I’m still here, and that I’ve beaten my mental illnesses up to this point, and that I’ve been strong enough to ask for help when I need it the most.
Lastly, I am thankful that, despite my struggles from day to day, I cannot remember the last time I had even a passive suicidal ideation. I’ve often wanted the pain and suffering of mental illness to go away. I’ve sometimes wished that a headache or backache would pass quickly. But I’ve never wished to be dead or even to disappear, as so many despondent people wish for. Given the saga that has been my year in mental health purgatory, I am genuinely surprised that the thought of suicide or of “not being here anymore” hasn’t crossed my mind at least once. That tells me that no matter how bad things are getting otherwise, I’m not ready to stop fighting, and I’m not getting bad enough that I need intensive help in doing so.
For these things, and for so very many other small ones too numerous to mention here, I give my unending and deepest thanks, today and every day.