So Complicated

“What you pretend to be is so complicated that I don’t even bother to try to understand it.”

― Miguel Ruiz, The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery

What Thanksgiving Can Be

I’ve never been a fan of the Thanksgiving holiday, for many reasons, but mainly because as a practice of gratitude it was too little, too late, too commercialized, and too superficial.

Thanksgiving, I used to think, was just a time of looking back on the year and picking the things that made you most happy and celebrating them. These past years have shown me what Thanksgiving can be. It’s a time to remember what drives you, to name it and place it foremost in your mind and heart and hold tight to it through the hard times to come. It’s a time to remember not just your blessing but what you live for.

The benefits of practicing gratitude are well-documented and understood and putting aside the horrible history and the fallacious teaching behind its meaning, Thanksgiving is a chance to renew the hope, the resilience, the purpose of your life. It’s a time to remember that there is still good left in the world and recommit to being part of that good, not just for others but for yourself first!

People have a hard time feeling grateful and we have an even harder time expressing it. The negatives, the setbacks, and the hindrances overshadow the progress and the privilege. My wish is that there could be more balance for each of us. That we could hold both the hurt and happiness in our hearts equally. I want you to know you can love life, all of it.

It’s easier said than done, I know. These last few years have been especially hard— for all of us. What I want to say to all of you is that there is always something left to hold on to and that something is what will give you the strength to continue on.

Humans are at our best when we have a reason to get up, to work, to try. Even if you don’t have a grand accomplishment or love to celebrate this year, I hope you can find a small dream, a small good, a small pleasure to claim as your reason. It’s there. Search inside. Search the faces of your loved ones. Search for what is missing around you and let yourself be what you need.

Life is beautiful, and you are no ordinary thing. Even if you are all you have, you can be grateful, at least, for that grand gift and choose to live for you.

This past year I have worked hard to practice gratitude and I can honestly say it has had a big impact on my feelings of accomplishment, self-esteem, and my overall happiness. Some days I feel I have so much to be grateful for that my heart hurts from trying to hold it all.

I’m grateful, as always, for my beautiful, smart, hilarious, thoughtful wife. I’m grateful that we have seen another year, that we have grown closer than ever, and that we have endured our hardships and come out stronger, wiser, and more loving than ever. I’m grateful that there are still so many years ahead for us to fall more in love.

I’m grateful for my family. I am grateful my mother recovered from her heart attack. I’m grateful that we are all so close, even if we aren’t near each other. I’m grateful that we can work through our annoyances and frustrations. That we have a place to be loved despite ourselves.

I am grateful for all I have accomplished and all I have learned this year. I feel like I made real progress. I feel like I have grown. I am not who I was at the start of the year, or perhaps I am only more myself than I have ever been. My life is becoming something real, something mine, something I only dreamed of.

I’m grateful for my friends. My family must love me, and my wife took a vow, but my friends are under no such obligations. It feels good to be liked. It feels good to know I can enrich other’s lives. It feels good to have people in your life who encourage you, help you, who understand where you are and what you want from life.

I’m grateful that I’m not where I once was, that I’m not who I once was. Sometimes I am even grateful for my problems because they mean that there is a chance to overcome, to prove something, to grow.

I’m grateful for all the small things too: my dog who has carried me through the loss of my cat earlier this year. I’m grateful for the plants that brighten all my drab spaces and remind me that there is life beyond what humans make. I am grateful for my notebooks that give me a place to say the things I can’t out loud. I am grateful for those pages where I can be myself no matter what promises I break or how I neglect them.

I’m grateful for the beautiful sunrises that uplift my morning commute and the moon that always finds me when I need something bigger than myself to look to. I’m grateful for the work I do. While it isn’t always my passion, it at least gives me a chance to have a positive impact on the lives of so many children.

Despite my complaints, I’m grateful for all I could do for others. I’m grateful to be for others what I so often needed and I’m grateful for knowing that if I weren’t here I would be sorely missed. There have been times in my life when I felt very much the opposite. I’m grateful for healing, for the past becoming more and more the past, and for forgiveness, which seems more and more possible all the time.

Last, I’m grateful for this space and for all of you, for reading, commenting, and sharing. It feels good to write something people like, that resonates, that connects. I know I’m not here much lately, but things are changing and priorities are rearranging. I hope one day to be someone you all are grateful for too.

Thank you for reading and I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving.

326 /// Tuesday “Friday”

It’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and the last workday for everyone before we enjoy a break for the holiday. It’s everybody’s “Friday”…except mine.

Technically, I am supposed to work tomorrow, but I have a feeling I might be the only one to show up. I was feeling a bit bitter about it but the more I think about out I’m kind of excited. I’ll be mostly alone, so it’ll be an easy day. It will be a quiet day.

Perhaps I can steal a few moments for myself for a few words. I have missed this place but every time I’ve tried to come back something pulls me away before I’m ready to hit “Publish”. The drafts are piling up and I’d like to post one or two before I lose interest entirely.

A lot has been going on and I’m so disappointed that so little of it has made it down on paper. I’ve been doing some real writing work. By that I mean paid writing work—which is not the same as doing the kind of writing I want to do someday—but far closer and more fulfilling than anything I have done in years.

It’s felt so good to be seen, to be appreciated, to be told that I am good at something. I had forgotten. I had forgotten to trust myself and it feels good to remember that my passions absolutely align with my talent and that my talent, though small, is real and absolutely worth cultivating.

So, I will keep going, and the little baby steps will keep adding up. I’m already looking forward to next year. New journals have arrived and are waiting and just as this year’s notebooks are more filled than the year before. I know next year’s will be even better.

These are my only resolutions. Write for me and write here. I have goals too, which are not the same as resolutions, but they need to be a bit more defined and then broken down into manageable steps before I can share them here.

For now, it’s week by week, day by day. For now, I look at each moment and ask myself, “What can I do now?” and I do my best to do that. Sometimes I have the wisdom and the willpower, sometimes I don’t but I don’t dwell on the missed moments. I only try to do better the next day.

One thing I am learning is that there is more to writing than pen and paper, keyboard and screen. So much of writing is about getting out in the sun, seeing people, talking and laughing. These things are all part of writing. Some days the thing I can do right now is do anything but write.

Progress is Never Permanent

“I am a citizen as well as an individual soul and one of the things citizenship teaches us, over the long stretch, is that there is no perfectibility in human affairs… In this world there is only incremental progress… It might look small to those with apocalyptic perspectives, but to she who not so long ago could not vote, or drink from the same water fountain as her fellow citizens, or marry the person she chose, or live in a certain neighborhood, such incremental change feels enormous… We will never be perfect: that is our limitation. But we can have, and have had, moments in which we can take genuine pride… Progress is never permanent, will always be threatened, must be redoubled, restated and reimagined if it is to survive.”

Zadie Smith

289 /// Solid Ground is Forming

I’m feeling good this morning. I’m feeling like myself. It’s been so long since I’ve had both motivation and focus that I hardly knew what to do with it all. I spent the morning getting through some minor chores and checking off a few small to-dos before sitting down at my desk. All day I’ve had a strong urge to write but of course, motivation and focus are only 2/3 of the equation. You need inspiration to get anything of value down.

Or do you?

I saw a tweet from Austin Kleon this morning with a simple writing tip: write down every dumb thought that occurs to you and each day simply choose the least dumb thought to write about. Well, I have been filling my notebooks with dumb thoughts for weeks. Hell, I have a dumb thought or two floating around right now! Thinking dumb thoughts is damn near a talent of mine. If that’s all I need to write then I’m in great shape to get started, to keep going, and to get as far as any dumb thought will go!

This might be the extra push I needed, the permission I needed. I don’t have to find a good thing to write about. I just have to choose the least dumb thing I can think of. Hell, I may try choosing the dumb thing and try making it not so dumb. I could choose the most fun thing? Or the most interesting thing. The point is to work with what I have: this brain, these ideas, this blog, and this timeframe. Yes, I like that.

Outside of motivation and focus, a lot of other good things have been happening. There’s been setbacks and stress, but there’s been enough positivity, connection, and kindness that life feels good right now. I feel loved and capable, and the people around me are feeling loved and capable too.

I suppose that’s what happiness, or flourishing, starts with. Being seen and having some say about what happens to you in this world.

I think the COVID pandemic has been a hole that we’ve all been trying to crawl out of for years now. The virus has had such far-reaching and complex impact it’s hard to say what was caused by or made worse by it and what are normal setbacks in a typical human life but between the losses, the economy, the fear and anxiety, the deficits and the changes in belief and perspective we have all gone through I’d say there is no part of society and no one of us that isn’t trying to find that new stability. That new way forward.

Solid ground is forming again, or, at the very least, this new chaos is less scary than it used to be. Our ability to adapt to the worst conditions is both a great flaw and a great strength. No matter what the reason and no matter for better or worse, I’m glad to be rid of some of the bad feelings. I’m happy to hope again.