Before I get to gratitude this Thanksgiving, grief and fear ask that I say a couple of words on their behalf. They didn’t expect to visit this year, but since the election and its aftermath dripped toxic chemicals all over my body, stripping away a protective coat that I didn’t even know I was wearing, leaving me raw and rashy in my all too human skin, here they are. Gut-wrenching, can’t eat, can’t sleep fear has been ricocheting all over the house, a most unwelcome house guest.
Yet, I’m adjusting. The damn days keep showing up and that damn sun keeps lighting up the sky with pinks and grays and blues and yellows, and a fiery red-orange straight off Edvard Munch’s palette, and I keep admiring the sky despite my own pain. Gradually fear has been yielding to sorrow, and while profound grief is no picnic on the beach, I prefer it to fear. I know my broken heart can heal.
This Thanksgiving I honor the whole messy emotional experience. Who knew that gratitude and grief can co-exist, and maybe even be good friends? Gregarious gratitude makes the first move and slings an arm around gloomy grief’s shoulders. It takes a few minutes for grief to drop her initial reticence, but then she leans into gratitude’s warm embrace and whispers, “Tell me three things you are grateful for this Thanksgiving.” Gratitude replies, “Only three? That’s easy. Here goes.”
Number one: Thank you, Billy Collins. Thank you for returning to The Winter Park Institute on a clear, crisp Wednesday night to regale a rapt audience sorely in need of a belly laugh and doses of shared humanity. Funny, clever and big-hearted – you and your poems. Here’s one short favorite you read:
Cheerios by Billy Collins
One bright morning in a restaurant in Chicago
as I waited for my eggs and toast,
I opened the Tribune only to discover
that I was the same age as Cheerios.
Indeed, I was a few months older than Cheerios
for today, the newspaper announced,
was the seventieth birthday of Cheerios
whereas mine had occurred earlier in the year.
Already I could hear them whispering
behind my stooped and threadbare back,
Why that dude’s older than Cheerios
the way they used to say
Why that’s as old as the hills,
only the hills are much older than Cheerios
or any American breakfast cereal,
and more noble and enduring are the hills,
I surmised as a bar of sunlight illuminated my orange juice.
The YouTube clip is from O, Miami Poetry Festival 2012
Number Two: This one is hard, but here goes. Thank you, President-elect. Thank you for deepening my connections to my friends, my family, my community, and my spirituality as I struggle to find meaning in a world under your administration. Thank you for shattering my complacency and my limited, myopic vision and for strengthening my resolve to participate more actively in the world and protect those who are threatened. Thank you for the sign that keeps flashing on my mind screen in bright, red letters, “Democracy,” “Democracy,” a flawed system for sure, but one worth fighting for, and where you are a president, not a king, not a tsar, not a supreme ruler, just a president. Thank you for reminding me that we, the people, not you, have the ultimate power and that we are the ones we have been waiting for.
Number Three: This one is easy. Thank you, Jim. My husband, a modest, humble guy steadies my rocking boat when it’s bobbing all around on these rough seas with his even, good humor. Like FDR, he possesses a first-class temperament. Here’s a perfect example that captures why this man lives permanently in my heart: A few months ago, I expressed concerns about exposing some part of my past in my writing. Jim said, “Dear, there’s nothing in your past that I am ashamed of.” Enough said.
So, on this Thanksgiving in a world that is broken and beautiful and horrible and wonderful (I snapped the sunrises on this site and in this post the morning after the election), I give thanks and would love to hear from you. I invite you to share at least three things you are grateful for this holiday season.