12 November 2016

Let's talk about gratitude.

With Thanksgiving 2016 on the horizon (already), I'm sitting here thinking about the events of recent things, and my life overall up to this point.

Gratitude is such a strange word, isn't it? We don't really take time to think, “I'm grateful for x” and stopping to appreciate throughout the year what we're grateful for. I'm guilty of doing this, myself. I know other people who aren't, who take time each time something good happens, they take time to appreciate where they were up to that point, who they were as people before that moment happened. In the bigger things, yes, I do that when it's happened, or in the moment, but the littler things, not as often. Those who know me in person, and those close to me who happen to be far away that we only have the means of e-mail to chat up and check in with each other, you know what kind of year this has been for my household. Especially since September this year. This entire year, up to this point, has been strange. Sometimes intense, sometimes outright terrifying, sometimes amazing, but overall, if I were to sum up 2016 in one word, I'd definitely use “strange” for sure.

I'm not the type of person to just update Facebook each day of November with, “Day 1 – I'm grateful for waffles. For without waffles, we'd only be subjected to pancakes, those round doughy circles of boredom.” I mean, what? Really? I don't see anything wrong with others doing it, it's nice, to me, to see people reflect on something positive, even if it's only one thing, that they are happy about. I've been seeing this for the last ten Novembers. Yes, I've been on Facebook for ten years. I can't believe it, either.

Considering the year overall up to this point, and especially the last few weeks with the election and more personal things directly affecting my household that I am still navigating through the choppy waters about, so to speak, I do have a few things to note for which I am grateful. They are as follows (and in no particular order):

+My freedom. Right now, my country's kind of in more than just a bit of an uproar with how the election played out. I won't lie in saying I'm not bothered. I am. But, I withhold a lot of what I want to say, because I refuse to contribute to the arguing. I've spoken with a few close people about it, and I'm leaving it to that small group of people. I'm grateful that I do live in a country where we do have a right to choose who's going to be leading things for however long (depending on the office for which the election's being held). I'm grateful to the men and women past, present, and future, who have made sacrifices so that I and my friends and family can participate in this chaos every time it's “that time of year” to do such.

+My writing ability. It's not something I hide about myself, but I don't necessarily shout it from the mountains, either, but I am dyslexic. Mildly so, but the backspace key and I are pretty tight-knit. If you saw all the errors I make just writing one sentence, you'd be surprised. Promise you that. I can't process things when they're read to me, either. Audiobooks lovers, I envy you.

+My stability. For many, many years when I was growing up, my family moved a LOT between Idaho and California. I hated it. I wanted to stay in one place. I didn't really let on openly (didn't dare), but I wasn't a very happy kid. There's a tiny handful of people who knew me back then (my husband included from when I was 15 on), and I hid it pretty well, but I wasn't at all the cheery, happy person that I projected myself to be. It wasn't me being fake, it's a defense mechanism. I didn't like getting too close to people because I was always wary of when The Big Announcement of “Kids, we're moving this weekend. Go pack.” came down. True story, it's happened the year I met my husband. I still resent that situation, what I knew of it. I still resent that it happened, even though, yes, my life was changed in a way that I never would've dreamed possible just a few short months later when I first met my husband. He'd come up to me after school one afternoon and just started talking to me. Pretty spiffy. What no one really knew was how I was feeling every second that I moved through those hallways, going from class to class, doing the assignments, participating in the lectures, going home, and pretty much going about the everyday stuff that I was doing. Sure, sometimes there were real, raw emotions shown, but it was pretty rare, and those rare times it was involuntary. I'd always secretly envied my friends who'd been in the same house their entire lives. Same schools, same friends, same Church environment, from birth. I secretly envied that. I resented each time I had to be “the new kid” and even more when I was asked, “Oh, are you military or something? Is that why you moved so much?” and I'd cringe inside when that question was asked, because then it left a huge question mark for me on how to answer. Do I trust this person enough to let them know what's really happened? Do I just say, “No, parents just wanted a change of scenery” and leave it that way, nice and vague, but an answer the nonetheless, and pray that they wouldn't push for something more specific that I wasn't willing to cough up.

In my adult life, it really was no different. I was a nomad for a long time. Up until just a few years ago, I really didn't want to settle down anywhere. I was afraid to, afraid to plant roots where I stood. After all that took place in 2011, it became clear to me that something had to be done, because I was on the edge of something incredibly scary, and I didn't want that for myself. In 2012, I was given a major provision in the form of my own place again. I never thought I'd have that again (I had it in 2011, but …… Well, let's just say that that's the last time I allow myself to get mowed over!). Here I am, four years later, and even though no, I don't want to be living in the city in which I'm residing currently, I am at least in a place I can call my own. I have the pets I want, I have a roof over my head, I have enough of what I need. Even though sometimes things can be pretty thin and look incredibly bleak, I'm grateful for what I have. Somehow, some way, it all works out. That is something I do not ever take for granted. I reflect on this each and every time I go get the mail, or drop off some paper to the office for the kids' room for the kids to make Papier-mâché stuff with. Even when I'm out walking my dog, I look around and think how incredibly grateful I am to have what I do. It may not be what I want, a house in the sticks again like when I was growing up in Idaho, but it's what I need for right now, and that's something I'm not going to complain about. Regardless of the location of my residence being in a city in which I really am not at all happy. When you are blessed with something that you've consciously and subconsciously stormed the gates of Heaven for, for a long time, you don't complain about the provision given you. You accept it for what it is: A GIFT.

+My faith. I've struggled with this for a long time. Sure, I have been exposed to Church and the Bible from an early age. I'm not unhappy about that, quite the opposite, actually. I am not happy about the way it was done, the cavalier attitude about it until the subjects of ATTENDING services or even getting baptized were an argument. As in, me having to beg and argue to be given permission to go. It sucked living like that. But then all the badmouthing about Church I'd have to hear, and it just got ridiculous. When I was 17, I discovered Catholicism through a movie called Sister Act. Got me real curious about how things are really done in a Mass. I'd brought it up casually one evening, and oh, the comments made… I dare not repeat. Let's just say that they were none-too-kind and leave it at that. You have to understand, I was raised Mormon, but my Mom and her then-husband were not actively practicing (going to Church, doing Relief Society things [Mom] or Priesthood things [her then-husband]). We were pretty much taught at home, but they would always say, “We worship in our own way.” I do have a few memories of my Mom and I attending Assembly of God Church when I was real little, as it was just down the street from where we were living at the time, but I don't recall (aside from Grandpa's funeral when I was 17) seeing her attend a Mormon service. She'd give vague reasons, and I never pressed too hard after that. I figured it was what it was and left it be. None of my business and all that.

I experienced Catholicism for the first time when I was 22, and let me tell you…. Oh, my. BREATH OF FRESH AIR. I was thorough when I searched for God, and what He was to me. I'd searched everywhere for him. I searched in man-made buildings and out in nature. I searched within Mormonism, as well as Protestant Christianity, even Wicca and other Pagan explorations. When I walked into the vestibule of that Church that morning in my early 20s, it was all over for me. I'd finally found “the missing piece” that I'd been searching for. I finally understood what the parable about the woman with the coin meant, that elation that the woman in the story had when she finally found her coin she'd tore her house apart searching for, how she was so happy she told everyone she knew what had happened. Something in me just clicked into place and it all finally made sense to me. All the stories I'd been read as a kid from that massive children's Bible Mom's then-husband used to read to us kids before bedtime. All those stories I'd read in my Bible on my own as an adolescent. It just all finally made sense. I felt whole, I felt welcome, I felt LOVED. I'd never felt that anywhere else before, and no where else since.

In 2009, I was blessed with being able to go to Oregon to visit my brother and our Mom for a week. One night I'd stay with my brother, and another night I'd stay with Mom, and switch back and forth. It was a lot of fun. One of the nights I was with my brother, we'd gotten into this strange discussion that I can't quite remember the majority of it, but he'd said something that really struck me as an “aha! You DID notice” moment for me. He said, “Your faith is really what's kept you from going completely off the deep end all these years... It's kept you sane since we were kids...” It's honestly true, even now. Strange as it is to admit that, even though I've had things happen – twice now – that have shaken me to my very foundation and knocked the wind out of me, left me questioning (rather loudly) WHY? But I've always come back to the basics and started over. Since that night, I've never swayed, not once. Granted, no, I've not been proactive about attending services, but I do try to be more conscious of the bigger picture and Who's in charge of things.

+Colours. I cannot begin to imagine what it would be like to live in a world where there's no colour. I look around me, I mean JUST MY DESK ALONE is awash with a riot of colours. I love colours. Green, especially. I'm obsessed with green. It's such a happy colour.

+Music. - I'm so fascinated with music. Always have been. Instruments like the guitar, piano, drums, cello, saxophone… Who came up with these, you know what I mean? And singing. I just…… There's some voices that are aesthetically pleasing more than others. Some I'd run screaming before hearing another note. Some I'm just drawn in and like to try to wrap the music around me like a blanket and snuggle in. As I'm writing this, I've got music playing, and this one girl's voice just struck such a nerve in me that I just cannot explain, but her voice is so soothing. Just……..wow.

+Pizza. - Yeah, seems kinda silly, doesn't it, to be grateful for a specific food? Pizza's been sort of a weird food for me to enjoy, considering we didn't eat it very often when we were kids. It was my brother's first word, and he was OBSESSED with pizza. Homemade, delivery, didn't matter. That boy was a finicky eater, but when it came to pizza, his appetite scared me. Ha. My husband's work has pizzas that have that self-rising crust, and the ooey gooey cheese, and … Now I want some. Ha ha But, seriously, though, it's just a neat food. I mean, the crust is usually round, right, and then there's sauce slathered over that, and then cheese, and then meat (well, that is how I enjoy it, anyway. Shush, vegetarians and vegans). I have this weird obsession with pepperoni. I love it. I love the shape, the taste, the zing of the spices in the meat…. Oh, yes. I could write volumes of poetry about just pizza and all the glorious toppings you can put on there.

Moving on. Ha ha

+Loved ones (family/friends). - I am not close to very many people. I am a multi-layered individual, was once compared to an onion or an artichoke. It is not me being “fake” or “manipulative” or anything like that. There are certain levels of comfort that are deeper with certain individuals than there are with others is all. We all have them, some are just more complex (like myself) than others. Again, revisiting that phrase “defense mechanism,” it's mine to only show certain things about me in certain environments and around certain groups of individuals. I may SEEM like I'm willing to be “out there” and “boisterous” and “open” and “friendly.” In truth, though, while yes, I am quite friendly, I am also quite wary of a person's intentions. Even those I've known my whole life, and there's a reason for that. Very few people have seen the whole me. Very few people of that small group have elected to stay once they've been let that far in. And for those individuals, I am truly grateful for, and believe it or not, I'm also grateful for those who didn't choose to stay, but chose to use that almost sacred side of me against me. Think of it like this: Boy has a secret passion of being … I dunno… an underwater beebee stacker. He doesn't express this openly, because, I mean, seriously? Underwater beebee stacking? Why on earth would anyone want to do that, right? But this is something he enjoys, and something he strives to do one day professionally. This is his passion. His “thing.” People come and go in his life, as that tends to happen, and he's shared this desire with, let's say five people. Of those five people, three of them decide secretly that they think this is incredibly silly, but they don't say anything to the boy. They go along with things until something comes up that causes discord and the three people decide they're going to splinter off, but they decide to “get back” at the boy by humiliating him by sharing this very private thing that he thought he could trust them with. It blows up, boy shuts down. I'm the boy in the story (though I'm female, you see the point here that I'm trying to make. I hope.). I've allowed people into my life, into the inner-workings of my heart and just had them use that against me when they felt I'd somehow wronged them in some way. Had this happen five years ago, in fact. I'm still smarting from that blow, so much that I'm now incredibly difficult to get to know real well. Sure, I'll share things about myself that pretty much every one else knows, anyway, but the more intimate details of my life, no. No matter how long you've known me, no matter how hard you've “proven” to me that you “care,” it does not work that way with me. Ask my husband how long it took from the day we'd met until the day I'd finally told him how I TRULY felt about him. I promise you, it wasn't just a few months, or even a couple years. It was not until we were well into our late 30s when I told him anything of my true feelings for him. He'd asked me why I hadn't said anything sooner. Why on earth would I do that?! Have you met me? Have you been paying attention at all as to who I am as a person? This is something pretty big about myself that I didn't want to just toss out there “just because.”

I do not have a best friend. I have a small handful of people that I feel like I can trust with a few things in my life, but as to the term “best friend,” no. I had one. But due to her actions one night in February this year, I do not speak to her anymore. She left me no choice but to walk away. I still grieve that loss. I still feel that hole gaping wide open. That hole that no one else but her can fit. That is her place that she's ripped out of me. Only she can be the one to stitch that back together, and I don't know that I can get to a place where I can trust her to do that. Because if you think about your heart in terms of a patchwork quilt, and one of the patches gets ripped away, sure, you can stitch it back together, but it's not the same anymore. It doesn't fit like it used to in the first place. I miss her. There's been some significant things in my life that have happened, good and bad, and my knee-jerk reaction is to want to call or text her to tell her my news, but I can't because of what she's done, and while yes, I do forgive her for her actions, I cannot abide that well enough to trust her ever again. I gave her a big piece of my heart, and she squashed it like it didn't even matter, with one statement. And not even to me directly, but through someone else to me. That hurt so much, and I can still hear her voice say those words, even now, nine months later.

So, yes, I've got a few people with whom I'm close, but besties or anything like that, no. I don't get that close anymore. I can't afford it.

+Weather. - I'm terrible with numbers. In addition to dyslexia, I have dyscalcula. That's like dyslexia, but with numbers. I get my numbers confused. I'm ever-so-grateful for calculators, let me tell you! Reason I bring this up before discussing my gratitude for weather is the fact I'm grateful for the meteorologists who work hard to bring us updates on what Mother Nature's up to, and I know they deal with a lot of numbers in their jobs. I confess, I obsessively keep track of the weather. It's ridiculous, really. Almost sad. There's a lot of things I can change, yes, but the weather? No, she changes for no mere human being. She has her own agenda, and we must just suck it up and deal as best we can. In the summer, we wear shorts and t-shirts. In the winter, we bundle up. At the time of this writing, it's currently 33F outside. Pretty cold. That means that while no, I won't bundle up in my heavy coat and boots, I make my dog go outside in her jacket. Yes, jacket. For a dog. She's little and really close to the ground, plus her fur isn't very thick, so she gets cold easily. Yes, I've become that old lady who dresses her little dog. Don't judge. We all have our things. Ha ha Dressing my dog and hoarding cats is mine.

Seriously, though, Mother Nature fascinates me. When she's smiling and in a cheerful mood, the weather's good and peaceful and comfortable. When she's angry, well, look out! It's pretty spectacular the different moods she manifests for us each day. Always something different.

What about you? Tell me in the comments below some things you're grateful for. My list above is just a fraction of the things, or an overall summation of things, that I'm grateful for in my life. I want to know yours, but please keep it G-Rated.

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