I try to be aware of the things I have to be thankful for on a regular basis, but of course this week of (American) Thanksgiving means a set time for reflection, often where you feel the need to share these feelings of gratitude publicly. I used to do the Thankful November thing where you post one thing every day on Facebook that you are thankful for, but I didn't do it this year in part because I found myself busy and forgot until the second week of November and in part because it would mean going up on Facebook daily and I am really trying to scale back a bit. (Not in any small part because November is National Adoption Month and that might have just a tinge of pain and loss for me when I see all the frames that say "Touched by Adoption" by friends who actually were successful and it leaves me feeling just a tad bit...loser-y. Like a failure, someone who couldn't cut the mustard. I have to remind myself that moving forward was NOT failure.)
I thought it might be nice to come up with a list of 30 things that I am thankful for this year, this shitty-ass year of 2017. Because although it was a year of losses and illness and letting go, a lot of good things happened, too. Sometimes as a result of the shitty things.
So, in the spirit of filling the bucket and not draining it, here is the list of things I am thankful for from this past year, one for each day of November, not ranked in any way shape or form:
1) My marriage. I mean, that's handsdown #1 if this was a ranked list, but it's the first thing I think of, always. I am so fortunate to have a marriage strong enough to survive incredible stresses and thrive in the face of adversity. We nurture it and work it and it's something I'm proud of, as well as thankful for.
2) Bryce. Okay, related to #1, but he is truly the best partner I could have hoped for in this crazy loop-de-loop of a life. He's patient, he's funny, he's incredibly adoring, he's adorable, he gives great hugs, he's smart, he's cultured, he's a great cook and baker, and I don't get tired of spending time with him. He's sexy, too.
3) My friends. Friends I see frequently, friends I talk to at least weekly, but also friends who live far away but are such total kindred spirits that I can pick up where we left off 6 months ago and have it be just as comfortable and funny (and usually a 3 hour conversation). Friends who stopped in to see me when I was going through my crisis last spring. Friends who text me when I try to disappear into a pit. Friends who encourage me to go out there and do fun things I probably wouldn't do any other way. I am so fortunate to have friends in many different arenas, many of whom (ahem ahem, many of you reading this) who I've never met yet but still feel a special bond with.
4) My ALI blogging community. You guys are my friends, my life preservers, my beacon of hope when I feel lost. You get it. You challenge my thinking. You educate me on all the different paths there are to take in this crazy family-building quest that can resolve in so many ways and fork in so many different directions. I am so grateful to and for you.
5) My family. They are spread out across the whole freaking country, which makes visiting on the regular very, very difficult, but I love in-person visits and phone calls, cards and keeping up on that devil Facebook. You are supportive, you are funny, and I can blame the crazy on you. You have sustained a loss in our losses too, and you handle it with grace and go to bat for us when people are stupid (wittingly or not so). I am grateful to all of you.
6) My cats. They cozy up to me and seem to know when I need a little furry love in my lap. They let me hold them like babies and cuddle them like teddy bears. Even Gross Cat is snugglier than normal and has become quite enjoyable. Thanks for being my fur babies.
7) My job. I am not being a cliche when I say that I truly and utterly love what I do, and feel grateful every day that I get to do it. I mean, maybe not every SECOND of the day (like today when energy was high because it was the day before Thanksgiving and everyone was complaining about being in school when other districts were closed), but I love the challenge of teaching middle school, the way it makes me grow and learn as a person and as a professional, and the fulfillment it gives me. I love hearing from students and getting little notes that say "You are the best teacher" from time to time, that doesn't hurt, either. :)
8) My coworkers/school. Holy crow, I am so fortunate to work at the school where I do. My whole district is special, but I am particularly grateful to be at my middle school, because the community there is amazing. There are so many wonderful teachers, staff members, and administrators that I can learn from and truly feel that family vibe with. I love that there are people who get my sense of humor and who crack me up, daily. And there are people who make me a better teacher, daily. It's wonderful to go to school every day with friends and family.
9) My home. I know we keep going back and forth on moving versus not moving, but more and more I just love our home, our cozy little hobbit house, and am growing content with the idea of staying here.
10) My new couches/chairs/dining room table. It may seem like just furniture, and it's very nice and adult-like, but it is also marks a turning point. We didn't buy any of it until we were out of limbo. It was like the start of a new adult life stage, and the upholstery certainly screams "We don't have children" since it's light and it's not easy-clean microfiber.
11) Not being in limbo. As much as January to May really sucked the big one, I can't tell you how happy and thankful I am to no longer be living in an in-between place, a place of striving for something that just kept eluding us and kept pressing down like deep sea pressure on our (my) sanity. It is amazing to go for a walk without my phone in my pocket. It is wonderful to make vacation plans and not worry that it might cost us a profile opportunity, or that it wouldn't fit into our IVF schedule.
12) Being able to take a swanky vacation. I love, love, love that we (mostly) just went for it on our California vacation. And that we saw the Napa, Calistoga, and Sonoma regions before the horrific fires. I love that it was two weeks. I love that it really was our honeymoon. I look forward to the next trip, and am thankful that we have the ability to do this.
13) My new office. I love that I was able to take a room that was a total representation of everything we wanted and everything we lost in so many ways, and turn it into a sanctuary that's just for me. I write in here, I read in here, I craft in here, I grade in here, I plan in here, I wrap presents in here...the list goes on and on but it's all stuff that makes me happy and is CREATING something in a room where nothing materialized in other ways.
14) Delicious gluten-free food. This seems small, but it's not -- I love food and it's wonderful that more and more quality stuff comes out that makes it possible for me to eat like a normal human. Especially out at restaurants. It's great to eat good food and not damage my body.
15) Friends who really support the gluten free thing. My bookclub is great with providing a boatload of delicious gluten free options, and I legitimately feel horrid when I have to cancel last minute due to illness or something because often they go out of their way to provide a GF spread. My coworkers always have a GF treat for me when we've done birthday celebrations. I have friends who make sure servers at restaurants know how important it is not to gluten me, and are almost aggressive about it. It is a beautiful thing, because it's not a dietary choice, it's a dietary treatment for an autoimmune disease.
16) Being able to see my dad three times this year. After not seeing him for years, having a last-minute visit in February in Toronto, a visit during our honeymoon in August, and then a visit two weeks ago (although for the unfortunate circumstance of my grandfather's funeral)...that has been a gift this year.
17) A giant stack of books I haven't read yet to get me through the winter. I am so ready for a surprise snow day where I can just sit in my pjs and read all day.
18) My health. It could be better (stupid asthma, migraines, celiac, the eye thing) but it sure could be worse, and I got a little taste of that when I had my scleritis flare in the Spring Of Death. So far, so good and I am very grateful for that.
19) A good therapist. I LOVE my lady. A good therapist is gold. Don't settle for less, something I learned the hard way. Get someone who listens but who also challenges you and notices patterns without judgement. And for pete's sake, someone who respects your viewpoints. Challenging doesn't mean trying to alter your course that took forever to determine.
20) This blog. I'm thankful for the community I have met through it -- the friends across the country and even the world, but I'm also thankful just for this space to put my thoughts out there and process this journey as I keep on trekking on through it. This space is part of therapy, too. I appreciate the opportunity to explore thoughts and ideas and vent and commiserate on tough topics.
21) My car. Minus a few little bang-ups this past year (shakes fist at 2017), my car has been super reliable and maintenance has been easy and uncomplicated. I do have to replace my timing belt soon, which will be expensive and irritating, but it's worth it to hang on to this car for a very long time. I love you, Subaru.
22) My linen sheets. A strange one, but they are truly soft and cozy (once you get over the initial feeling of "I'm sleeping on a tablecloth") and regulate heat like nobody's business. I use them all year long and am never going back!
23) Bryce's gluten free cheese danish. Mmmmmmm. It's been a while, hint hint.
24) Other childfree-not-by-choice bloggers and friends. It's amazing to have people who've gone before me (or are going with me) to make the road less lonely and more hopeful for what is to come now that this huge thing we spent 8 years on didn't happen.
25) My neighbors. It's lovely to have neighbors who you can stop and talk to on a walk or while doing yardwork. It's even more lovely to have neighbors who feel like family and that you can invite over for a drink or dinner or to watch the Superbowl or toast to the New Year with. Even better is when your neighbor introduces you to a book club that's the first one you've belonged to for years and years, and where you've met wonderful new people that became friends who you never would have met any other way.
26) Good wine. We love our wine, and have tasted some really good bottles recently. Because why not?
27) Music. I love that there is music that can be piped all throughout our house and that one of our traditions is Sunday Baroque in the morning, and that if we sleep too late we pick it up in a station in Illinois or California. I love that Bryce is playing his guitar downstairs while I type. In the living room we have two guitar cases and my violin case, and it makes me very, very happy.
28) Tons of bookshelves. I love that our house is a library. I love that there are books in virtually every room, and that when we purge things books are the LAST thing to go. I am so thankful that we're both readers and are content to read together, listening to music, for hours on end. May sound boring to some people but we love it.
29) My beautiful new tattoo. Tomorrow is two weeks and I can finally stop washing it and slathering it in cocoa butter all the time. I am thankful for the balls to get it so big, for the artistry of the tattoo artist, and for everything it stands for.
30) Resiliency. I am thankful for our resiliency, for my resiliency, for the ability to get back up off the floor after being solidly dropped into an abyss of grief and sadness. I am thankful for the ability to laugh in the face of tragedy. I am thankful for the strength it took to say NO MORE, and the commitment to build a beautiful life from the ashes of our incredible attempts to have a child.
Well, if you're still here BRAVO, because that was a LOT longer than intended. But ah, how wonderful to have a big old stack of gratitude to feel and share.
Happy Thanksgiving! May the day be about trying to find the gems in the muck -- for some people the gems are closer to the surface, but for others there's some digging to do, but it's so worth it to come up with a few sparkling thankfuls to honor.