Once upon a time, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. It didn't have any of the fuss and glitter and time pressure and commercialism of Christmas, or even Easter. You didn't have to dress up in costumes or shop or hide eggs--all you had to do was bask in the warm glow of your life, spending time with friends and family and acknowledging all that you'd been given.
But three years ago, something changed...or perhaps, many things changed at once. My husband moved out of state. My mother had heart surgery and my daughter and I went to stay with her temporarily and never went home; when eventually we moved into our own place again, it was miles from our true home and the lives we'd built there. Returning to the workforce full time put a terrible strain on my health and my daughter's security, and for three years, my life was about keeping us alive and very little else.
I traded in a great job where the commute was (literally) killing me for another job that was great in a different way and involved no commute, but often had me working 18 hour days.
And all along the way, there were things in my life to be grateful for. I KNEW that. I could see them. But I couldn't feel them. They all seemed to come with an "at least" or a trade-off. I was grateful that my mother survived her surgery (though she didn't seem to feel any better after it than she had before). I was grateful that I was able to support myself and my daughter far better than many single mothers can (but I'd been hospitalized over it twice, and the strain on my daughter was tremendous). I was grateful for the wonderful people in my life (but I didn't SEE them or spend time with them, because I was too busy with the bare elements of survival) and so on.
Most of the year, I gave these things little thought. I was simply too busy. And I knew that I was fortunate to have interesting work that used my background and paid the bills. But each year at Thanksgiving, I had a crisis when I realized that, however much I knew that objectively, I simply couldn't muster that feeling I'd once had of being truly blessed. My daughter would invite us, at Thanksgiving dinner, to say what we were thankful for, and my mind raced in search of something I could say honestly. I came to dread the event as one more fabricated ritual.
And then, just in time for Thanksgiving, my life changed again, in a way that shifts my perspective not only on today, but on all that has come in the past three years. It's often hard to see where you're going when you're in the process, but the pendulum seems to have settled now, and the purpose is clear.
So, for the first time since 2004, I am going into Thanksgiving able to sincerely say "I am so blessed", and know it with more than my mind.
I am thankful for the new/old job I just started, which will allow me to do something interesting and related to my background from home, without killing myself, and will leave me time to sleep, parent, socialize...maybe even write. And I'm thankful for the company I'm returning to (and the people who created it) even if/when I'm not working with them, because they restore my faith by being people first and building a family in the ever-growing office even as their revenues keep multiplying.
I am thankful for the friends who have insisted on staying in my life even though I was, for a very long time, too rushed and brittle to possibly be any fun or comfort to them. And to those who patiently waited a year or two or three to get together.
I am thankful for the fact that my beautiful daughter, at nearly 13, has transformed from the warm ball of hugs and love that most tiny children are to one that is entirely unique to her--but with no diminishment of warmth or affection.
I am thankful that my family is so close by, and involved in our lives on a daily basis. I wish that everyone had this, even though I suspect that many people would tell me they were quite glad that they did not.
But mostly, I think, I'm thankful that I seem to still be inside myself somewhere--that as the pressure and the frantic pace and the desperation fall away, I am (and not nearly so gradually as I might have expected) discovering a person I used to be.