Gratitude: April 29

I am grateful for silence and the ability and pleasurability to simply exist with myself. I am not a person who always has to be doing something, listening to something, reading something, watching something, or whatever else, and I thoroughly enjoy solace and quiet. There is peace in long periods of meditation where my brain quiets down and all of the pieces get put back together where they belong. There is peace in a walk in the woods, breathing in all of the moss and leaves and dirt and solitude. There is peace in a swim with the water dampening all of the sounds except the splash and breathing. There is peace in sitting by the river watching the water makes it way to wherever it is going from wherever it has been. I and grateful for and long for more silence, more peace, more contemplation.

I am grateful for days when the Internet doesn’t work. Because the lack of technology makes us slow down, and because sometimes it makes us stop, I am so grateful for the lack of the Internet at school today. My two rules for my students in class today was that they were not allowed to think about Humanities, and they couldn’t use their devices unless their devices were fueling communication between them. So, for example, they could play games where they were working together like that ridiculous game where you hold your phone against your forehead and try to guess the word on it, or they could play cards, or they could talk with each other, but they could not just use their data plan and sit and stare at their phones. Most of them chose to sit and have conversations with each other in what seemed like a fairly meaningful way.

I am grateful for grace. Without grace, I would not be here.

Gratitude: April 28

Ever since I can remember, I’ve processed my feelings through writing first, then, when I haven’t kept things hidden in the way back part of my mental refrigerator behind the outdated ranch dressing and mostly empty jar of banana pepper rings, I talk through them with friends and family. Today was no exception. I wrote a short memoir piece about an event, or series of events, that happened when I was in high school and which I have never shared with anyone except the other person who was involved. I plan, in the very near future, to talk through it with real live people. Maybe, since it seems a lot safer, my therapist will be the first person who hears this one. Writing first helps me to make sure that what I want to share with others is something that needs to be shared, is something that I can’t process on my own, and is something that I won’t be embarrassed that I shared after I share it. I also write through it because sometimes memories are too painful to speak out loud without first creating myself as a character experiencing that memory. Anyway, I am so grateful for writing and the role it has always played in my life.

I am grateful for diversity. I am grateful for the experience of working at a computer company in a city where there are people from all around the world. I am grateful for having a diverse, as Gholdy Muhammad calls it, textual lineage. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without the diverse books and other texts that I’ve consumed throughout my educational and leisurely reading. I am so grateful for my foremothers in academia, the ones who blazed the trial for all of us who are part of various marginalized groups.

I am grateful for art. How can you look at this painting and not believe in everything lovely?

Rainy Day in Paris by Gustave Caillebotte

Gratitude: April 27

Lilacs and lily-of-the-valley have always been two of my favorite flowers. I don’t typically like strong fragrances, but these two flowers are what I think heaven smells like, and I need heaven right now, because I miss my mom so much I can’t even think about how much it hurts. I can remember her laugh, but kind of not, and I can remember her love for all people, but I don’t remember what her real voice sounded like, only what her hospital voice sounded like all raspy from being on a respirator and then having a feeding tube scratch up her throat. I want to be able to hear her singing “His Eye is on the Sparrow” or “Amazing Grace” or “Lily of the Valley,” which is why I love those little flowers so much. I am grateful that I can remember when I was really little playing outside of our old house with her and the smell of the lilacs permeated the air, and I remember the way she helped me cut some to bring into the kitchen, so we could have them on the small table when my dad got home for dinner. I am so grateful for the lilac bush that grows in front of my house, because the smell comes in my front door and reminds me of who I am and where I come from, and the sweet aroma makes the small, dull ache in my chest go away for a minute.

I am grateful for incredibly smart students who teach me things. My parents taught me to approach every person and every situation with curiosity and inquiry. I also learned that from some of my best professors in college, seminary, and graduate school; if you enter into an interaction with an open mind, you will learn from those around you. I am grateful for being encouraged to live my life in this way, because if I hadn’t lived this way, I’d have missed some real opportunities for growth.

I am grateful for coffee. Coffee wakes me up, gives me life every morning, and brings me happiness. I have nothing more profound to say about it, but I am so grateful for that delicious dark brown bean juice in my cup every morning.

Gratitude: Day Two

Today I am grateful for friends who love me. I have the strangest, most eclectic group of misfit friends I know. I am truly blessed to have not only a great family, but also friends who love me so much I could just cry. Okay, true confession. I do cry a lot. And they still love me.

I am also grateful that last night when I let my Luna dog out and she found a possum, she did not kill it. She carried it around the yard in her mouth, but when it stopped moving, she dropped it and then came in the house. When I went back outside to retrieve the presumably dead possum, the sweet baby had run from the yard. I did a whole sweep of the overgrown grassy areas and found no little pink noses and no little beady eyes. Luna did bring in a whole bunch of mud in her paws and deposited it in my clean and smelling-good sheets.

Finally, I am grateful for anger and sadness and despair and hurt and death and all of those sad things that tear us apart. I don’t love them. They don’t make us comfortable. They don’t make us stronger, as the old adage goes, if they don’t kill us. They don’t make us feel as if everything happens for a reason. They simply make us. Human. Theodicy is the oldest theological question: why is there hurt and pain and dark things in a world that was created good and for people who were created in God’s image and for goodness? We don’t know, is the short answer, but here we are.

In the midst of suffering.

In the midst of pain.

In the midst of the spirit.

God is with us. Friends and family are with us.

We are grateful, and sometimes we are not. But today I am.

Gratitude: Day One

I need to get back into the habit of writing. If I expect my students to write, I should write. Frequently. And I really don’t write much at all, except when I am asked to write letters of recommendation for students and friends.

I have tried to sit down and write so many times in the past few years. You can see the evidence of the fits and starts here in my blog. I’ll write one thing then not come back to write again for weeks, month, and maybe even one time a year.

I decided just now—ten minutes ago—to write my three gratitudes here each night before I go to bed as a sort of meditation and a time to think back through my day.

Today I am grateful for beautiful, sweet tasting, moist heirloom navel oranges I found at Payless and the way their flavor rested heavy on my tongue as I ate my lunch today. They smelled of light fragrant flowers, reminding me of visiting Merideth in Florida and having to drive through the orange grove to get to her house, but their taste was heavy and serious and made me reflect back on a time when I stayed at the Palmer House in Chicago with my family, and we went to Palmer House Steak and Seafood for breakfast or brunch. The place was so fancy, we almost felt uncomfortable, and my mom was so happy her blue eyes sparkled like jewels, and my dad was so excited about the food he kept trying to guess where the chickens were raised (if you know my dad, you know). My brother and I both ordered the fresh squeezed orange juice, which came out in wine glasses, like we had ordered the most expensive mimosas. We were enamored with the waiter and the way he scraped the table with a little plastic object like a credit card to remove our crumbs between courses. To this day, I wonder what we had to give up throughout the rest of the year to afford that hotel, that brunch, and that orange juice.

Today I am grateful for my love dog, Luna the Squish. Last night she killed a baby possum in the yard, and it was horrible and terrible and I cried a lot, not only because an animal died, but because possums are my favorite animal, aside from my Squish. She thought it was a toy and played with it until it took a nap with its guts on the outside, as my sister-in-law says. This dog has seen me through two of the most difficult years of my life, and I know will see me through a couple more. Whenever I am sad, or lonely, or need a laugh her big head with an even bigger smile is here for me. She isn’t exceptionally friendly to other people or other animals, but she doesn’t really need to be.

Today I am grateful for reading out loud and the great joy that it brings to me. My students don’t appreciate the art of a well-read text, but they will before they leave high school. Reading out loud is perhaps one of the greatest joys in this life. Taking words from a page, making meaning, breathing life into them, and sharing them with others. What a beautiful connection between the writer, the message, and the listener!