Am I still thankful?
Before I can answer this question, I must ask another: was I ever thankful?
Well, yes. I think I was thankful. Not because my mother insisted I tell the table why I am thankful expecting me to answer with the usual colloquialisms such as “I am thankful for family and friends.” Though I don’t blame the expectations. After all, what would a mother think if her seven-year-old said “I am thankful that even though my life sucks right now I have the audacity to demand better for myself and the good fortune of courage to make such a change in my immediate surroundings.” Good Lord…
I was thankful as a child because, even though life wasn’t all that great, it wasn’t hell. I felt that as a young man. I knew I was thankful for something but I couldn’t articulate exactly what it was. I knew, for some reason, yeah life sucks and it can get better or it can get worse but I have a lot of say in the matter. That is what I was thankful for. I wasn’t dead and I wasn’t crippled. I was thankful as a child and teenager for having powerful foresight, creativity, and courage. I was smart enough to look into the future, see where things could be, and creative and courageous enough to take risky paths to get there. I never said these things at the dinner table. I didn’t understand it at the time. I still don’t wholly understand it.
I slept hard last night. Harder than normal. I didn’t wake once, unusual for me. I sat by the cold wood stove this morning and stirred the ash, leveled the dust, and stacked kindling in a lean-to against a small chunk of wood. I lit a wad of newspaper under the kindling and the stove came to life. I sat in front of the stove and left the door open and watched the small flame lick the kindling until the kindling caught fire and the flames grew larger. I sat in front of the stove and left the stove door open and watched the fire grow. The flames sent an orange glow around this small cabin and a silhouette of a sitting man projected against the wall, flickering and dancing.
I sat in front of the open wood stove and felt the warmth of the growing fire seep into my torso and legs. I was cold inside but the fire warmed me.
After the fire had grown sufficiently, I closed the stove door and moved to my desk and journaled my thoughts. I asked myself if I was thankful for anything. It is Thanksgiving, after all.
Well, yes. I am thankful for some things. It would be foolish and ignorant to not be thankful for anything, but it wasn’t that simple. Feelings, genuine emotion, cannot be willed or summoned upon request. Giving thanks without meaning is a lie to others and a disgrace to oneself.
Am I thankful? Yes.
Why? Well, I am thankful that my life isn’t hell. It isn’t where I want it to be and it hasn’t improved at the rate I would have desired, but it hasn’t gone the other way, either. That’s not nothing.
I reflected on my childhood for a while and remembered all the Thanksgiving suppers, one of the few times each year we sat at the table which normally held junk mail or car parts or nothing at all. I remembered the things I used to say, “I am thankful for my mom and my dad and my brother and our dog and all of my friends.” What was I really thankful for? Life wasn’t hell. It was bad, and sometimes it was really bad, and on occasion it was just alright. I was thankful for having the mindsight to know that life wasn’t static if I demanded better and acted in such a way as to support that development.
Am I still thankful? Yes.
Why? Life still isn’t hell.
I demand better for myself, always better. I demand a life worth living and I am well on my way to achieving such an existence. I am going live, so I can afford to die.