Hello. I've missed you. I haven't been well lately. Very distracted, a little angry, perhaps a little dimmed by storm. But don't worry! I am undaunted. I've hoisted up my sails and, safe within my quarters, I'm determined to ride out the storm.
I have a little treat for you. I'm not going to lecture you this time, not on hunger, nor hypocrisy, nor politics. No. For tonight, as rain falls on Los Angeles, I have a special subject for you. Tonight, I speak of gratitude.
But first! Dear Reader, you don't think I'd leave you hanging with no interactive media to entertain you, do you?! No! Perish the thought. I'll give you this little bit from my bard d'jour, to light the narrow way.
Now to the story.
When I was a kid, I used to read all kinds of things. Fantasy was my favorite:
The Lord of the Rings
A Wizard of Earthsea
It was an escape, yes. I didn't have to look at the real world when I was lost on the back of a dragon, high above imagined hills. The wind was cool in those places, so far away. The nights were clear and the dawns were bright. The storms meant something. In these places, there were always identifiable adversaries. There was good, and there was evil. You always knew which was which.
You could tell by their castles.
As adults, we learn in layers that life is more complicated than it was in the books of our childhood. Evil is seductive; sometimes it looks like good. Sometimes people do evil in the name of good. Sometimes people do good in name of evil. Things get so grey. Sometimes something is both good AND evil. Most times it is neither, or it is one or other depending on how you look at it, like a hologram or an optical illusion. Morals in the real world are less immutable than in those fantasy worlds of my youth.
No, the real world was not so easy to understand, relate to, or categorize.
So as Ray croons in your computer to "Be Here Now" you might be wondering what this has to do with gratitude. Or maybe, clever Reader, you've already jumped ahead--in mind or on the page--to anticipate where I'm going.
"Don't let your soul get lonely,
Child it's only Time;
It will go by.
Don't look for love
In faces, places
It's in you, that's where you'll find...
Be here now...
I'm getting older this Saturday. I guess I get older every day, but this one seems to have caught me off guard. I'm struggling a bit, and though I might be able to point at economic or political forces that are dragging me down, some of it is just plain old ME.
And in these times, because the world is not what I learned in my childhood books, I am prone to be sad, and lonely, and a little angry. As Ray sings: "I never learned to count my blessings; I choose instead to dwell in my disasters."
So on this night, on this eve of Thanks, on this precipice, I say to you Reader: Thank you.
I'm grateful for Your Readership, that I am not alone.
I'm grateful for a light to those in darkness, that they are not alone.
I'm grateful for my health and prosperity--both fragile gifts.
I'm grateful that I haven't gotten everything I wanted right away; it makes the getting sweeter.
I'm grateful that fighting for something challenges us to understand why we value it.
I'm grateful for the rain.
I'm grateful for a dizzying and scary parabolic future.
I'm grateful for the opportunities I have, and that they are so numerous they are daunting.
I'm grateful that I don't have to have it all figured out right now.
I'm grateful that I have friends who tell me (repeatedly, and over long horizons of time) that I'm okay, that they love me, and that the world is not as bad as I fear.
I'm grateful that my loving parents told me today that--in their minds--my future partner and I will be married, regardless of what the law or anyone else thinks.
I'm grateful for my family: those to whom I was born, and those whom I have chosen.
I'm grateful that I can feel so deeply.
I'm grateful you're still reading this list.
I'm grateful that I can hear a couple--a man and a woman by the sound of it--having sex somewhere in the vicinity of my apartment. F.
I'm grateful she seems to be enjoying it.
It's so hard sometimes to be grateful. My natural state is not gratitude: it's struggle. I struggle with my gifts, I struggle with my limitations. I'm so blessedly busy struggling I haven't considered (recently, at least) what might happen if I DIDN'T struggle.
What if I did as Ray suggests? Be Here Now, he sings. Here now. It's almost a mantra, a siren call to a sane shore.
I think there is a great link between being present and being grateful. It seems to me that you can't be one without a measure of the other. Don't you think, Reader?
I'm present when I'm reading. I love reading. There's a part of me, let's say it looks like a child, that yearns for those worlds. Not all my friends like it. Some say it contributes to the problem. I don't think so. It's a lense, like glasses, that helps me to see. This is the part of me that doesn't judge--it dreams. I'm also present when I'm writing, for many of the same reasons. Freedom. The capacity to dream.
These are heavy times. If we have savings and investments, we've lost a lot of our wealth. If we don't, we're likely in even more dire straits and are holding on by a thread, or a paycheck. Times will get better. If I were a betting man, I'd say the market bottomed on Friday, and that the economy will recover--modestly--in the second half of 2009. That doesn't mean it will be easy, or linear. Just that the scary part is probably over, and the hard work has just begun. Brace yourselves, and buckle down.
And be kind.
Mostly to yourself.