One of the moments when I just couldn’t stop smiling.
Tomorrow at my family dinner we will go around the table and express our gratitude for something. I always cycle through the same three answers. I’m grateful that I can travel. I’m grateful for my health. And I’m grateful for my family and friends.
All true, but I thought it might be worthwhile to think outside the box and come up with something different this year. For help I grabbed a gratitude journal I started keeping in 1998. While my intentions are good now, and I mean to keep a gratitude journal, I tend to only use it a handful of times a year. But twenty years ago, I was reasonably consistent.
Here’s a sampling of things I appreciated in high school:
Long Walks on Beautiful Days
Being able to Clock Distances in your Car
A Man Running Back and Forth between a Stop Sign and a Stop Ahead Sign
My Brother’s Huge Bear Hugs
Listening to Other People’s Memories from Before I was Alive
Seeing Nick S Because He is so Good Looking but I Have Never Talked to Him
The Way Kathy and Lou Bocciarelli Love Each Other
When Ab Exercises Feel Easy
Finishing an Assignment Early
Only Having to go to the Bathroom Twice—My Bladder is Expanding
The First Time you put on Shorts after Winter
Making Will & Helen Fly
Opening a Book Right to the Page I’m Supposed to be on
Making Mix Tapes for People
Getting Lost with People Who Make the Best of It
I’m mildly embarrassed to admit just how grateful I was for a variety of boys. I only included one sample of my boy-crazed youth to help myself feel mildly less pathetic. I’ll use the excuse that I was seventeen. It’s interesting how little I’ve changed (love long walks, love laughing, love finishing anything early, would love to open a book to the exact page I’m supposed to be on) and then how some things feel so different. I dread shorts after winter. My relationship with nutmeg muffins has grown complicated. And I’m never deluded into thinking my bladder is expanding.
So this year, I’m grateful for all the normal stuff plus my clients (you probably don’t appreciate how much better you make my life), the team at Personal Euphoria, my house, the Old Wethersfield community. My list is endless. But what I’ve decided to run with this year is a life worth smiling about.
Last week my great uncle passed away. He was eighty-seven. He definitely had challenges throughout his life. He lost his wife young, lost a child and lost a grandchild, but to me he still always had a magic sparkle in his eye, a little like Santa Clause. And as unbelievable as it sounds, with his final breath he smiled and then passed away peacefully, seeming pleased with the life he had lived.
A life worth smiling about doesn’t mean it’s without pain. I’ve been lucky enough to see someone born, where agony turns to adoration in an instant. I’ve also been with a few people as their life came to an end, which for me was more powerful than birth. Both are filled with pain and importance. I’ve gotten to love. And I have truly ached to the point where you feel a sense loss throughout your body. I’ve been happy. I’ve been scared. I’ve been angry. I’ve felt alone. I’ve wished I could escape and get alone. I’ve been robbed. I’ve had friends that have my back. I’ve felt like a failure. I’ve been excited about little and big successes. I’ve been confused. I’ve longed to be something better, greater, more. I’ve felt satisfied. I’ve felt loved.
Ultimately, I’m grateful for the capacity to feel my way through this life. It’s all the feeling—good and bad, emotional and physical—that makes life so phenomenal. And while I hope to have a very, long and healthy life ahead of me, if it had to end today, I’m grateful that I would look back and smile like my Uncle Billy.
And, so if I know you, I thank you. You have been a part of that. Know it or not, something about our interactions have made me smile (or at least snicker, which might even be better). I’m grateful that my life and the people in it make me smile.