I’ve been a cynical, negative bitch since middle school. Well, before that, really. My Mom likes to tell people about my first report card back from kindergarten, on which the teacher wrote, “She is a thundercloud. When she doesn’t get her way, she pouts, or hits the other children.” So not much has changed there, and it’s even worse now that I’m middle-aged, cresting over the hump of what I hope will be the middle of my life with a clumsy, lumbering trip and a resounding thump as I fall face-first into the snow. But sometimes, when you really, really need to see it, you are surprised by good things.
Three different friends are struggling right now. Cancer has hit two of them – one undergoing chemo for the 2nd time and another going through surgery and a long recovery. A third friend goes under the knife very soon as well, with a potentially difficult recovery. Caring friends have set up meal trains and other helping services for them. One of the friends is several states away from those who are helping, who are from all over the country, and yet people are responding, connecting, buying the T-shirt, sending a donation for medical expenses. My first inclination is always to help, help, help. Last year I was in a better position to do something like this, and did help some who were struggling. This year, I realize I have to keep my priorities in order, as there is very little time and money to play with. Feed and clothe the kid first, then myself. Then if there is something leftover, I can give. But this fall has shown there is not really anything leftover, I’m cutting it really close to the bone and instead of giving, I need to figure out a way to get more income so I can not be so stressed all the time about money-related things. It was a sobering moment early this morning when I realized I really can’t participate in these activities for my friends, but I am nothing if not practical, and I realize I can’t. But I am so thankful there are others who are willing and able to step up and take care of my friends. This is a good thing, and so I am not sad. I will send cards and write letters and give care and love and hopefully helpful advice, of which I have an endless supply, but others will have to bear the rest of the burden. I’m so glad they’re doing that.
I read a story this morning about a 17-year-old girl who had just learned CPR in health class at high school, who saved the life of a baby in Wal-Mart who was not breathing and had no pulse, by using her new skills until paramedics arrived. This is also a good thing, and makes me feel like there is a generation of helpful, smart people coming to take shit over, which will make me feel comforted as I continue to age, hopefully uneventfully. My annual biopsy for cancer is Thursday morning, so there’s always a bit of holding of the breath until I get those results.
There is also an important personal anniversary coming up for me, a cause worth celebrating, and so I am going to have a party. It won’t be lavish. It might even be (gasp) potluck. But I want to gather people around me who can celebrate this important milestone with me. That will be in January, and it’s an anniversary I’m grateful to be around to celebrate.
And finally, the kindness of both strangers and friends. Some I don’t even know very well. Some I only know online. Some I rarely see, but with whom I share treasured memories of good times long ago, wood beams and steel rail that laid the track in a connection that has never broken, even with all the cycles of life. Even with many miles and many years between those times and now. Friends like these have made it possible for me to have a proper Thanksgiving meal this year. They have ensured my son will squeal with delight when he opens his presents from Santa, something I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to pull off. And they’ve touched my heart and my soul, offering light when I’ve felt surrounded by darkness and failure. When there are big, white and red life rings coming at you from many directions, you just have to take one and let them pull you to safety.
This Thanksgiving season, I am truly, truly thankful.