I have never had a good relationship with the holidays. For many, they are uncomfortable reminders of how fragmented realities are when thrust upon the fantasy we are supposed to be living. I used to be ashamed but now I can say this with little hesitation: my reality was once very bleak. There was food but little pleasure in ingesting it. The bright colors and sounds of holiday time, the squeezes and smells of family, the laughter from inside jokes, didn’t come to us easily. We reenacted scenes from favorite holiday movies to see if we could poke at the feelings they evoked. The results were varied and limp.
Last year on Thanksgiving, I had returned to Georgia less than a week earlier from a month-long hospital stay. My life was upended, I could not use my hands and I hurt in many, many ways. The core of me was fragile and descending into a deep depression. I was even away from family in my own home (the geographic place I associate with it) because, as always, my mother had to work to survive, and my sister could not come. I was with my loving friend, the one who babysat me and distracted me with wine before the doctors declared I could drink. The one who helped me use the toilet and fed me and forced me to ingest reruns of Glee. Sadness became me and with it, my usual glum demeanor during the season became a raging manifesto on all I could expect in my life.
But now, I am one year away from that. I am here, now. I don’t want to talk about what I’ve done or survived in these 365 days or what I’m thankful for. I have said and will always repeat my gratitude for this life I get to live, even the parts that don’t belong in the greeting cards. I want to say that today I can be happy. I am literally and spiritually home. The only people residing in it with me or those that belong, and so I belong, maybe for the first time. Today I prepared food in a place that was safe; I got to inject the fragments of my before with the security of knowing all that is good, all that simply is…is right now.
I don’t have to live in the legacy of pain and suffering. I can create my joy in the moment. For that, I will be thankful.