November does something to me. I love the anticipation that comes with this month: the waiting for the holidays, the attempts to savor every bit of sun before winter hits, leaving us cranky, and stiff, and needing an escape from the darkness. November is the month that my grandmother, my mom, and my daughter were all born, so it feels special for that reason, too. And of course, I love witnessing people so freely share all of the things that they are thankful for. I have been in the daily habit of making note of what I am grateful for- either in writing or just mentally- for a few years now. I know this list-making of gratitudes can easily be dismissed as pop-psychology, but it happens to be a tremendous help to me, almost a tool for survival.
This year, these last few weeks, though, the “thanks” are not coming so easily. Personal issues aside, I am feeling sad and overwhelmed by all of the recent news in the world. More terrorists attacks. More black men killed by police, under questionable circumstances. A racist narcissist could be our next president. So many of us don’t want to help Syrian refugees. People are calling for another war. Protesters are shot for being black. It’s all too much. Yes, I could turn off NPR. I could stay off of Facebook where I am exposed to so much vitriol. And sometimes I do. But being able to “tune out” is such a flagrant exercise of privilege. I can’t help but be aware of how many people don’t have that option.
I think, perhaps, I am struggling because I am searching for gratitude while also feeling completely helpless. I don’t know if I can hold onto both of those feelings at the same time. Of course, I am thankful that none of the aforementioned events have had any personal effect on me, but that provides little solace. At the end of the day, I am still stuck in this world that feels like it is going to shit.
This Thanksgiving I will sit around the table with my closest friends, my handpicked family. We are going to eat, and laugh, and complain about all of the ways people are messing up the world, and it is going to feel so, so good. I am going to tell them how grateful I am for their friendship (this year, especially). I will give thanks for my child, my home, my neighborhood, the musicians and writers of the world, and all of the people who enrich my life in countless ways. This year, too, I will offer up a silent prayer to the universe, to God, to whatever, asking that the victims of all the recent madness, our fellow humans who are unwillingly the recipients of our hatred, may also find something to be grateful for. That hope for them, the belief that maybe they can see beyond tragedy and still give thanks for something, just might keep me going forward.