“Twenty Twenty One hasn’t been so bad,” she said. “It just feels like… Groundhog Day, maybe. Every day is the same. Lots of uncertainty. We are both home pretty much all the time. Going out feels unsafe, but you see lots of people acting like 10,000 Mississippians didn’t die in the 18 months.”
It was the end of October, and Renee and I were sitting at our kitchen table, having just eaten one of perhaps a dozen meals that we have in rotation right now – meals we can fix with little mess and fuss, that don’t require much creativity or fresh produce. We think of it almost as a pandemic playlist, but for meals.
And that is what so much of my life is like these days – hoping for a time beyond this current uncertainty, and yet realizing we are going to be here for a really long time. If I still drank, a drinking game where I take a shot every time someone says “the new normal” would wreck my liver in short order.
I just happened to be on Facebook on November the 1st when someone posted their first post of “30 days of Gratitude”, a popular Facebook meme where you post a thing each day for which you are thankful.
Honestly? These things suck me in. My ADHD brain loves structure – but my executive function is such that my brain can’t manufacture it. So, 30 days where I don’t have to think about what to write about is a gift. So I decided to use it as a prompt.
I made some rules.
Other than Renee, I couldn’t write about being thankful for a living person. That was mostly to avoid leaving people out.
I had to have an original picture I took or owned to illustrate or accompany the post. In other words, no stock photos. The only time I broke that was the Doctor Jabbour post.
I have a complicated relationship with my past – I know a lot of us feel that way. But I also have come to recognize that the things for which I am grateful have come out of my past – that I am really the product of my stories. So each post needs to have a story in it.
I had to write it every day. I broke that rule once, writing Thanksgiving’s the day before, but I was on the road 10 hours out of 36 during that time, so if I didn’t do it the day before, it wouldn’t have happened.
And it needed to be at least 500 words. To put that in perspective, this post you are reading now is at 450 words at the end of this sentence.
And after a year of writing about Dad, I decided that no single post would be about him.
There were days I had no idea what I was going to write about. Some days I wouldn’t know until I was halfway through the post. Some days I thought it was going to be about X, and it ended up being about Y. Sometimes I narrowed it down while writing: The post about Heather started as a blanket post about my LGBT friends, the same way I wrote about my atheist friends. The post about friends who disagree with me started about a particular person, but he was still alive, and the more I wrote I realized he was one of several in that position.
And I think that is the thing I liked most about it – in fact, it’s one of the things I like about writing: The discovery. That you learn something you did not know before as you write.
Having grown up evangelical, every time someone mentions the word accountability, I think it means somebody got caught with porn. But the accountability of knowing that people were expecting me to publish something each day mattered, even if nothing would happen if I had missed a day. The truth is, I am more afraid of letting you down than I am letting me down.
The last 20 months or so have been horrible. But this month I learned that I have much to be grateful for, that there are things in the midst of a pandemic for which to be grateful, and that the common thread that runs through all of the things for which I am grateful is the relationships that have, formed me, held me, and given my life shape and meaning.
I’m not sure what to do next. I don’t really want to break a now 31-day streak, but I don’t know what I can write about tomorrow. But hey, I’ve been there before.
Regardless, thank you for reading my stuff, for sharing it, for commenting and interacting with it. It’s good to be known.