As this year starts winding down, I’m starting to realize more and more how much — and how far — 2012 has brought me. I know that the historical roots of Thanksgiving render this holiday a heavily veiled celebration of genocide, but if you would, please allow me to persist in this cultural delusion just for the time it takes for you to read this post.
It’s about to get uncomfortably sentimental in here, so how’s that for a trigger warning.
Now, I’ve never been one to uphold widely recognized traditions or to even genuinely participate in any of the quintessential aspects of our nationally celebrated holidays (except, of course, for the part where everybody drinks). That means I can’t remember ever sitting down to make a list of the things I’m thankful for on Thanksgiving.
But something about this year has really soaked my heart in it.
So if you want to know what I’m thankful for … Here it is.
I’m thankful for my big sister, who decided on a whim to travel out to live with me after I graduated. She is an eternal optimist — which used to clash with me in all my rampant cynicism, but I realize now that she’s what keeps me balanced. Her uplifting company always comes as a much needed reprieve from the cocoon of hopelessness I often find myself wrapped up in. I really look up to her, and I’m lucky that she’s chosen to spend the next chapter of her life with me.
I’m thankful for my friends. The ones who get me out of the house. The ones who understand when I just can’t manage to. The ones who make me laugh and tell me stories, and when they ask me how I am, they look me in the eyes and really mean it. And I’m thankful for my friends, the “anarchofems,” who have so quickly become the epicenter of my support system. They are ever present, and they have kept me from spiraling into so many isolating episodes, I just wish I had found them sooner. Each one of us aches in our own way, and we all know how much support is worth, and so we exist in a perfect symbiosis of love and compassion. It’s beautiful. And it’s strong.
I’m thankful for Kate Donovan, who warrants an issue of thanks all of her own, who cooks for me when I haven’t eaten, who soothes me when I just can’t deal, who listens to me even when she literally has 382479299 other things she needs to do. And then she turns around and gives the same treatment to everybody else she loves. Amazing. When a person shows you that amount of care, it can fundamentally restructure the way you relate to other human beings, and that is what Kate has done for me. And I’ve only known her a year. To borrow an ironically religious nuance, she is one of my most cherished blessings.
I’m thankful for recovery, which has brought so many pieces of my life back to me — like one of the most precious pieces, my best friend of 17 years, who I had the rare chance to see this past weekend. She held me up when I was at my very weakest — at the very height of the abuse — and it’s in her honor that I strive to be strong.
I’m thankful for my parents, who have been so supportive of me throughout this journey I’ve embarked upon, when I know they probably have had the hardest time of anyone in dealing with the repercussions of this exposure. When they could have just shut down, they opened up instead. And I know from listening to others’ stories that I am tremendously lucky in that regard.
I’m thankful for the men in my life who have shown me what real respect is. And no matter how much they continue to insist that they don’t deserve any special recognition for that, I can’t help but feel this unrelenting gratitude that never fails to move me to tears. (Thank you.)
I’m thankful for this platform, which has provided me with a voice that I had been burying for so long. I know that it can be abrasive, but it helps. It helps. It helps.
I’m thankful for my counselor, who I know will hear me out if all else fails (and who keeps me hopeful that it won’t). I never knew the true meaning of safe space until I started therapy, and without the people who forge out those spaces in all the corners of this beat-up world, so many people like myself would remain irreparably broken.
I’m thankful for the kind words I’ve received — from every friend, family member, and even stranger — over the past few months. It seems to take about a thousand acts of kindness to treat the wounds from just one act of violence. And I’ve experienced not one, but dozens. Luckily, everyone around me has begun to make up the difference, and so this burden keeps getting lighter day by day.
I’m thankful for the birds, because when the depression was at its worst, they were my only friends, and whenever I would watch them, it was the closest I could get to feeling joy.
I’m thankful for feminism, which everybody needs.
I’m thankful for Amanda Palmer, whose agonized words and melodies have been my salvation over the years. Is it weird to pick a singer/songwriter as one’s spiritual guide? Or is it more normal than we tend to admit? In any case, I owe that woman my life, in so many words. All those nights she’s kept me up late, webcasting private concerts from her apartment, tweeting till my ears bled, blogging prose that made me cry with recognition, and making music that could — and has — narrated my life … Those have been the best nights of all.
I’m thankful for anaphora, because without it, this sappy hooey would be unbearable to read.
I’m thankful for my mind, and for everything within it that — despite its obvious afflictions — has enabled me to somehow make sense out of this whole mess, to forgive myself for years of internalizing abuse, to find pleasure in my sexuality, and to harness my pain in order to do good. They keep telling me I’m strong, but I’m only just starting to believe them. It’s funny how the brain can fail to perceive what should come as no surprise. But we only get one, and this one’s mine.
I’m thankful for my newfound hope, a variety of which I had never before felt inside of me, not even back when I was “well.” I listen to myself preach change and peace and progress, and I balk for a second to think that I would have scoffed at all of it, had I met me half a decade ago. This hopefulness is so overpowering, it’s almost a nuisance. But you know what? I kind of like it.
I’m thankful for the fact that things change. That I change. That if nothing else, people change. And when I look back on being enveloped by darkness, and thinking only death would free me from it, I am stunned by how such a dramatic shift could have ever brought me back into the light. But it did. And here I am. So can we ever be sure that anything’s really hopeless? And isn’t that such a liberating thought?
And I’m thankful to be alive, because I haven’t been — neither thankful, nor alive. For too long, I’ve been unconscious. Looking through vacant eyes, being but a hollow body, heaving but an empty heart. And all I had for life during the past 3 years was resentment. I never stopped to wonder why I was here, because the answer would have been irrelevant. The real question, to me, was why did I have to be here. Why couldn’t I just not be. But now, I’m feeling this new thing that is really rather remarkable. It’s the feeling of wanting to be alive. And I think I finally understand what all the fuss has been about. I’m feeling things again. I’m living.
I’m thankful again to be alive. I’m thankful to be alive again.
But most of all, I’m thankful for not being done yet. Because if I were done, there really would be nothing left to live for. I can slip back into darkness at any moment, and I know that. I know that in that darkness, there is no hope, and no amount of pretty words can change that. I know that I can go from complete serenity to panic attack in the time it takes to entertain a solitary thought. But I can see now how it also works in the reverse. I almost look forward to my next big failure, my next episode, my next debilitating cry. Because it will mean that I have more things to learn, more work to do, more of myself — and more of others — to explore and to take care of.
Sheeeeesh, who even is this person talking??
Ah, fuck it, it’s me.