Happy Thanksgiving. And if, in the wake of this past year, you aren’t feeling abundantly happy and grateful today, I understand.
I am writing to honor that feeling, and also to bring some balm to it, if I can. I wrote this for everyone who is feeling a bit tired, bruised, or bereft today.
In thinking about how hard this past year has been on so many, I’ve been trying to put my finger on a particular type of gratitude that one feels when one has gotten through something really rough, and comes through — not exactly unscathed, but perhaps less scathed than one might have been.
That brought to mind an incident from my youth. An accident, actually.
I was about 10, riding my bicycle fast on a blacktop road near our house. Going into a curve, I wiped out on some sand, and went down hard. I got up with the wind a bit knocked out of me, some smarting pains, and that wincing feeling of “Oh, crap. I don’t want to look.”
I knew that what I was about to see might be ugly. But when I did look, I found I was basically intact.
I had some sand-encrusted road rash on one palm, a nasty cut on my ankle where the spikes of the bike pedal had swung around and gouged out some flesh, and couple of banged up spots. But no broken bones, no head wounds, and nothing that needed stitches.
This is not to say that I was 100 percent fine. In fact, my body-mind was never quite the same. That cut on my ankle left a scar that remains to this day. I’ve not really enjoyed bike riding since. And in general, I don’t like going fast in any situation where I could easily end up on the ground.
I still have a vivid memory of that wipeout, and an eerie, out-of-body perspective on it — both hallmarks of post-traumatic experience.
And that’s the way I feel about 2020. Some serious $#!@ went down. A lot of us are still in the process of getting up. We’ll retain some painful memories and images we might rather forget. But we’ve gotten through. At least, if you’re reading this, you have.
Of course, a lot of people didn’t make it through. We lost a quarter of a million humans to COVID-19, and many more to violence, poverty, chronic diseases, cancers, accidents, stress, suicides, and all the other things that kill with abandon.
Many people who lost loved ones (as well as jobs, homes, life savings, and semesters of school) are grieving their losses so heavily, it’s hard for them to feel anything at all.
If you are one of those people, I want to tell you it is okay to feel sad today. It is okay to not be overflowing with joy, mirth, and gratitude.
I just lost a cousin to cancer. She was my age, an inspired artist, energetic, and evidently healthy — until she wasn’t. I knew that she had been sick these past few months, but I didn’t know how sick. I heard last week that she’d put herself into hospice. I heard yesterday that she was gone.
I couldn’t help but think: That could have been me.
I realize this isn’t the cheeriest Thanksgiving post, and if it feels like a lead-weighted downer amidst an effervescent burst of holiday cheer, I apologize. But the fact is, any of us might not have lived to see the end of 2020. Some of us still might not.
So, if you feel grateful about nothing else, I hope you are feeling glad to be alive, to be here and doing whatever is necessary for you to move forward and keep giving the best gifts you have to give in this lifetime.
Forward we go. Maybe with road rash. Maybe with a limp and some scars. But forward, with relief that our wounds haven’t been worse and that most of them can heal, or at least evolve over time.
Please know that I count you — my friends, readers, listeners, collaborators, co-conspirators, and fellow Healthy Deviants — among my greatest blessings. Because whether you know it or not, you give me good reasons to get up again and again, road rash and all.
Wishing you a real, beautiful Thanksgiving holiday.
Want more life-shifting wisdom?
Check out my book, The Healthy Deviant: A Rule Breaker’s Guide to Being Healthy in an Unhealthy World. You can get a free preview and find purchase links here. Thank you for supporting my work!