To the stars in my night sky: Thank you

So, this is a super weird Thanksgiving for me. For all four of us, really. It’s the first Thanksgiving of our new life, which is fragmented. Altered in a way I never thought it would be.

On paper, it’s been the worst year of my life. Shit, in reality it has been, too. The worst year of our lives.  And being one of those annoying optimists, I mean I swear it’s in my DNA to make chicken salad out of chicken shit, I am trying really hard every day to find the blue sky behind the clouds.

I know it’s there. It’s always there. So I have to remember that.

Because, it can be so easy to let the darkness swallow you. To let it take over. Eat at you. Change you. Infiltrate your every thought, to the point you have to literally shake your head like an Etch-A-Sketch to free your mind from its ugly grasp.  It takes a conscious decision, a pointed self-awareness, to deny negativity’s power. To deny ugliness. To deny entry to chaos and manipulation and vengeful behavior.

And, I’ll admit, I’m not totally there yet. Most humans feel emotions. They react to ugliness. It’s what sets some of us apart from reptiles. Some of us.  Words hurt, and when those words are lies, they sting even more.  Manipulation eats away at you.  So we feel that, whether we want to or not.

But I have to say, during this season of utter shittiness, and that’s my personal season – not like humanity’s season (important to clarify given recent events and upcoming holidays) – I really have found countless reasons to be thankful. Because humanity is alive and well.

I’m realizing that consistent shittiness is reserved for the select few. And I’m lucky enough to have way more non-shitty people in my life than the alternative.

And since this is a piece on optimism and thankfulness, I’m going to stop saying shitty. Like, right now.

Shit. I said “shit” again.

I have this person in my life who would probably do anything for me. She would probably find me a camel, and buy it purple socks and organic watermelons, on a Tuesday, with two hours notice, if I told her I really needed it. In the 11 years that I’ve know her, this woman has already taught me how to pull apart my sink drain, loaned me countless ingredients, offered me hours of solicited and unsolicited advice, watched my kids, saved me from urgent care by flushing a seed out of my toddler’s nose, and given me a doorknob.

She gave me a doorknob. Because she has a bag of spares in her garage. And, mine broke after hours. This is why she’d find me a camel.  Because if I needed one, she’d find one.  She also taught my son how to cut a cucumber. And then, how to eat it. Because he would never do that at my house.

And through this she’s been there for me.

Another person in my life treats me like family, as if her family isn’t big enough already. She checks on me. She gives me this profound insight when I’m struggling, so deep I often wonder where it comes from and how I could possibly offer her advice that is remotely as valuable.  She changes her work schedule to help me when I need it, and I don’t even ask. She offers. She’s a calm in the storm, a much-needed pep talk at night, or in the morning, or whenever.  She talks me through making a pot roast, she reminds me that I have a backbone and she has guided me through some of my darkest moments – not once commenting, at my lowest, on how puffy my eyes looked.  She saves my ass, regularly, most recently by bringing me two trays of baked beans I cooked in my oven and needed at a school carnival.  I’m sure they spilled in her car. And it smelled. But she smiled as she brought them to me anyway.

She’s been there for me.

Another friend, one of my oldest friends, has put her troubles aside to check on me. To hear my trials. To check and see what I’ve been dealing with.  She calls. She texts. She sends me photos of ridiculous signs about “active diarrhea” at public pools, and underdressed elderly men at the beach. She knows what I need when I need it and she’s on time with it. She gives me the stern talk. She helps me make lists of questions, or lists of tasks or just lists — so I just don’t forget whatever list we’re talking about.

She has always been there. Through the ugly. Through the happy. And she makes sure we end our conversations with a laugh.

These are people for whom I’m thankful. These are my blue skies.

Jars of thanks to remind us how much we’re grateful for.

They are the college roommate who spent an evening with me taking new family pictures, because my soul needed it. They are my Thelma – or is it Louise? – who has heard my trials, has offered gracious, understanding support, and even kicked her fitness into high gear to try a 3-mile run with me. They’re the person who joked with me about Bisbee, the ones who encourage me to write, the one who made a ridiculous hashtag list with me which may have included #tantanmanwithboobs.

They are the secretary at the school, who knows, and gives me a caring wink when she sees me. They are my old editor, who I have always admired, who has offered encouragement and advice. Another old editor and former colleague who met me for tacos and listened and cringed and laughed and suggested that in time, I may consider this point in my life one of strength.

The high school friend who let me know she understood in a way I would never want another woman to understand. A college roomie who is living a parallel life, and another who isn’t, but offered unwavering support. A high school friend who said all the right things, and cursed at the right time and told me he’d always love me. The friend who pulls up at the right minute, told me to “get in” her car, and whisked me away from a very uncomfortable situation. The neighbor who set up a distress signal, gets worried when I break routine, and offers a perspective on situations that I would have never considered.

It’s the friend who not-so-secretly delivered bundles of new clothes to my doorstep, as if she were a fairy, and routinely sends me sassy and/or inspirational texts. They are my parents, who have, I mean, I can’t even say all the incredible things they’ve done for me. They’re the moms I grew up with, who encourage me and remind me of who I am. They are the sheriff’s deputy friend who told me I have to be someone else for a while.  That I can’t be me if I want to get through.  And they’re the old friend, who cried with me through a three-hour phone call, and finds time in her two-job life to check on me. Me.

There are so many. I have countless reasons to be thankful.  My blue skies are all around me. Everywhere I turn.

Oh, and the friend who spontaneously decided to join me on that 3-mile run. The one who told my kids I was a “warrior.” The friend who told me she knew exactly what I was going through, and knew the anger I felt, because she had been there. Another friend who gave me that warm, Friday night pep talk from the bleachers.  The other longtime friend who calmly reminded me that making concessions has gotten me nowhere so far. That it was time to be firm and assertive, and it was time for me to remember that she was there for me.

My blue skies are endless.

I have three tiny humans who hug me and love me and make me laugh and think I know everything. I haven’t told them yet that I don’t. And they’re my blue skies every day. Even when I’m not with them.

I have blue skies all around me. And someday, the clouds won’t get in the way. And, for that, I’m thankful.

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My blue skies.