Finding the Gratitude

It’s the eve of Thanksgiving and I always like to reflect on the wonderful things I have or have had in my life. It’s so easy to focus on the negative–the things I don’t have or the people who have hurt me in the past. So much of this blog is about processing all the shit. Frankly, there’s been a lot of shit in the past decade. For tonight, I’d like to just think of the good things. So tonight I’m going to take a walk down memory lane with my relationships, focusing only on the good from each one. I’m going to focus on both something I loved about the relationship and a life lesson I took away as a result of it.

From my ex-husband I took away two beautiful, brilliant, amazing kids. I will always be grateful that out of the love I once had for him, my two favorite things in life came into existence. From our relationship, I learned that it’s better to leave no matter how impossible the leaving seems, or you risk becoming someone you don’t recognize. I also learned that no matter what my own insecurities might be, to never let them hang out with a partner. It’s not sexy or attractive to look to your partner for your own self-esteem. I learned to start looking for my own.

From Z, the man I loved right after my marriage ended, I will always love the humor we shared. I love the deep thoughtfulness he brought to our conversations. I love that he loved me, even if it wasn’t enough in the end.  I also got my first lesson in not pretending something is enough, just so you won’t have to say goodbye.

L gave me a flirty sort of fun that made me think I might have found “the one”, at least for a couple of months. I loved how tender and protective he could be sometimes. There were many, many times that even after our breakup, he made me feel as though I had someone who cared enough about me that I could call and say “I need you to be there for me.” He was my second lesson in the failure of pretending something is enough when it’s not, just so I wouldn’t lose him. Maybe with enough lessons, I’ll learn! I also learned that if something went wrong the first time, a second or third time of trying is probably not going to make it right.

I had to spend more time thinking about D, to try to remember the good. Tonight is the two year anniversary of our first breakup. Interestingly enough, the good from the relationship is also tied to what it taught me. D was the first man with whom I saw the hope of a lasting relationship, who seemed to progress the relationship to a committed level that appeared as though it could go the distance. That was, briefly, a reassurance I’d badly needed. The life lesson came from learning that when it feels like a man is barely contributing to the relationship, it signals something that shouldn’t be ignored, no matter what excuse he gives for why he can’t give more. People put time and effort into what they value, yet I rarely felt valued. The life lesson is to not settle for something mediocre when you know you want and deserve more, out of a desperate desire to have someone willing to love and stay with you. If you don’t feel loved and desired, what’s the point? I also got a reminder in why trying to make things work multiple times, when the person broke your heart the first time, is a very bad idea. The gratitude comes in having the pain finally eased to where it doesn’t feel crippling and in knowing I learned so much about what I don’t want the next time.

With J, my barely born relationship, there were many things to love and feel gratitude for. I am grateful for the feeling of radiant joy I felt during the two months we were together; it was unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. I’m grateful for the easy physical affection he always established; he was quick to hold my hand, put his arms around me or kiss me at times when it wasn’t just about trying to get me in bad. In fact, walking hand-in-hand with him is the memory that comes to mind for me first. Well…after the sex! I am grateful for the fun and child-like joy I experienced on every date with him. I’m grateful for the deep sexuality that he brought out in me that managed, ironically enough, to feel healthy in a way some of my others have not. In the end, the life lesson I learned was to trust my intuition. Listen to the voice within that tells me when loving someone, although tempting, is a really bad idea.

In my life right now I have many things to be grateful for:

My children, with whom I share a deep bond of love. They are amazing and wonderful, even in the times when they drive me bonkers. They’ve made me a better person and I can only hope I’ll help them grow into better people.

A job that I enjoy and that I’m fairly good at, that also means something besides just a paycheck. It’s not every person who can find fulfillment and meaning in their work, outside of just making a living. I’ve found it.

A cozy little cottage home that shelters us. A car that still runs well. That all our basic physical needs are met and many, many beyond that. That on the Maslow hierarchy of needs, I’m at the top and have the luxury to sit here and ponder my life and the meaning of it.

I’m healthy. That the medical issue my youngest child has is treatable and that between her father and I, we can afford treatment that keeps her symptoms mostly at bay, most of the time.

That I have a community of friends and family to help be a support system for myself and my children. That I have some dear friends in whom I confide the secrets of my soul, whom I trust to keep them safe.

For everyone tonight and into the holiday weekend, I wish you joy and peace. I hope the list of good things in your life outweighs the bad. We all have our burdens to bear and sometimes they feel very heavy. May your burdens feel lightened by the grace of the good.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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