Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. It doesn’t matter who I’m spending it with or whether or not there’s pie or if I’m cooking or not cooking or whether I’ve decorated or not. It has always been a mentally peaceful day. A day of positive reflection. I know that there are many people who plan their dinner weeks ahead of time and stress over every detail of their gathering as though it really mattered and maybe they remember how long it took the turkey to cook more than they remember having something to eat at all – but I am a person who hears the outside world in my head and Thanksgiving is a lot more quiet and a lot less sad than Christmas is.
In spite of feeling completely free to complain about things openly whenever I feel the need – I am simultaneously constantly acknowledging my gratitude for both small and big things that make my life comfortable and good. On Thanksgiving I like to think not only of my own life, but of other people’s lives. I know there are so many people out there on the streets today who couldn’t give a rat’s ass if their turkey is dry or tender and dripping with juices – who wouldn’t care if it’s deep fried or brined – if only they had some turkey at all.
Everyone who knows me knows I’m staunchly anti-military, but I’m not always anti-human (depends what day you ask me) and yesterday I saw a homeless war veteran on a street corner and I happened to have a dollar so I gave it to him and said “Good luck to you, sir.” and drove off choked up knowing that a dollar is so inadequate. A dollar isn’t even a fucking cup of coffee any more. This dude is homeless. A man who went to war for his country. Something I wish he hadn’t done. Never-the-less – war is a horrible and evil thing that destroys the bodies and minds of those who participate in it whether willingly or not. A country who sends men and women to war and has as many homeless war veterans on the streets as we do is a country whose moral compass is smashed. If you’re going to send people to war to blow up other human beings and have their own bodies shocked again and again from the impact of nearby bombs going off and their heads filled with the noise of people dying – you sure as hell owe them a lifetime of excellent healthcare and help finding jobs and if they can’t work you should give them housing – because you are responsible for wrecking them.
It is so shameful how many war veterans are begging for dollars on our streets.* So I’ve been thinking about this particular war veteran all yesterday and now this morning. I can’t fix his situation. I can vote for measures that help war veterans. I can give dollars when I have them. And I can look them in the face with care and compassion and respect when I do. Today I’m sending out warm thoughts to all the homeless war veterans on our streets, who don’t have drunk uncles to complain about or canned yams to ridicule, or cool whip to embalm their innards pre-death. I am not thankful they fought for me because I would much rather they had all risen up and refused to go to war – but what they did for their country – is pretty huge. I am thankful they didn’t die and I wish for them that they find warm shelter, a good soup kitchen, and camaraderie. I wish for them that everyone who passes by them gives them all a dollar when they have one. I wish them peace, safety, and dreamless sleep.
I was going to list a bunch of things I’m thankful for but instead I’m going to actually say “Thank You” to all of you:
Thank you – to all of you who have supported and buoyed me up in the last few rough years. Sometimes it was a phone call from a close friend living a state away who just missed me and wanted to shoot the shit. Those calls often came at just the right time. Often I was propped up by the supportive people who read and comment on this blog, many of whom I’ve never met in person. Sometimes it was a ping from someone on facebook checking up on me at a dark moment. I can’t tell you how many times old friends and new have talked me off a ledge without even knowing I was so desperately in need of friendly chats because I was too ashamed to admit it at the time. Thank you to all of you who have stuck with me while I railed out with negativity and then laughed with me over penis jokes once the emotional storm passed. You’ve rallied around when I’ve worried, you’ve cheered me on when I’ve fallen down and am peeling myself off the pavement. You’ve said just the right thing to make me laugh at myself or at you. You’ve indulged my sharing of words I hate and words I love. You’ve indulged my late-night rants and all the excerpts from my novel. You’ve listened to me talk exhaustively about my preserving and food projects. All this time I have taken these offers of friendship, these tokens of care, and quietly treasured them. THANK YOU.
Thank you – to those of you who exposed my weaknesses in the last few years and forced me to see what I had to work on in myself. This is not me being a sarcastic asshole. Those who have hurt me have also helped me become a better person than I was before. Your exclusion and unkindness contributed to the first suicidal feelings I’ve felt since I was a teen, because there were a lot of you. Half of you were unkind without even thinking and that may have hurt more than the intentional knife twisting. To be so unaware of the feelings of people around you – is incredibly insulting to those you hurt. God it was bad – but all of this forced me to scour my conscience, to look at the small chambers of my heart and ask myself how I might expand them, to acknowledge my own intolerance and start finding ways to become more accepting and inclusive. I am just beginning to heal, but I can say that I have forgiven all of you, honestly, for the pain you caused whether you meant to or not. I have also asked forgiveness of many of you – though I will never know if it was granted. I will say it again – I hope that you’ll forgive me for my part in our experiences that were negative. Relationships are never one sided and I scratched and clawed and was mean when I felt hurt which is never a good way to handle things. I’m sorry for any hurt I may have caused you. It was poorly done of me. So THANK YOU – for making me face my shortcomings. I think my heart is a little bigger now, because of you all.
Thank you – to Philip and Max most of all. You are the best of the BEST of all people in the world. Thank you for not crowding me in when I cried, because you know I can’t stand it when anyone notices me crying – but you were always near-by to listen to me when I was ready to talk. Thank you for all the laughter – for the wonderful dinners out where we discussed the worst ways to die or we came up with our plan of survival for the zombie apocalypse. Thank you Max for always coming up with plans of punishment for the people who hurt me even though I had to explain all the time that I couldn’t condone plans of revenge. The one you came up with for the Chauvinist was the best. Lips are sealed. You are the sweetest most amazing kid a mom could have and now you’ve weathered me at my very worst and you were always telling me I wasn’t very fat and brought me flowers from the garden and forgave me instantly when we had a row. I hope that now you get to see me at my best. Thank you Philip for all the late nights drinking beer and talking politics and local gossip and art and writing. I am proud of how hard you worked for so little just to keep us going. I am proud of you as an artist and as a father. I literally want to strangle both of you at least once a week but I wouldn’t want any other husband or son because you two are the only ones for me. I just want to wring your – THANK YOU.
*I think everyone in this country deserves free excellent healthcare and social services to help them through this life we’re all living on top of each other – and I feel for ALL homeless people no matter what got them on the streets – I am only highlighting war veterans today because while we are not responsible for every person who ends up on the streets – war veterans have become needful and challenged specifically through the gnarly service they provided to their country and it is that work we asked of them to do that has broken them – that’s a direct line of responsibility.