A Funny Kind of Gratitude

Amidst my fixations on the difficulties and opportunities for disaster that seem to pop up nearly every time my outlook approaches a point of genuine positivity and excitement, I have so, so, soooo many things to be grateful for. When I try to “count my blessings,” as they say, I am invariably overwhelmed by my fortune and have to go remember all the shitty parts of my life so I don’t burst with gratitude.

I’m kidding; that kind of overpowering sentiment is ALWAYS welcome into my consciousness with an open door and all the accommodations.

When I’m stuck in my little whirlwinds of panic, my mom tells me to “get bigger” and get outside myself. Honestly, this advice makes me a little annoyed, because when I’m hosting a pity party I really don’t want to be reminded of the incredibly vast and mystifying world that doesn’t include my endless, larger-than-life personal problems. Really, her advice makes me mad because of course I know she’s right; I don’t even try to deny it, I just resort to screaming “I don’t WANT to go outside!” Which is an obvious indication of my delusion and utter wrongness.

But in those moments of lucidity, of acceptance and fulfillment — aka after drinking coffee — I simply want to twirl around in my dress of clouds and sun rays in the field of laughter and collect a line dance of thankful people smiling so hard the only thing left is sore cheeks.

I’m just glad that that fairyland — the real world, as far as I’m concerned — can peek through the fog sometimes.

Because the truth is, when I look up from my feet shuffling along the tundra and notice the untouched mountains stretching to the ends of the earth and the minute stream trickling through the moss and the rich, just-budding alpine flowers opening their baby-flower eyes, I have absolutely no choice but to believe in magic.

There’s just no other explanation for the utter love I feel in the midst of a laughing fit so intense my breath takes an unpaid vacation and my eyes stream with the shared understanding of a joke that was, in reality, probably pretty lame. There’s no other explanation for the existence of a miniature floating mermaid house that doubles as a sauna or a glorified tree(lake)house. (See below)

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There’s no explanation devoid of magic for the beauty in becoming a silhouette with my sister lost in the clouds.

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When I read the works of a master or praise myself for a thoughtful gift-giving job well done or witness the authentic happiness of someone I care about or realize I overcame a crippling obstacle or stop to take in the utopia of wilderness I somehow gained the privilege to enter, that other, very real place of desperation and solitude becomes simply another ingredient in the magic.

If I didn’t know suffering, I would never be able to find inside me the understanding of the freezing homeless man stuck in a thankless refuge of alcohol or the glacier melting without ever being asked if it may have wanted to stick around and contribute to the ecosystem for a while longer. I would never be able to appreciate the extreme stroke of luck I encountered to be born into a situation of such freedom and fortuity. I would never fully experience my heartfelt compassion for the friend who will live the rest of her life without a mom or the kid who just couldn’t care less that he wears the same stinky clothes to school everyday because he’s a hell of a lot more concerned with staying away from his loveless and dangerous home.

I’m not saying I know what it’s like to be in any of these situations. I hope I never do. But my own suffering, however pathetic or self-imposed, has opened a whole world of feeling that adds an invaluable layer of depth to my own experience. I can understand the irrational obsessions and idiosyncrasies of someone I’ve never met. I am no longer grossed out or condescendingly perplexed by compulsions or socially unacceptable actions. When I find myself judging someone on their physical appearance or food choice, for example, I make a concerted effort to stop and remind myself that while I remain an irrevocably opinionated person and may not be able to completely halt those judgments, I actually, truly, do NOT believe in their validity and that perception will NOT dictate my understanding of those people.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still harshly judgmental and make fun of strange occurrences all the time, almost subconsciously. It’s ingrained in our psyche to have an unacknowledged superiority complex lying under the thick strata of self-deprecation, and I am by NO MEANS an exception. I’m moody and volatile and selfish and secretive and close-minded.

But my acquaintance with shameful despair and bottomless doubt has exposed me to the nuance that makes the colors brighter and the sounds harsher, the wind colder and the boredom longer. It makes the disappointment greater, the tears saltier, and the apathetic insults cut a little deeper.

In essence, sorrow makes life sharper, and living in a blurry state of delusion is only half the human experience. (There is a time and a place for delusion, without a doubt).

I’m not to that annoyingly contented point where I can say I’m thankful for the hard stuff and I wouldn’t change my struggles because they’ve made me who I am today. (Annoying because we’re all jealous of people who feel comfortable with themselves and their situations). I’m definitely not there yet.

I’m just thankful I’m taking the time right now to remember the feeling of a heart ready to explode with the fullness of circulation.

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