I've done more than my fair share of soul searching these past few months, spending a lot of time thinking about what my life needs to look like in 2012.
I've come to many realizations, and let many things drift from me. I've realized what I am thankful to have, and what I am thankful to see go. I've surveyed the good and bad stretches in my past, and drawn from it the building blocks of what looks to be a great year ahead.
I've had some tough times in the past few years, and some of what I am about to say won't resonate with some of you. That certainly doesn't mean that you shouldn't continue reading this post, because I believe at one point or another, we all WILL go through something like this, and hopefully what I have to say will help them make sense of their feelings at that time.
I believe every person, no matter who they are or where they come from, will have a moment when everything that they hold dear will temporarily (or permanently) leave them.
I had such an experience, and honestly wasn't sure what to do with myself. In the grand scheme of things, going through a divorce that you didn't see coming after 10 years may not sound as severe as other forms of loss.
I won't try to tell you otherwise, because it would be impossible for me to put another persons pain into words. I could try, but it's extremely difficult to capture one emotional variation out of an infinite possibilities using just the 26 characters of the English alphabet.
The loss hurt me deeply at the time because my family was everything to me. It hurt me, but more importantly-It changed me.
I can't make you feel what I felt, but I can talk about my emotions at the time and try to use them to explain my thankfulness for everything I now have this year. You really can't be thankful, at least in my eyes, unless you truly understand the worth of something. I'm tempted to dig into my thoughts on gifts, but I don't want to venture into Christmas territory until Christmastime. I know, novel territory lately if you watch much TV.
A gift, in the rudimentary sense, is something that you receive because the person giving it to you hopes that it will bring you some measure of joy or relief. They want to show you gratitude for what you mean to them, and repay the kindness you have shown them. A pair of socks may not be a joy to unwrap, but a relief when your toe bursts through your last pair. A cup of water may not be worth much in Central Maine, but is priceless at the center of the Sahara. A brand new bike brings joy to a child because they anticipate the amount of fun they will have riding it.
What i'm referring, of course, is context. The context of a gift is the antithesis to the context of loss. If you lose something that you could care less about, it bears little impact on your life, and isn't missed. If you are then given something of equal monetary value that you need or find interesting, you are thankful. This, I believe, is the equalizing force of reality. Various religions personify this in different ways, such as "The lord giveth, the good lord taketh away", or the concept of Karma. The underlying concept is the same.
Taken in the correct context, differing objects of equal value can impact our lives in very different ways.
Why did I just go into this long diatribe regarding loss, giving, and context?
Simple. You remember my earlier statements about going through my divorce? I lost alot at that time in my life. I lost my wife, who I loved deeply at the time. My son, who I used to be nearly inseparable from, now spends half of his time with my x-wife, and half with me.
The one thing that I valued most in this world was taken from me, and I didn't know how to fill that hole in my life. It felt like I had lost my identity, enough of myself that I spent many nights simply sitting on the wooden steps of what used to be my front deck simply looking at the stars, empty inside.
I didn't really expect my time with the stars to fix any of my personal problems, and it wasn't until last night that I realized what comforted me so much as I looked up at them. After I loaded the wood stove last night, I took advantage of the clear early winter air to survey the stars in the sky.
It felt like I hadn't seen them in a very long time, yet at the same time I had a sense of deja-vu. It took me a minute, but I came to understand that the sense of seeing something again that I couldn't place in memory was from those countless nights sitting on those steps. My chest started to tighten a little, but after a moment it went away. I realized that I had come a long way since that time in my life personally, as well as emotionally.
To put it another way, I had gained context, or perspective, over that pain and had overcome it.
Once I was on that line of thought, the last piece of the puzzle fell into place, and this is also the key piece in the puzzle of what I want to convey here.
The stars, in their near infinite grandeur, had shown me how insignificant I was, and by extension my pain. Sure, while I was wallowing in self pity and confusion it seemed all-encompassing, but the further I stepped back, the less significant it became. I had thought it was the beauty of the lights in the sky that had helped me through it, but it wasn't that. It was in how they belittled my fear, my pain, and me along with it.
On a subconscious level, I had to have seen this, but a midst it all, I simply took comfort where I could find it. Understanding came later. I am thankful for this understanding. Those of you that know me well already know how much I like to be able to wrap my head around things.
I am thankful for my son, who shows me every day how brave, and how much stronger he is at 10 years old than I have ever been. I love you Bud.
I am thankful for my family, who have given me more than I can ever repay, and have stood by me through my darkest days and let me know that things would get better. I'm not sure I could have done it without you.
I am thankful to my friends, for humoring me as I complained, shared my disbelief at how selfishly one human being could act towards another, and showed me ways to laugh about it all even when my heart was convinced what I really needed to do was cry.
I am thankful for time, giver of perspective and healer of wounds. There is plenty of pain in the world today, most of it on a scale that I will never comprehend. People are losing homes that they can no longer afford through no fault of their own. Loved ones are lost, and no reasonable explanation can be given as to why.
And I am thankful to all of you that give of yourselves, and your families that support you as you do so. This includes those of you that look out for those less fortunate, and members of our armed forces.
Our Military spend their Thanksgiving in a foreign land and away from their families, facing death every moment of every day so that 32 year old aspiring writers can write lengthy blog posts about how he endured obstacles that pale in comparison to missing the birth of their child, or missing an opportunity to help a loved one when they needed most.
I am thankful for all that I have, and also for all that I have lost. The losses have given me the perspective needed to appreciate all that I still have. I've come to realize that life is a circle, and love a form of energy. Like energy, when love is lost another form of love almost always takes it's place, if you let it.
Lastly, I am thankful for those of you willing to read this blog, the stories I have written, as well as those yet to come. You have given me an outlet to share my love, my malice, my nightmares, and my dreams. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart, and hope that I can continue to entertain you in some small way in the future.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving, one and all......