A million years ago, before heading off to college on a journalism scholarship, my dad and I sat on my Gram’s porch swing swaying in the summer sun. In all likelihood, I crossed my arms at my chest and concentrated hard at finding my best resting bitch face. Sure, my nuclear family had imploded, but I wasn’t the only 18-year-old girl who would ever find out her parents were far, far from perfect. My dad was quick to remind me I was ready to set off on a new adventure.
As my sandals skimmed the cracked earth under the bench swing, I held tight to anger, refusing to let go even though the hollyhocks blowing in the August breeze a few feet away whispered peace and tranquility.
“You know,” my dad finally said, “It’s hard to feel sorry for yourself when you remember the things you have to be grateful for.”
I wanted to punch him in the face.
In my defense, a lot of shit went down in our family before my mom and dad declared Splitsville once and for all; but little did I know, they’d submerged me in too many platitudes of it could be worse; look on the bright side; on the other hand to dive into the dark and stay there forever.
Yet, I crammed my dad’s so-called words of wisdom down with all the other family secrets and decided I’d find my own luck, gratitude, or circus juggling clowns.
Fortunately, I grew up before I torched family ties, realized my parents did the best they could, and discovered life rarely ends with happily ever after, which brings more gratitude than expected.
You still won’t catch me saying, things happen for a reason, and quite frankly, it pisses me off to hear the words fall from someone’s mouth. 1) I refuse to believe in some sort of predestined bullshit, and 2) it promotes some sort of cruel creator, which I long ago kicked to the curb. I prefer to say, bad shit happens, and I hope to find a way to cope—preferably without copious amounts of tequila.
I found myself in reflection the past couple days. Not surprising since January 13 marks the 20th anniversary of our twins’ birth and death. Gut-wrenching tears long ago dried leaving nostalgia for what would never be. Yet, I wonder if this grief (or healing) is what now connects me to an ever-present sense of gratitude. I realize I am a better human being for having had the experience, which brought me the ability to sit comfortably in the uncomfortable with others who experience hard times.
But some mornings rise, and all the gratitude I can muster is that my dog didn’t puke on the floor in the middle of the night. Days like that, I hurry outside for a walk and fresh air. It doesn’t take long to find something—sun peeking through the trees, the resident eagle diving for a fish in the lake, somebody tripping and falling in front of me (yes, I’m just that sick).
Today is one of the so-so days. I’m certainly glad the dog didn’t urp on the floor, and I smile as she thumps her tail on her bed when she hears me rustle beside her; however, all I notice when I glance up from my writing desk are dreary slate skies and barren trees. But then I remember last week glancing up from the same vantage point to see the bald eagle soar past the window and know that he could return tomorrow.