Being Grateful for a Winding Journey

November 1st is an unspoken magical date.  The clock strikes midnight and suddenly Fall is over. You thought we had another month? No. Time for mistletoe and holly. Starbucks has their red cups. Halloween was basically months ago.  You brace yourself for the holiday rush, because before you can put away your fake spider webs and jack-o-lanterns, the Christmas commercials will come streaming into your living room. Commercials of beautiful, happy families tearing into glittering gift wrap.  A wife in her pajamas is surprised by her dream car topped with a gargantuan red bow (“Merry Christmas, honey! I made a huge financial decision without talking to you about it so…..we don’t go on vacation this year.  Also, we’re going to have to sell your great-grandmas dresser on Craigslist.”)  It’s perhaps the most picture perfect time of the year, and the pressures of the holiday season are on us before we even start to scope out our Butterball guest of honor.

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That snow isn’t real. Its potato flakes.

I talk a lot about the journey to accept the skin you’re in and how it has shaped you.  But some things are even harder to learn to love about ourselves, and they can’t be seen. It isn’t apparent in our scars or little bit of excess tummy fat.  It’s the part of us that makes our brains tick, our nerves rattle, and our hearts want love.  Those parts are often hard to pinpoint, and even harder to accept:  Anxiety, feelings of inadequacy, Impostor Syndrome, Depression.  The quiet words that sneak into your head when you lay awake at night.  Have you ever noticed those voices get a little louder when you’re under stress?   Have you ever noticed this time of year tends to breed a lot more….stress? November is a time to reflect on all you have, but that can be really hard when it falls during the most hectic final two months of the year.  Work parties, visiting family, hosting your first Thanksgiving, finding a Pinterest perfect item to bring to Friendsgiving, and being reminded every time you scroll through your phone how #Grateful and #Blessed everyone is…it’s a lot.  So for myself, I find that the thing I can be the most grateful for isn’t the “things” at all, it’s the journey I’m already on.

This time last year, I was living in an apartment with an air mattress, a free Craigslist dresser, and a kitchen table I bought for $30.00. I didn’t have furniture, so I spent a lot of time sitting at my kitchen table on an ever so comfortable plastic chair.  I spent six months like that, including Thanksgiving. I had no explanation when my little niece was astonished that I still slept on an air mattress, other than “Yeah….grown up life is hard. Don’t do it!”  While I didn’t love waking up about 40% of the time sleeping on the floor courtesy of my leaky air mattress, I did love that for the first time in my life, at 27, I had a place of my own. It was empty, with no furniture, tv, or cookware, but it was mine.  My needs were all met. I was safe, and warm, and had food in my fridge and a place to lay my head at night.  Those things sound really basic don’t they? But while we are busy fretting about how long you ACTUALLY cook a turkey, over forty million Americans don’t have many of those things.

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I lived in this spot. Never underestimate the kitchen table.

This year is much different.  I’m sitting at my desk, in my apartment with just about everything I think I could ever need, and plenty that I don’t.  Watching tv on the sofa is such a small comfort …..but when I think about a time I didn’t have it, it’s that much nicer to stretch out and watch Jerry Seinfeld navigate blind dates and car dealerships.    We will never have all the things we want, that’s part of human nature.  Maybe this year is extra hard for you. It might be the first year without a loved one, or you’re wondering how you will make ends meet this month.  Maybe THIS year will be the one you will look back on someday, when you’re reflecting on how far you’ve come. And that’s ok, too.

So if this November finds you without the things you want or thought you should have had by now, soak it in. Remember how it feels, it will make having those things that much better. A life story worth telling never went something like “I tried one thing in life and actually it went really well and I never had to try anything again and now here we are.”  Here is my challenge. When you’re sitting alone having quiet time, look around you.  I think you’ll find left and right there are grateful reminders. Not just of what you have, but what you’ve done, where you’ve been, and who you are. Don’t look for perfection, look for “Better than it once was.”  All around you are the signs.  Maybe it’s a picture with a friend, the memory of a road trip where you ran out of gas but still had fun, or a perfect afternoon you got to spend with your mom (can we all agree there aren’t nearly enough of those in adulthood?!).  This is what it’s about. That’s why I’m grateful for the ever winding, slower than we all expected, with plenty of dead ends, journey.

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This was taken right after I spread a friends ashes in the mountains. He’s gone, but I’m forever grateful for the part he played in my journey.

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