It’s Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. today, when we are supposed to take stock of where we are and be thankful for what we have.
I’m in the middle of my 40’s, and I don’t know many people thankful for that. It’s also been a very difficult and transformative decade in my life. It would be easy to look around at the hardships and the tragedies and not be thankful for those.
But I am making a concerted effort to be positive. No one likes to be around a cranky bastard, and I am fortunate enough to live a in nice, warm house with enough to eat, and I’m healthy. The ailments from which I suffer are minor and bearable. Even the sciatica, which kicks my ass at random, unannounced times, can be managed with a little more sitting and the judicious application of ibuprofen (and sometimes vodka).
So despite my personal tragedies and not being rich, I really have a lot, if not to be thankful for, to not complain about.
Today, though, I’m going to take it a step further. Today, on Thanksgiving Day, I will take the horrific things that happened to me in the past five years, and I will make them things to be thankful for.
I do not believe that “everything happens for a reason” or that “God won’t give me more than I can handle.” There is no justifying bad stuff.
But I do believe you can make lemonade out of lemons (especially if you add vodka) and that a positive attitude makes anything easier to do.
So here’s my list of things I am thankful for, even though they hurt me.
I am thankful for betrayal.
I won’t go into detail on what happened and who was responsible in a public forum, but suffice to say I’ve endured a few of the most shocking betrayals of my life in the past five years.
I see better now. I watch more carefully. It’s not that I’m suspicious. I still genuinely believe in the basic goodness of most human beings.
But I don’t put up with bad situations for as long as I used to, and I am much more alert to danger signs than I used to be. I’d rather not have the scars that got me here, but at least they taught me something important I can use later.
I am thankful for bad relationships.
I spent most of my life in these. Some were worse than others. Some were better. All were at least 50% my fault.
But I have a much better idea of what I want from a relationship and how to get it. I am a better partner.
Most importantly, I learned not to stay in a relationship just to avoid being alone. I can be alone for awhile. Something better will come along eventually.
And being alone beats being miserable.
I am thankful for losing my job.
I got laid off in 2011. At the time, it was one of the worst things to ever happen to me. I’d been laid off before, but I was single this time. I was in debt. I had to rely on unemployment, and the payments were so small I was just subsisting, since I was trying to manage debt.
There is a certain freedom that comes from being absolutely screwed. When you hit bottom, virtually anything you choose is up. You can start completely over.
That’s what I did. I had dreamed most of my life of being a novelist. While I spent the days looking for a new gig, there was a lot of time I needed to fill.
The Brave New World of independent publishing was taking off, and I had most of the skill set necessary to jump in. So I did.
Three years in, I have 10 books for sale and another 13 on the way.
Getting laid off gave me the freedom to stop dreaming of being an author and to become one. I am nowhere near my goals for sustainability and sales, but I am so much happier doing this than selling my talent to write marketing copy.
I am thankful for being poor.
I’m actually not really poor. Not in the sense of living below the poverty line or needing state assistance to get by.
But I spent a year on unemployment, and I’m still trying to correct the financial mistakes I made following my divorce. Money remains tight every month.
And that’s taught me how to live within my means. If I’d understood what I do now five years ago, I wouldn’t be in his situation now. But I can now get a lot of mileage out of each dollar, and I’ve learned how to be entertained cheaply.
If I hadn’t made dumb decisions in 2009, ’10, and ’11, I’d have a lot more freedom now. But at least I learned how to be more careful with money and how to make it stretch as far as possible.
So there they are — things I’m thankful for that maybe I shouldn’t be. Sometimes I’m really resentful that this stuff happened to me. But I cannot change that they occurred, and I am trying to see how they put me where I am today.
And that place is mostly good — nice, warm house, enough to eat, healthy, loving wife, three children, three pets, and pursuing my dream. I’ll take it.
So I’m thankful.