Secret Pop

Nov 28, 2003

Give Thanks

My mother has the best self-image of anyone I know. No one pays her more compliments than she does, and they are well-deserved. When I was finishing getting dressed and she was flitting from station to station of her Thanksgiving dinner preparations like a bee attending to a field of flora, she was assessing each thing that was in progress and exclaiming, "Perfect!...Perfect!...Perfect!" She presented an extraordinarily beautiful meal, and no one knew it better than she did. I admire her for that. And also chuckle with affectionate amusement.

At the table, we did that sort of forced tradition of going round and having each person cite the the things for which they are giving thanks, and that was a tender thing. I found myself censoring my words, not wanting to flood myself with emotion. I realized that we are predisposed to listing the perfunctory things: family, health, the weather, a job, a car that runs, the successes we've had. When it was my dad's turn he reminded us that we should also be thankful for the failures, for the things that made the year difficult. He cited the biblical admonition that we should give thanks in all things. And in my head, I noted that, when it was my turn, I had had to stop myself from saying, "I am thankful for the chance for a better tomorrow." Maybe I didn't say it because it sounded like an ad from the American Plastics Council. But really, I didn't say it because I didn't want to fog up and get misty-eyed, knowing in my quiet interior that this year has held a great deal of disappointment and suffering and that I am fully prepared to be grateful for it because I know that the tempering pays off. It would have sounded cheap. And I would have been uncomfortable with the sincerity, so I probably would have followed it up with some crap joke to deflect the urgency of my loved ones' attention. That's what happens when things get a little too real.

I was tired for most of the day. And the vagueness of scheduled interludes made it impossible for me to take the typical post-turkey nap. And I had a few invitations to "stop by" at various spots. And I saw that they were all accepted and fulfilled.

When I stopped by the after-dinner wind-down of my friends from the comedy theater, I felt delighted when people laughed at nearly everything I said. It was an effortless sort of reminder that maybe I'm good at this after all. A very young, very cute Navy dude got a little too much Crown Royal under his skin and spent a portion of the evening trying to woo me with endearingly clumsy banter and a bizarre display of one-armed push-ups. He expressed disappointment when I was leaving, and I deferred to my need for sleep. He whispered in my ear in a slow, slurred fashion, "You can sleep...when you're dead." I said, "That's true. And a little bit creepy when whispered like that." I had just met him, and he did spend a few sentences talking about the types of rifle he shoots, after all.

Lia called as I was leaving and invited me to stop by a surprisingly well-attended Nunu's for a late drink with friends I've mostly met. I was momentarily indecisive, but I resolved to have only one and was true to my word. I told the people at our table about my mother's self-confident exclamations earlier in the day, and a few of those in attendance said that I come across as very confident and self-assured, too, and it was said in an entirely complimentary way. I agreed that this is true of me in certain situations. And I realized that I have it in me to be in better command of my faculties than I sometimes am. That I am indeed a competent and confident girl in many situations, but that I sometimes allow things to get the best of me. That in certain settings, I melt into a sort of quivering, amorphous soup of insecurity and uncertainty, desiring nothing more than the assurance that I needn't be so afraid. The contrast is stark, and not very many people have a chance to witness it.

So now, before I get any closer to next year's table, I think I can acknowledge that I am grateful for revelations. Even those that I didn't seek. Even those that I would prefer not to face. I am thankful to have the chance to learn something and change things and fix my missteps. I am thankful that sometimes it actually is like a Choose Your Own Adventure, which -- with the artful use of Post-It Notes -- can nearly always be steered full throttle into the happy ending slip. I am thankful that I can choose at all.

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