On Guilt & Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today, like most other days, I’m thankful for all the big things that are so commonplace they seem little: my family; all the wonderful people I’ve met (that includes you, Mountain View REI staff!); and the struggle and sacrifice of all those who came before me, of those who continue the struggle today, and those who will continue to work towards justice and peace tomorrow.

Since we moved up to Washington, I’ve had to find myself again. This process of discovering and rediscovering who I am is self-renewing, and while sometimes it starts feeling old and tiring, the truth is that I hope it never stops. I hope to always be striving towards a better version of myself.

That said, I also regularly contend with feelings of guilt. I feel like I’ve dropped the ball. Outside of undergrad, I don’t feel like I have to fight so hard all the time. I get to be comfortable around other people. I’m allowing myself to feel like I can just be. This is largely freeing, but it’s double-edged. I haven’t been protesting. I haven’t even been reading history or theory. My satisfaction in just being is currently bound to an exhaustion so thorough that sometimes I can’t even speak. But that exhaustion has given me the space to enjoy all of things I used to take for granted: the feeling of air moving in and out of my lungs, the studied loosening of my muscles, the kindness of the people around me. In a way, I feel like I am living what I read about in school—embodying phenomenological ethics. And what really amazes me about living like this is how foundational it is. How did I not see, for all of these years, that before history or theory or critical papers on current events there has to be this. This foundation of spirituality and a deep, expansive questioning of the way one chooses to be in this world.

I don’t know if this process will leave me any richer. It seems greedy to ask for more when I already have so much. So I’m willing to take what I’m given and ask that my heart stays open to all the unexpected things this life has to offer.

And every day I try to be mindfully thankful for all of the work, all of the heartache, all of the love that this land, all people, and God have provided me, because they all are responsible for where and who I am today.

On Recognizing Grace

I dropped out of grad school with the intention of focusing on my writing. I now understand that this is basically a modified version of what happens when you’re having a bad day and so you say, “well, at least things can’t get any worse,” and then Murphy’s Law kicks in and you quickly realize how much worse things can actually get. Needless to say, I haven’t been writing much. However, I have been learning quite a bit about survival. I’m pretty sure that bound up in this learning process is the companion process of generating a newer version of myself. In case you’ve never felt your own chrysalis, let me tell you, it is exhilarating at best but mostly it is exhausting.

I’ve been working quite a bit more, and the change in location has dramatically changed the nature of my job. I suppose that is something that I should have expected, but obviously I did not. I miss my old store very much, but I don’t know if I’d feel the same if I stayed for a year or two or ten. (Just between you and me, I think it’s probable that I would miss everyone there even more than I do already, but who’s to say?) All this talk may make it seem as if I’m disenchanted with my new life, but that can’t be true. I am constantly surprised by the warmth and camaraderie of my new co-workers. Mostly, I wish that I could have more opportunities for time outside of work with them, but schedules are what they are.

After I dropped out of grad school and realized just how radically my life had changed, I entered into an intense information-gathering phase. Research, that old holdover, has maintained its place as the ever-present silver lining in my new life. I have been talking to as many people as I can about their lives, their choices, and their feelings. I am in the final rounds of an information-gorging contest. My competitors are all of my old selves, and who I’m becoming is slowly emerging, triumphant.

The most difficult part of this process is the amount of trial and error it takes, but the abundant information I always gather always makes the pain of trial and error worth it.

 

There are many things still cooking in me—easy things like the characters in my comic book or the feel each story necessitates; and more difficult things like what I need to do to craft a fulfilling future and how to rely more honestly on God. However, there is one thing I know with a steely certainly I did not feel before. It is this:

Some people will tell you that commonplace, mundane things like being in a committed relationship or familial obligation or reaching out to others aren’t difficult. These statements may leave you feeling as if you are somehow less-than, but you aren’t. Life and everything we do in it is incredibly fragile. It deserves respect. We deserve respect.

I sometimes look at Chris and marvel at how we got here—how he has become this other part of me that constantly challenges me to be better within the context of all of the times this life we made together came so close to destroying us both. How does that happen? And how can it be that I know in my bones that everything of any beauty I have grew into that beauty after being fertilized by my tears?

No matter how I know, now I know. And that knowledge gives me patience, reaches out my hand, and makes me see and appreciate each graceful act all the more.