A Lil Holiday Gratitude

I’m a sucker for gratitude. Some of you probably want to vomit every time you see yet another “how to practice gratitude” infographic but developing a gratitude practice over these past ~5 years has undoubtedly had a positive impact on my life, and so I will continue to preach the gratitude gospel. (Ooooooh, I like that: “gratitude gospel.” Nice lil alliteration for ya.)

As someone who is prone to picking myself apart, beating myself up, and focusing on my flaws, a gratitude practice provides an amazing respite from thinking about myself all the time and all the ways I am wrong or bad or stupid or worthless.

Before I get too on-my-soapbox about gratitude and how it’s changed my life for the better, I want to share the gratitude prompts I responded to in my journal this morning. Because it’s the holiday season and things are kind of hard I’ve been spending extra time in the morning on my practice. (Fuck- I hate the word “practice.” It makes it sound like a freakin’ chore or like some fancy-ass routine when really it’s just taking 30 seconds to acknowledge some good shit in your life…I don’t wanna be the “practice” person…like, I don’t even do yoga…)

A Person I’m Glad to Have in My Life
The best part about this prompt is that I could answer it with one of 30+ people because I am forever blessed with the most amazing friends and family. Hella gratitude!!!!!! But for the sake of being more specific today I’m going to answer with Thomas because I had an extra moment of gratitude for him last night. I was listening to a podcast on which two women (probably about my age) were discussing how many guys they had been on dates with who told them they were “too much,” or who had ended the relationship because the woman’s aspirations for herself and her career were “unattractive.” I’ve heard that sentiment expressed many times in many places: that a woman is told she is “too much” and she then carries that insecurity around with her eternally, or that a woman has diminished herself to appease a man. In listening to these girls talk about their personal experiences with men like this I thought to myself, “How lucky am I to have a partner who has never made me feel that way.” Thomas supports me in any dream I have for myself and, if anything, he prefers when I’m *loud* because – his words, not mine – “someone has to keep the conversation going.” Anyway, I’m thankful I found a partner who doesn’t make me feel like I need to diminish myself because I’ve felt that before and it sucks. And my wish for all women (and everyone else, really) is that they surround themselves with people who never make them feel that they need to be different.

A Future Event I’m Excited For
Visiting Leslie in London. This is a totally nebulous event, by the way – there are no plane tickets booked or dates decided (for obvious reasons) but it makes me happy to think about a time in the hopefully near future in which we are in London together. Activities include: jogging around various London parks, drinking wine, watching dumb TV shows on the couch, admiring flowers, eating my “favourite” white chocolate Milky buttons, drinking coffee, watching sunrises and sunsets.

Some Positive News I Received Recently
That I will get to lead another support group in the new year for those in recovery from eating disorders! (For the past few years I’ve led community support groups for individuals who can’t otherwise afford treatment, and I was selected to lead more groups in the coming year! Woo!)

A Memory That Makes Me Smile
I have been thinking a lot about previous Christmases and how lucky I’ve been to spend so many of them with family and in amazing places. This year Thomas and I are celebrating in Berkeley and of course we both miss our families (stay tuned for how much of an eight-person meal the two of us can eat) but instead of being sad about not being able to be with them I’ve been remembering the wonderful times we were able to spend together. Two years ago we spent Christmas with Thomas’ extended family in Belgium and I have the best memories of the dinners we ate together. I remember in particular a dinner we had at his grandparent’s house and – after Grapa was extremely generous with the wine, as usual – dancing in the kitchen with Thomas’ dad, uncle, and grandparents to Dire Straits. A lot of the time I spend with his family in Belgium is marked by me feeling stupid for being unable to understand the conversations being held French (why didn’t I pay better attention in high school!!!!!) so it felt amazing to connect with everyone through music (#theuniversallanguage). I have a picture of that moment, all of our teeth stained red from the wine and cheeks flushed pink from dancing, and am grateful to have this memory to carry with me.

To the Mountains…

Thanks, Spotify, for letting me know that Puddle of Mudd’s “Blurry” was one of my top played songs in 2019. I’m not sure what that says about how I’ve emotionally progressed since middle school, but make of it what you will. I wonder how many of Spotify’s “Top Songs of the Year” playlists create a virtuous cycle in which you listen primarily to that playlist the following year, causing your “Top Songs” for that next year to be the same list. Another question I have is why every single white girl I know had at least one – if not many – Maggie Rogers songs featured on her Top Songs of 2019. Has anyone written a think piece about her appeal to the white, privileged female audience? (This isn’t a knock on her or anyone who listens to her – I enjoy her music myself – but genuine curiosity).

While I always enjoy my yearly recap of top songs, this year’s was especially interesting as it featured a look back on my top songs and artists of the decade as well as top tracks by season. It’s crazy how these songs correlate to specific seasons (literally and metaphorically) of my life. For example: I had MUNA’s new album on repeat during my four month injury recovery because it filled me with a kind of excitement and movement and hope despite not being able to leave the couch. Ben Howard features prominently on these playlists as well, and I can pinpoint the weeks of time when I had a certain song of his on repeat (literally, on loop for hours on end) and remember in detail the walks I went on while listening to it and what I was thinking about and what streets I explored and what the sunset looked like that night. Spotify has named these personalized, curated throwback playlists “Your Time Capsule” which might be the best way to describe music’s function for me: the facilitator of connection between myself and a place, or people, or emotion at a given time.

Kinda nuts to think about what my life would look like without music. Pretty empty, I imagine.

Anyway. I’m in the car with Thomas and Aaron; it’s late on a Thursday night and we’re driving up to Lake Tahoe for the weekend. I’m psyched for some mountains. And some beer. And an opportunity to wear fuzzy socks without my feet overheating. That last item there is what the holiday season is all about. I take that back – it’s also about stressing for weeks prior because you don’t have gifts for anyone and, if you do happen to have a gift, it’s not nearly exciting enough and you’ll need to supplement it with something else otherwise they will be disappointed and won’t love you. Don’t mind me, I’m just over here getting in the holiday spirit! Living in fear of letting everyone down and being abandoned! Ho ho ho!

Here’s a question for everyone: what’s your favorite holiday tradition? I need to lock down some new “traditions” for Thomas and I that I’ll force him to endure each year so that I feel fun and festive and like we’re a family who has traditions. The only one I attempted to institute this Thanksgiving was “give a speech before dinner about what you’re thankful for” but that didn’t work out because Thomas didn’t want to participate and sat there stubbornly until we all got too hungry and started to eat. (It should be noted that I even prompted him by saying, “You could say you’re grateful for me,” to which he responded, “I’m grateful that you have me.” I suppose I signed up for this.)

We’re cruising down 80 now and Aaron’s playing the kind of folk/rock-ish music that I only enjoy when driving to the mountains (think Silversun Pickups kinda stuff). It’s pitch black; I’m used to the bright overhead lights of Connecticut’s I-95 and am always overwhelmed by the feeling of isolation that washes over you on these dark, lonely roads. We pass the small towns that make me sad at night but transform into beauty and safety and light in the morning. I’m lucky to be in good company.