I woke up this Thanksgiving in a bed not my own, with my Matt and my dog sprawled out like sailors after a hard nights leave. We’re staying in my best friend’s mother’s home, and I am so grateful to her and to him and the village we’ve created that has enabled this year’s mantra: “Have dog, have husband, will travel.”
For a while I kept a daily gratitude book. Each day I would write three things that I was grateful for in a journal before bed. Oftentimes those things were a little, well, underwhelming: Running water. A working laundry machine (after having a broken one sitting in my living room for a week). Being alive.
Some days, those most basic things are the best you can do. Be grateful to wake up. Be grateful to the genius who invented Netflix. Sometimes, that’s enough. Acknowledging gratitude to anyone makes you feel a part of the world.
As I kept the journal, I realized I got better at being grateful. The mundane were replaced with just as small of things, but slightly elevated: Grateful for the yellow forsythia on my walk across the 26th Street Bridge. Grateful for the older man I passed nearly every morning on my run, with whom I’d share a huge smile and a little unspoken, “Go get ‘em, tiger.”
I fell out of the routine, but on this day, I’m going to write a list. It’s a long one. Bear with me.
The woman whose house I’m calling home this week? I’m grateful for her. She gave me my first internship in Washington, and since then has been my quiet cheerleader and champion. She introduced me to future bosses, possible sources, dentists and real estate agents. She has been a powerful woman working for powerful people since 1981 and has shown by example how to manage up, how to lead, and how to set barriers with grace.
Her son, my best friend? There are few times you use the phrase, “I don’t know where I’d be without them.” But it is wholly accurate assigned to him. From literally rescuing me from bad situations, to endlessly debating pros and cons of all minor and major life decisions, to showing me by example and by force how to inhabit the good life, I’m grateful to have stumbled into him, quite literally, one day in college.
The duo described above let me host my eighth annual Fakesgiving dinner in their home. I’m grateful to them for being a part of this dinner from the start, and for letting me take over the kitchen for 36 hours to host my favorite party of the year in the year that I don’t have a home. I’m grateful to the 35 people who came to dinner on Tuesday.
I’m grateful to my parents, who travel to Washington two nights early each year for Fakesgiving. I’m grateful that they know my friends, and care enough to keep up with them not just once a year but on Instagram (even if my mom does occasinally get a little loose with her DMs) and over text. My parents are better travlers than anyone else I know (yes, retirement enables that), and they meet up with friends across the country. It is so special when the people you love love the people you love, just because they’re yours. And the ones they don’t? Well, my mother’s always been a better judge of character than myself – but she’s also almost always let me figure that out for myself.
I’m grateful to my husband, who woke up Tuesday morning saying, “It’s the best day of the year,” knowing how important Fakesgiving was. Especially this year, when it is the most normal thing about our Fall, given that we’re homeless. I’m grateful that he treats the party like my Super Bowl, and does it in a way that makes me feel empowered rather than silly (and I do, often, hear my curmedgeonly inner critic telling me that it’s just a party, it’s just a dinner, nothing to be proud of, it’s not like you’re a chef). I’m grateful that I have friends literally around the world who check in on the menu and genuinely care which new recipes I’m planning to try. I’m just as grateful that they understand when I don’t answer the phone, it’s because I’m sticking to my minute-by-minute spreadsheet.
I’m grateful to my executive coach, who talks about my inner critic with me like he’s a guy we both met at a bar once. She gives him a voice, so that I can use my voice to put him down. Right this very moment he’s got a cigar in one side of his mouth and through the other is saying, “Good God, milennials. An executive coach? You’re not an executive, you’re just a girl with a keyboard. Harrumph.”
I’m grateful to be in a financial position that allows an indulgence like an executive coach. At 30, I thought I’d know what I wanted to be when I grew up. But I did that, and didn’t want to keep doing that. So I’m back to square one, but this time, I’m thankful to have the means to go about discovering whatever “it” is with the help of an adviser who has made me better at the job I am doing, and makes me better at knowing myself so perhaps I’ll discover what it is I want to be next.
I’m grateful to the friends who indulge navel-gazing. I am so fortunate in so many ways and it feels incredibly indulgent to say, “I want more” when I have so much. But I’m lucky to be surrounded by a posse of badass women who say it’s okay to want more.
I’m grateful to the successful women I’ve worked with who aren’t afraid to tell me, though, that I probably can’t have “it all.” When a correspondent told me at 25 that she thinks women can have it all, so long as they’re prepared to feel like they’re never doing all of it well all the time, I was terrified. Frankly, I still am. But I’m glad she told me that, because from where I was standing, it always looked like she was doing it all brilliantly.
I’m thankful for the possibilities laying ahead of me. A new house is a certainty, and I can’t wait for it – even if the debt and the construction hiccups weigh on me like an elephant. A new job for me? Perhaps. A small business with my husband? Maybe. A child? Perhaps. There’s a lot to look forward to, and almost none of it is clear. But I’m grateful, today, right now, for the possibilities.
Tomorrow, I might be anxious and afraid because of our fuzzy, foggy future. Today though I’m looking ahead at the endless possibilities, around me at the friends and family and colleagues and random strangers on the Canal towpath that show me kindness and love, and feeling like with this posse, whatever’s going to happen is going to work out just fine. Especially if I can tell that man at the bar with the cigar to shut up, he’s wrong.
Alicia Amling View All →
Recovering journalist who discovered a life outside of news leaves you time for things like getting angry, cooking and traveling. Plus, hopefully, writing. I’m a wife, dog mom and Washingtonian.
Alicia, here’s to a healthy gratitude practice, to family and friends, to taming our gremlin, and to all the people who touch our lives in subtle ad magnificent ways. I am grateful to know you. Happy Thanksgiving!