By Jen Pastiloff.
I wrote this for Thanksgiving but hey, it’s still close enough to Thanksgiving. It’s “Cyber Monday.” Who the hell uses the word “cyber” anymore, anyway? Happy Cyber Monday! Another reason to shop! This is America!
This was my T-Day post:
Sometimes it’s hard to be grateful. Two of my friends just lost their sisters two days apart, right before Thanksgiving. This little boy, Benny, the one I posted about a few weeks ago (click here to donate), is legally blind, has Prader Willi Syndrome like my nephew Blaise, has had fifteen surgeries on his back, and now, just last month, had an accident that left him paralyzed. Happy Thanksgiving.
But the thing is, and I mean, this really is the crux of my forthcoming book Beauty Hunting – we must find the good in the bad, we must find the slivers of beauty in the pain, we must find what we have to be grateful for. Otherwise – life is torturous and ugly and mean and filled with pot-holes.
I created this series I’ve written about called “The Don’t Be An Asshole” series or otherwise known as The DBAA Series, whereupon I make fun of myself. I call myself out. I hope to lead by example and remind us all not to take ourselves so seriously, because hey, life sure can suck at times already. Why should we add to that suckiness?
Tonight, someone posted this on my Facebook page and it immediately felt like a Thanksgiving post to me. I felt grateful to Kathleen Emmets for writing it and for her father and for all the good in the world. For all the people who are willing to open their eyes. For all the people willing to see the humanity in someone else.
Here is what she posted:
Dear Jen, I was thinking of you the other day. I was going to post a ‘don’t be an asshole’ video to you myself. I was at a gas station and this middle aged man was pumping my gas in the freezing cold NY weather. He wouldn’t make eye contact with me as he took out his squeegee and cleaned my window. It reminded me of my dad, who worked three jobs to put me through private school. One of his jobs was a night janitor at a bank. He was embarrassed that he cleaned floors and wouldn’t tell people what he did for a living. I didn’t care though. Sometimes he would take me with him so we could spend time together. He let me stand on the floor buffer as he polished the floors and we pretended we were dancing. I didn’t see a ‘janitor’. I saw my dad.
I smiled at this man, I wanted him to know I saw him. SAW HIM. As a person. Not just someone cleaning my window. A human being. People were assholes to my dad. They didn’t see a man putting food on his table; doing an honest day’s work. They saw someone who just emptied trash cans. My life is what it is because I stand on his shoulders. I had a private school education and no student loans because of those nights cleaning floors, parking cars and delivering laundry. Thanks for making me think of that. Thanks for ensuring that there are fewer assholes in this world. Xo Kathleen.
I was so moved. I am grateful to Kathleen and her dad and the man with the squeegee and for the power of stories and awareness. I am grateful for awareness.
I know life can be hard. I can get sucked into seeing only that hardness a lot of the time. But there’s so much other stuff. There’s the man dancing with his daughter in the empty bank over by the trashcans. There’s the little boy in the hospital who can’t move his legs but still lights up when he gets a princess doll.
I’ve also been thinking about that platitude What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I posted this on Facebook recently: “Have you ever had an experience where you felt like you might die (literally or not) and yet…Here you are. Share below.”
And what people shared was astounding. So I thought that that statement might be better: What doesn’t kill you makes you grateful.
Here are a few of the things that people posted on my Facebook page:
Daryl V. Allen- I was riding my Harley in 2005…had a car stop on front of me…I swerved to miss it, as I got to the car…it started moving again and I hit broadside at 55mph. I flew 239′ over the car bouncing down the road! As I approached the car and saw I was gonna hit it…..I honestly knew I needed intervention or I was dead!!! I asked GOD, “Okay, where are you, I NEED you now!!!” It was as if he put out his hands and carried me through the air, flipping end over end!! When I hit the pavement my head (with helmet, thank God) and my pelvis split 5″ and my right leg had compound break that broke through my jeans, my femur artery was”exposed” bit did not break! I spent 1 week in ICU, 6 surgeries later and 2 months in the hospital….I finally came home and have permanent brain damage that costs me my career as corporate manager for Hyundai! GOD has been with me the entire time and has seen that I am available for my daughters to help raises and educate! Close call….NOT my time to go!!
Errin Parker- 8/29/14 10pm-ish, pillow talking with my love and out of the blue I had the most excruciating pain in my head followed by sweats, blindness, hearing loss etc..was in the car and on the way to the ER within 15 mins, thank God for my boyfriend. He saved my life. I suffered a level 3 Sub-arachnoid hemorrhage from an aneurysm rupture and stroke at 35 years old. I had 3 surgeries performed in the first 12 hours to get the vessel under control, relive pressure in my head and get blood off of my brain. I spent 23 days (21 of which were in ICU) at the hospital and was released. I needed no physical therapy which is absolutely not the norm based on the severity. I am beyond thankful to still be here to take care of my 5 year old daughter. Blessed to have the nurses and doctors I did at Emory, I still thank them for saving me. Looking forward to returning to work next week. I also look at the world in a whole new way and I am more grateful for everything than I have ever been.
There’s hundreds more comments which I obviously can’t post, but suffice to say that I was humbled reading these stories. And I thought about all the things that almost kill us but don’t. About how we survive with the choice to say “Thank You” or “This world is bullshit.” It’s on us, isn’t? To make that call. The truth is that often it takes a while to find the evidence to say “Thank You” again, especially when there is so much pain and sadness around.
I love Thanksgiving. It’s always been my favorite holiday. The way everyone focuses (or tries to) on gratitude.
I wonder of we made every day like a kind of Thanksgiving (without the turkey and pumpkin pie and football and stuffing) if we’d focus more on what we had to be grateful for? I guess we have the choice, don’t we?
We can make every day Thanksgiving if we feel like it. We can even have turkey every day if we want and football and family and naps and pie and all of it.
It would probably be too much though, wouldn’t it? We’d get all turkey-ed out. But just imagine if we acted as if every day was dedicated to what we are grateful for? And imagine we didn’t have to have a near death experience to get there or we didn’t have to lose someone or get sick? Imagine if we just decided to be grateful.
Let’s imagine that.
Featured image: Simplereminders.com