What a thing it is to be thankful

This year, of all years

This has been, as they say, a year. It has been a year with the peak-iest peaks and the valley-est valleys since the births of my children. The takeaways are much the same now as they were then—we are all healthy and here, I love and feel loved, there is much to be thankful for. Even when things are tough, perhaps especially then.

In a year when my first book was published, I also trafficked in heartbreak. In a year when people stepped up and over delivered, others faded away and left me adrift (and I did much the same, on both fronts, I think.) In a year when the world has felt like it was ending, daily, hourly, five seconds ago, we found ourselves constantly rubbing our eyes to look around and see who was still here. There is fear. There is worry. There is loss. But for now, we are still here, you and I. I am thankful for that.

I am thankful for that particular kind of cold that is just the right kind of cold, maybe it’s 31 degrees. That’s what this past week has been like. It’s the cold that when you walk your dog and the air is still, you can feel the flush of your cheeks. You feel alive and awake and the world somehow feels fresh and good. I am thankful for spontaneous hand holding or head-on-shoulder-leaning or letting-me-linger-when-I-plant-a-kiss-on-a-cheek-ing because I have two middle schoolers and I am grateful for what I can get. I have to be. I am thankful for parents of friends, old college roommates, first bosses, high school best friends, and all the people who show up to a reading for your first book — it is never who you think it will be and you will be delighted. I am thankful for those surprises, the faces I haven’t seen in decades, the faces I only knew over Instagram and got to meet in this life that is real, the adults who I knew as kids who showed up with babies in tow. Life right in front of me, the whole shebang.

I am thankful for the rush of kids off the school bus for the last time of the school year and the first dips in Lake Champlain and the Atlantic every summer. I am thankful for that first day in March or April (it’s Vermont after all) when it feels okay to believe in spring—and everything and everyone around you feels it too, the birds, the breeze, the ground beneath your feet that finally has a little give. I’m thankful that—even for all the problems with our neglected-because-of-a-book-and-then-life house—I have this roof over my head (although, this year, it leaked), I have these floors beneath my socked feet, I have that afternoon light and that fire in the wood stove, beds for us all to sleep in, a place for our boxes of photos, walls and bookshelves and spots that hold us and remind us of who we are. I am thankful for the crazy amount of blankets we (I) have hoarded (again: Vermont) that invite our dog Edie to curl up snug next to one of us and, as my son said, “When she rests her head on my leg, it makes me feel loved.”

I am thankful for tired heavy dog heads, the clouds of crows that overtake the trees every November, and even the woodpeckers who have been pecking away at our siding OH MY GOD WE KNOW, WOODPECKERS, WE FUCKING KNOW. Because actually it’s ridiculous to be working and hear a rhythmic tap-tap-tap and by location you know it’s not the front door or the back but a spot next to the bathroom window that you will have to pound on with your fist, like you would for a tap dancing neighbor. Shoo, woodpecker! We’ve got other shit to deal with!

I am thankful that this Thursday we will sit around our table—possibly the single best furniture purchase we have ever made, a big indestructible IKEA table that has survived young children with glue, glitter, crayons, Sharpies, scissors; a table that everyone thinks my husband made himself—and I will be reminded that we have chosen well in the friend department. And the family department. And in the life department. That for all the times I sabotaged myself in my teens and twenties, for all the love and loyalty I so desperately searched for all my life, for all the things I can’t help but wish for because I am a greedy person who is never satisfied, that life boils down to this: A warm house. Plenty of food. Too much pie. A coat, boots, a drawer full of socks. People who love you. People you love. Being here, with appreciation.


• McSWEENEY’S: Turns out the concept for my column is hard. Whoops. But I’ve realized—very much related to the topic of the last newsletter—that while there’s a timely element to it, I actually can’t write these particular things all that quickly. For the first piece, I watched Pretty in Pink three times (which brings my lifetime PIP count to 1,003?) while matching up cast details with Brett Kavanaugh details. And for this newest one, I had to learn to write a TV script (the format isn’t perfect but close enough given McSweeney’s formatting limitations) and fine-tune like crazy to map to the characters we all know in our heads. Writing Seinfeld, Ep. 181 “The Grovel” was the best balance of genuine fun with a challenge that pushed me to be more careful, precise, and to learn something new in the process. So maybe the column idea being hard is a good thing? (I am already very much panicking over what to do for the next one soooooo.)

• EMOTIONAL HONESTY: Why not? It’s Thanksgiving! If you aren’t real busy this week sliding down a rainbow to high five angels because you’re so 1000% happy and pumped on life, these are for you—From TEDWomen “The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage” from Susan David. Some quotes: “Being positive has become a new form of moral correctness … It’s a tyranny of positivity. And it’s cruel. Unkind. And ineffective … When we push aside normal emotions to embrace false positivity, we lose our capacity to develop skills to deal with the world as it is, not as we wish it to be.” Also, “dead people’s goals” is going to be a phrase I will retain in my head forever. And “Failing at Happiness,” a TEDxMarin talk by Ruth Whippman. Excellent skewering of America’s (unsuccessful) obsession with happiness. And ultimately what matters most in our pursuit of happiness is not an app or meditation or kale or how we individually will ourselves to happiness, but how we connect with other people.
• MOVIES: Home for the Holidays is a masterpiece and if you don’t agree let’s just say you’re fucking wrong. I first saw it in the theater, then introduced my aunt and uncle to it, and now there is a whole family and friends network that can quote the entire thing. I just realized this week that soon I will be able to introduce my kids to it and I am not kidding, I got excited butterflies in my tummy. You must watch. It is a Thanksgiving movie. Q: How many Thanksgiving movies are there?! A: ONLY ONE THAT MATTERS. The trailer doesn’t give you as accurate of a glimpse as this clip does. Holly Hunter! Robert Downey Jr.! Anne Bancroft! Charles Durning! Claire Danes! David Strathairn has A BIT PART for God sakes!
• DESIGN: Ten Principles of Good Design, for your consideration.
• DEATH: #GraveGoals
• HUMOR: I clicked on this piece, skimmed it, and knew I needed to keep the tab open until I could really savor it. Didn’t think it would take a month to get back to, but here we are. It’s incredible for just a sentence or two to contain so many layers. I know my brain doesn’t work this way and I could never in a million years write like this, so instead of stewing in bubbling hot jealousy (my preferred default), I just get to admire it from every angle. You should too: “Honest Dating Profiles of Punctuation Marks.”
• HUMOR: A little late timing-wise but oh my hell is it spot-on skewering-wise. The New Yorker + Day of the Dead + email chains + parents-are-hell = “Dear Mountain Room Parents”
• PARENTING: This hit me hard while filling me to the brim with hope.
• PHOTO CREDIT for this newsletter: Dino Olivieri

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