Today is American Thanksgiving. It’s a country I have fallen in love with more than I thought possible. I type this with a hospital bracelet around my wrist, one eye open, the other swollen shut, and an upper lip that is increasing in size. Hours earlier I sat shivering on a hospital bed, fidgeting with the strings of my hospital gown to try and close the back of it, unsuccessfully. My body resembled a speckled red lizard, hives upon hives upon hives. I sobbed as the doctor walked in and all I could manage to get out of me was, “fuuuuuuuck, I’m going to be shipped back to Canada and will have to work the rest of my life to pay off this hospital bill.”
Things worked out. A friend was able to help me work out my health insurance situation and confirm that I was covered, that my hospital bill could be run through it. I secretly thanked Obama for putting ObamaCare in place, something that is similar to the healthcare in Canada, and I wholeheartedly believe in. I drank my presumably $100 apple juice, proceeded to swallow 3 steroid pills, and waited as the nurse discharged me. I left the hospital, apologized to the cab driver for looking like I was just beaten with a baseball bat, arrived at my friend’s apartment and collapsed on the bed.
A few months ago I went to a meditation retreat, somewhat reluctantly, only to have one of the most incredible weekends of my life. I am a recovering churchaholic (is that a word?) and, anti-new-age-anything-trendy-all-the-cool-kids-are-doing-it-religion person. I often don’t know what I believe in except that I know it’s very important for me to believe in something. I am very fearful of religion and have now identified myself as what most of my friend’s call their mom’s beliefs, a “spiritual person.” This is just to say that I believe in life, love, people, a higher power, something that moves through the universe and makes us breathe and feel and have empathy. I think often in life we are taught that x, y and z are good or bad, this or that, black or white, up or down, male or female, right or wrong, and that feelings and circumstances can only be categorized this way. A duality. But that is not what I believe in.
As I sat on the floor with my eyes closed, listening to the meditation teacher tell us how to meditate, my mind wandering back and forth between whether I was now sucked in and if I should go meet Buddha and if the anxiety in my chest was from a stressful week and if my landlord would maybe still let me get a dog and would I ever eat meat again and whether God likes meditating but what about science and I fucking love science and I fucking love Jesus but what about that work deadline I'm behind on and am I still breathing in and out, I sat there and began to watch this duality inside of me float away. This or that. Yes or no. Right or wrong.
Life is going to happen and it’s inevitable that the experiences and circumstances are sometimes going to be exciting and are sometimes going to be painful. But none of those, whatever those experiences are, have to be this or that, right or wrong, good or bad. We are going to feel things that hurt and cause us anxiety, and feeling that anxiety can sometimes make us feel like failures. The truth is though, it’s just a feeling. Being happy, being sad, being fearful, being joyful, these are feelings that float in and out of us just as air does. We don’t have to fight them, we don’t have to change them, we just have to accept them, that they exist and they are real but that they do not have to mean anything more than just being a feeling that will soon pass.
And so, as I sat there vulnerably in my hospital gown and wondered about the future, about how life lately has been filled with some of the most sky rocketing highs and the deepest lows, I became thankful. Thankful for the circumstances, the ones that make me feel happy and the ones that make me feel sad, the ones that inspire me and the ones that stress me out, the moments that are going to keep happening as they do. The moments will continue, but our attitude doesn’t have to change. Our attitude can stay positive and be thankful, be okay with when life punches you in the eye because eventually life is going to give you a warm Thanksgiving dinner with friends. Or maybe you’ll be alone, but you aren’t really. We’re all in this together, each silently fighting our own battles.
There is everything in this world to be thankful for. I cannot even begin to count how many things I am thankful for that have just occurred today. And even though we will often walk through life feeling blind and like we don’t know which door to choose, there’s always going to be another door, and another, and another. Be thankful for all of these doors, and whatever lays beyond them.
And food allergies, I guess I'm going to be thankful for you, too.