Colorado got smacked by the icy hand of Winter this week. Well, most of Colorado anyway, the town where I live got just enough snow to suck. But I did have a snowday from work on what is perhaps the most pointless week of the year. Thanksgiving.
At a University, which is where I work my day job, Thanksgiving is a week with two days of classes and the majority of offices being down to a skeleton crew because everyone just doubles down with the time off so they can get a whole week off where nobody actually does any work anyway.
Why didn’t I take off any time? Because I had pneumonia all through September, and I’m running low on days off. It’s not a bad week to be at my desk. Like I said, it’s usually pretty quiet anyway, unless other bored workers come in to visit with anyone who happens to be in the office. Granted, today, I have been working my butt off. This is a busy time of year for me, but eventually you hit a choke point where the other people you need to work with to get jobs completed are out on vacation.
So I’m off on vacation. Involuntarily. And sitting at my desk. Also involuntarily.
This week, I’m driving up to visit my parents in the cold and frozen Rocky Mountains. I don’t relish my visits there in the Wintertime. The scenery is strikingly beautiful, with mountains newly glazed in crisp, stark, white ice and snow. And not much else to do up there. I’ll probably be helping my dad replace the fuel pump in my stupid jeep. Just the other day, I rolled down the window to order some coffee and the button crumbled when I tried to roll it back up again. $150 later, I wondered what price would be too high to pay to make sure the windows went back up when a 6-10″ blizzard was on its way. Apparently $150 wasn’t the limit.
It’s cold up there, and I don’t miss it. The winter generally starts in October and often holds on until late May. This year, it finally stopped snowing at the end of June. The town has changed and hardly anyone I knew up there remains, or we have lost touch. Seeing my folks and letting my son get to know them is important, but generally once the snows start I don’t want to be up there. Too many winters of being snowed in for days on end with only a tiny grocery store full of overpriced food to supply the town. The bitter cold wind coming out of the North, howling like some demonic wolf from Hell, sculpting miles of snow in all directions into non-euclidean forms. A town at the nexus of highways that lead to other places.
But I am trying to be Thankful. It’s a time of year we are supposed to count our blessings, but today, I’ve been in a funk and I’m not feeling it. I think of next year and about how I would love to switch it up. I want to fly somewhere and spend Thanksgiving on a beach, watching the waves roll in one after the other, messing with sea creatures in tide pools, fruity beverages at poolside.
Work has been difficult this year. There were layoffs in March and now there is grumbling that “we need to do more, because cuts are coming.” The economy is the best it has been in decades, except at my University, where upper administrators used this place as their personal piggybank and rampant overspending left us lifers with “doing more” to fix the problem.
I don’t know if I’ll be on that beach next Thanksgiving. Honestly, I don’t know where I’ll be. I do know that I have both of my parents, and my son is getting to know them and love them. I’ll take the cold and miserable wind and snow as long as he gets that. My mom’s gallbladder was gangrenous back in August. A few more days of shitty doctor diagnoses and “wait and see” and she might not be here this year. Last year, I was losing sleep, feeling lonely and rejected, poor, overwhelmed. I was getting sick from exhaustion, which went into my lungs. Depression. This year, I just don’t like snow.
I’m thankful for that too.
I met a wonderful woman in June, (1945ish) who really, truly gets me and most days I hope I get her. She has reminded me of how good things can be and what it feels like to really be appreciated; I can only hope I return the favor. I get to spend the afternoon playing video games with my son, high-fiving or taunting each other, I get coffee regularly and visit with the kids who work there who always brighten my day. I have my health. I have hope. I have my faith. I am much better off today than I’ve been in years. I have traveled on my own and learned so much about myself. I have reached a point where I have become comfortable in my own skin, met challenges with aplomb and did exactly what I said I was going to do, though it might have been twenty years too late. I have hit rock bottom and lived to tell the tale.
I have been writing. Lots. I have smoked cigars, enjoyed good whiskey, and laughed until my ribs have hurt and my jaw ached from smiling. I have taken the waters at Bath and soaked my bones in Glenwood Springs. I have lost some people along the way. Some of them might be back, and others are probably gone for good. Some of them thankfully so. I try not to get too worked up about any of it. Good boundaries allow good people to come into your life and bad ones to show themselves out. I’ve read a lot of books on Boundaries too. I’ve done a lot of healing and a lot of reflection.
If the most irritating thing in my life right now is some snow and a car that insists on new parts every time I turn around, things aren’t too bad. They’ve been much worse. I’m thankful I don’t have much to complain about, and grateful that I still get to complain and people will listen. I’m thankful my dad is willing to help keep my Jeep on the road with his mechanical expertise.
I’m thankful my son still sleeps with his stuffed animals and doesn’t ask for too much from Santa. He’s a good kid with more kindness and compassion in his heart than most people will ever know. I learn things from him every day.
It’s things like that which will warm your heart more than a summer afternoon, and brighten your day more than a sunset on the beach. Winter sucks, but I have faced worse. There have been perfect days that fell flat and left me feeling hollow and alone, and there are miserable days with snow flying in the air where I have laughed about silly things until I had tears in my eyes.
These are the things I am thankful for.