I remember the first year after J and I split, I spent Thanksgiving afternoon on the Simsbury bike trail. It was completely vacant, which was a picture of absolute perfection to me. It was sunny, warmish, and I remember loving each and every second of being in solitude before I had to go be with family.
Last year I went straight to my boyfriend at the time’s house after Thanksgiving at my sister’s. It made me really happy to be there with people I consider family, too.
I don’t only think about what I’m thankful for on Thanksgiving, obviously, but it is a tradition of mine to write about it on this day.
This past year has been one filled with the extremes of complete bliss and total despair. I rang in New Year’s at a friend’s house, where I felt depressed and out of place. My boyfriend and I had just ended things, and I was once again broken-hearted.
Shortly after New Year’s, I received a text from a friend who never forgot about me. He would always check in with me when I was so awful at doing the same for him. Even if it was every few months or once a week, he’d text to ask how I was doing.
In late January, one of my good friends suddenly passed away from a heart attack. I missed some work. Had trouble sleeping. Began to fear that everyone I loved could disappear at any moment.
On the last day of February, I threw myself a birthday party. It was really fun and debaucherous, and although not everyone I wanted to be there was there, I was happy.
On the first day of March, the same friend who texted me in early January came to visit me. We hadn’t seen each other in about a year, since he lives in New York City.
And on March 2nd, I found myself slowly falling in love.
This year has been filled with so many changes, losses, and new friends.
Things at work have changed drastically in the span of one calendar year. I am now in charge of quality assurance, our team has organization, and I even have a standing desk.
My relationship with the beautiful man from Brooklyn flourished and kept me in a haze of complete bewilderment that someone could be so incredible, handsome, sweet, smart, and like me back at the same time. Long distance sucks–I don’t recommend it–but it was totally worth it, because now my life had this added dimension: love.
I completed a writing apprenticeship this summer with Elephant Journal, started my own website, and became a published writer. I got a roommate for the first time in three years.
I made new friends and formed stronger bonds with pre-existing friends. I have a whole community of friends who live in my apartment complex, now, and we get together every week to play dorky games or eat meals.
I mended old wounds with my ex, and we have been able to be friends again, which is something I never thought would happen.
I found a soul-mate friendship with a person who has seen me through some of my toughest moments in the short amount of time we’ve known each other. I have been able to be support for him as well.
I went to NYC to see a friend and reunite with the beautiful man. I swear nothing is better than that moment when you first connect bodies. The lingering opiate-effect that washes over your entire mind as you gaze at each other in between kissing and holding hands on what felt like the longest subway ride to Brooklyn. But nothing is worse than disappointment, having the weekend not go the way you had envisioned, and being told by the man you have fallen for that he’s too scared and too busy. Not wanting to hurt myself more, I removed myself emotionally from the situation.
I have cried way more than I’d like to admit over this. Crying in the bathroom stalls at work, crying when I first wake. Crying in the car, in the shower, into my cats’ soft fur. Crying myself to sleep.
Two weeks ago, my male cat suddenly became very sick. After the most emotionally tumultuous weekend of my life, I had to put my cat down. He was operated on twice. Had complications with both surgeries. Was having difficulty breathing. Needed another expensive surgery, of which his survival rate was fifty percent. I wanted him to be in his momma’s arms as he took his last breath.
Everyone was there for me on that day and the days to follow. I couldn’t believe how much support and love I felt from all angles, and even from people I rarely talk to on facebook. No one thought I was ridiculous for being so upset, and no one told me to get over it. J spent time with me on the phone to make sure I was okay (after all, it was his baby, too, at one point) and said some of the most soothing things I needed to hear after Zen passed. I am truly thankful for the genuine outpouring of kindness in the past week and a half.
This has been one of the most devastating things I’ve ever gone through. I’m not just a “pet person”, an “animal lover”, and hyper-emotional. No, my two cats are my existence. They’ve been with me for nearly seven years. They were my support and company when I went through my “divorce”, because after six years and and an engagement ring, it’s essentially a divorce. They have been admired, adored, and cherished every single day of their lives, and they have become my closest friends and my children.
Zen, my male cat, was my best friend. Nearly every night he slept tucked under my arm like a teddy bear. Now, I have his ashes resting in my bedroom, and my female cat, Aum, is more clingy than ever. But she will never be a “lap cat”; she will never snuggle under the folds of my arms as I sleep. I’ve lost something immense.
And the crying continues. It’s almost every day. Sporadic. Random. I am wracked with guilt that maybe I missed some sign that Zen was sick and all of this could have been prevented. I feel total desolation for my other cat, who cannot possibly understand where her brother went. Why all of her favorite beings keep disappearing with no return.
However, through all of the hardships and watching close friends suffer and experience sadness and loss as well, I have heart.
I don’t know where it comes from, but it’s there. It’s the only reason why I am still standing.
I am in my own microcosm of pain and suffering–I know the world has so much more suffering and trauma than I will ever personally experience, but my pain is still my pain. The last three years of my life, I have been pummeled by loss and heartache. I have had moments, weeks, and even months of true happiness, too.
No matter what has happened to me in the last year, I do know that I still have love; I still have heart. Loving is the thing that makes me happiest. I can’t stop myself from it. And with love, comes gratitude, appreciation, cherishing those I adore, and forgiving those who have hurt me.
I have had suicidal thoughts a lot. Nothing I’ve ever acted upon, but they are there. I have hated and shamed my own body. I have harmed myself physically. I have called myself a pathetic mess in the bathroom mirror hundreds of times. I have considered what the point of living is when life is filled with constant loss and disappointment, and the outside world is a magnified mirror-reflection of the same thing.
My answer is that I can always find love. And that love is what drives me. My cat needs me. She purrs and sleeps at the edge of my bed every night. She needs reassurance when she eats these days, so I stand there with her and coax her, because she’s confused about the change in the household. My friends need their hands held when they are experiencing hard times. And even though things are not the way I wish they were with the man I adore, I feel happiness in knowing him, in feeling the way he makes me feel, and in knowing I can still bring joy to his life. I’m not gone. He’s not gone.
I am thankful that I have always been the type to cherish and remember things. Every single day. I am grateful that my male cat had the very best life he could have had, with an absurd amount of love, cuddles, kisses, cat nip, and wet food.
Mostly, I am thankful that I always give and love with my whole heart. I may say harmful things to myself when I am feeling particularly low, but I do know that my heart is always the thing that saves me, probably the most sincere thing about me, and the thing that makes a difference to others.
Today, I am thankful for having heart.