The turning of the calendar page is forcing me to try to move into a new season. It’s true that 2021 has been the most brutal year I’ve ever endured, but it’s also true that, to some extent, happiness is a choice. It’s impossible to not think about my losses and stresses this past year as we move into the holiday stretch, but it’s not fair to say that I don’t have a lot to be grateful for, as well. 


As I stare down the months of November and December, I am thankful for:

  1. My family. Not much is left of my family of origin — I’ve lost my mom, both siblings, and my aunt and uncle on my dad’s side — but I created a pretty damn good family all my own. My husband and kids have stood by me this past year, sometimes literally holding me up or providing me with a reason to get out of bed.
  2. My dog. I mean, yes, he’s part of the family, but he gets his own entry because he makes very few demands of me and he loves me definitely more than my teenage daughter does most days. No matter where I am in the house, if I’m crying, he will come and find me. Whatever serotonin I might still happen to have in my brain after this shit year is largely due to petting Milo. This is basic science.
  3. My friends. They’ve shown up in a big way, bearing wine, coffee, tissues, flowers, baked goods, gift cards. They pooled money to hire people to clean my house when I could barely function. They’ve patiently listened to me say the same things over and over but also offered tough love when I needed it, always pairing it with a hug. I’ve missed hugs. Which brings me to:
  4. Modern medicine. This time last year, a family Thanksgiving was out of the question. But now, thanks to vaccines and rapid home tests, I feel safe(r) getting together with the people I love. My older daughter was able to go to her high school homecoming dance. My younger daughter was able to have a class Halloween party. My stepson is actually living on campus at college.
  5. This city. Yes, I’m still frustrated with trash pickup and the high cost of living and the post-Ida malaise. But this is still home, where the weather is ideal this time of year and the food and the people are unlike anywhere else, with eggnog daiquiri season and Carnival just waiting in the wings. 


I’m not happy this year. I’m still achingly sad, and all the holiday anticipation seems muffled, dulled, dimmed, from behind my cloud of sorrow. 

But you don’t have to be happy to be grateful, and you don’t have to be happy to be hopeful.

I’m choosing to be both.