Growing up I wanted to be an astronaut. Sally Ride was my hero. Wanting to encourage this dream, my father supplied me with countless astronomy books as well as a small device that projected constellations onto my ceiling. Having become interested in astrology more recently, the solar eclipse double-piqued my interest. Living just three hours south of the totality line, I knew viewing the full eclipse was non-negotiable. A once-in-a-lifetime experience (twice, if I’m lucky, when another eclipse passes directly over mine and Steph’s hometown in 2045).
- I’m grateful to have witnessed totality. To feel those feelings. To witnesses those sights. To cement those memories. Every attempt at describing it has failed me so I resort to bulleted fractures of memories to prompt my experience. Screaming cicadas. The heat of the air immediately as the eclipse began to wane. The 360-degree halo of warm light around the horizon. The feeling of Josh’s arm touching mine. Spotting the space station just past the corona. The utter glee and firm believe that I was cleansed. Blessed.
- I’m grateful for the privileges in my life that enabled me to take the day off of work (and still get paid for it), drive 200 miles in one of our our air-conditioned vehicles, encounter zero traffic along the way under the tutelage of Google maps, quickly find a prime eclipse-viewing location at a quaint-and-uncrowded park, eat a picnic and play board games to pass the time, all whilst texting my loved ones who were concurrently experiencing the eclipse in their towns.
- I’m especially grateful for my sister who provided us with NASA-approved eclipse viewing glasses after I discovered that the specs I ordered weeks prior didn’t meet the necessary criteria for effectively protecting our vision. Had it not been for Steph, we would either be blind or have missed out on the majority of the experience.
- I’m grateful for the small group of motivated peer mentors I spoke to about how they could best support a mentee if they experienced interpersonal violence or sexual misconduct. I felt at ease with the group which helped them feel more responsive and able to ask questions. I was at my presentation best and the discussion was deemed so effective that the staff advisers hosting the training allowed me to talk an extra 30 minutes.
- I’m grateful for access to incredibly comprehensive healthcare provided by my employer. Not only do I have access to a modern gym across the street from my office, but I was also able to book a comprehensive set of tests to assist me in losing my moving-weight under the supervision of some of the best doctors in the country.
- I’m grateful for a boyfriend who listens to my complaints without judgement, makes me a giant salad for dinner, and humors my occasional bouts of bizarre affection… such as sitting on his lap and sticking eight fingers into his mouth because… well because he’s just so fucking cute. Don’t ask me to explain myself further (mostly because I can’t).
- I’m grateful for the utter excitement I feel towards starting my master’s program next week. Yes, it will be a huge shift in my life. Yes, it is added burden and pressure on top of my already stressful job. But gosh darn it if I’m not thrilled to learn something that I find both useful and fascinating. I didn’t have that in undergrad so this is entirely new and wholly exhilarating.
- I’m grateful for plus size clothing options that are actually cute. I have no clue what is causing my excessive weight gain or why I can’t seem to work any of these pounds off (and why they just keep on adding on). But the ability to rock some mermaid leggings makes me feel a little better about my workout and lounge wear.
- I’m grateful for nights with less booze and more hot tea. I’d forgotten how comforting that kind of nightcap can be.
- I’m grateful for the stash of split pea soup tucked in my office, saving me many pennies (and calories) from the food options downstairs.
- And speaking of lunch, I’m grateful for TEDtalks which sustain my soul mid-way through the workday as I sustain my body.
- I’m grateful for a partner who does the grocery shopping while I clean our little apartment. Fun fact about me — I dread the market more than any household chore and since Josh moved in last March, I haven’t had to make a single trip there.
- I’m grateful for workplace downtime. The semester has started which means that a punishing schedule is right around the corner. But until the reports inevitably come rolling in, I have the freedom to prep and research and read the student development theory books which have lined my shelves untouched for the past 12 months.
- I’m grateful for valet service to and from work via Josh’s fancy crossover-that’s-actually-a-minivan. His days working remotely are probably numbered so this sweet tradition is becoming more and more uncommon.
- I’m grateful for beers and cribbage at 4:00pm and the onset of my final do-absolutely-nothing weekend before the semester commences.
- I’m grateful for luxuriating in bed with Vietnamese coffee while my partner reads aloud to me. Few things in life bring peace the way stories do. It’s why I love audiobooks and why I love to hear a novel told aloud by my favorite person on the planet.
- I’m grateful for my neighborhood. I’ve never lived somewhere so walkable before — bars and restaurants and parks and libraries and art galleries and CVS pharmacies And more importantly, breweries that offer Scrabble for its customers to play while they sip. (Also grateful for a score of 374! One of my best ever!)
- I’m grateful for dry weather, a roof over my head, the immediate safety of those I love, and the security of my town. I’m grateful for the people and organizations helping those affected by Hurricane Harvey and grateful for the financial security which enables me to contribute where I can.
- I’m grateful for Game of Thrones… which I recognize as a semi-ridiculous thing to count among one’s blessings. But it’s amazing and I often think about friends whom I’ve lost and how much they would have enjoyed the show, would have marveled at it’s plot and effects and characters. And I love participating in cultural phenomenon while it happens — Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, GOT. To be in the thick of it, to soak in the experience before it becomes cliche and outdated and uncool.
- I’m grateful for the personal rituals I’ve discovered outside a church. Those held in nature, in a deck of cards, on the blank page of a notebook. They keep me grounded, they keep me functioning.
- I’m grateful for this stupid body of mine. Well, no. Actually I’m not. But I’m practicing the whole fake-it-till-you-make-it concept here. To express THANKS in lieu of disappointment. And frustration. And shame. To reshape my reality by reshaping my thoughts. What I am grateful for is my thick, long, lovely red hair — the primary source of compliments I receive from friends and strangers alike. And since my hair is a part of my body, I’m rounding up. I’m claiming gratitude for my body because it houses the hair on my head and right now, that’s the only thing I feel good about physically.
As evident by other items on this list, I’ve been struggling with appreciating this vessel. I can’t lie, y’all, this week has been really hard. I cracked today and all the feelings worthlessness, shame, and powerlessness I’ve been trying to suppress came flooding out (Harvey pun unintended). I constantly feel stuck in a no-win situation when it comes to my health — I can’t exercise very hard because of my heart, I can’t restrict food very strictly because my eating disorder past gets reignited. In the past few years I finally rid myself of obsessive thinking around food and my weight. In turn, I’ve gained about two stone in a year. I don’t eat poorly and I exercise throughout the week. Moderation and happiness, it seems, has made me fat. And despite best efforts to deprogram society’s expectation of beauty in my brain, I’m failing to appreciate my physical being when I outgrow clothing purchased only a few months ago.
I’m trying. It’s hard to be grateful for a body that’s currently unhealthy and, regardless of my best efforts, won’t ever be 100% healthy thanks to heart disease. But these legs I abhor continue to carry me around. This torso I blame for its ever increasing size still continues to expand with air that fills my lungs. My hair is long and thick and even in the midst of the most crippling self-criticism I can manage to say that it is lovely. Sometimes that’s all I can hold onto. So if valuing my hair salves the positive associations I have with the rest of me, then that’s how I’ll manage to love my body until I see something else worth recognition.
Lin’s VOW Mantra: Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Lin’s SOW (Song of the Week): Good To Be Alive Today by Michael Franti & Spearhead
Check out Steph’s #VOWthank post.