Around this time of year, we start hearing a lot about gratitude and boy do us colonizers have a lot to be grateful for! Black Friday sales, pumpkin stuff, and a delicious burst of tryptophan eaten with carbs aplenty on stolen land! Mmmm, capitalism never tasted so good.
This letter is to inform you of a last-minute stay of confinement to the jail of your own making, and that is the eternal prison of “working on yourself.” You’ve attended all the classes, sessions, seminars and assignations to “move the trauma out,” and maybe you’re wondering when’s it gonna move out, already?
It seems like the current fashion of “wellness” and “healing” has been weaponized against us, trivializing trauma by implying that being “triggered” is a sign of some kind of fragility or weakness, instead of a sign of triumphant badassery—you’re still here and I love that for you.
Someone failed to mention that no matter how much work you do, you’re still going to be triggered as shit sometimes, and possibly on any holiday of dubious origin where you’re forced (speaking of confinement) to share air with people related to you either by birth or the accident of who you’re boning, not to mention that air might be rife with delicious contagions of Covid-19. (I’m bringing cardamom carrot cake with pecans and lemon cream cheese frosting!)
I’ve been sent to communicate this stay of execution (for what is perfectionism but a kind of death?) on doing a holiday perfectly or any day hereafter. We are messy, life is messy, and love (despite what we’re led to believe by the Hollywood Romance Machine) is the messiest of all. This note may be presented as proof of “permission to be messy today.”
You can choose to yell at Uncle Pete the Knight of High Stupidity or keep the peace, but you gotta love yourself regardless, because Pete certainly does love himself down to his gouty toes, bless him. And if you feel better about it, leave Pete and gang to their beliefs and take care of you by skipping the festivities entirely—“Bye, I’ll be here catching up on Bake Off, have fun!”
The goal is to be grateful most especially when it seems like there’s nothing to be grateful for, or rather when we feel so activated that our brains refuse to let us feel gratitude or any other positive emotion; it’s not like we don’t know we’re lucky to have somewhere to go with any food to eat, we just may not feel it until the dopamine from the third slice of turkey kicks in.
I’ll start: I’m grateful today for all the people I’ve lost, and the source of my gratitude comes from, of all things, a widely circulated clip of Hollywood actor Andrew Garfield. While talking about the death of his mother he gave the greatest take on grief, which is that the tears we shed represent the love we didn't get to give the person who’s no longer here. We can cry with all the love we didn’t get to share and in doing so honor the child within, reminding that child we will take care of her/him/them, no matter whose company we keep.
For whatever thou* has endured, let’s be thankful for breathing the planet’s (dwindling) oxygen, having enough consciousness to examine and process old hurts, and of course, for DOGS. How simple it is to be a dog at Thanksgiving *sniffs delicious cooking smells* *steals fallen food off floor* *is given more treats by unsuspecting guests**gets at least gravy on crunchies*. For the canine, life is a matter of moment-to-moment presence, with no opinion on whether said moment is enjoyable.
The dog, as my son responded the other day when I said our chihuahua “Henry Miller is happy to be here,” said, “Mom, he’s happy to be anything.” Though we humans did get those useful opposable thumbs, I suggest we regress our ever-roiling pre-frontal cortexes (corti? cortexium? gaggle of cortexias?) just enough to be “happy to be anything” too.
Your Emotional Labor Probation Officer**
*Ever notice thou is non-binary? So, not really a new thing…
**This will be our last correspondence.