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For the past several years, each day of November I have posted on Facebook about what I am thankful for. Or, I have posted every few days a few things I am thankful for. I find it challenging to stick to doing any given task every single day beyond the basics required for hygiene and decent parenting, even if it is a task I want to do and set out for myself.

In recent weeks (maybe months?) I have found myself more anxious and stressed than usual (which is saying a lot). I have struggled to focus my attention on anything for more than a few minutes at a time. I am getting plenty of sleep. I am walking a lot. But my brain is just on overdrive all the time. It feels chaotic in my head.

I am contemplating the causes of this (not that hard to figure out, really) and working on solutions (harder). One thing I know I need to do is express gratitude. I am absolving myself from any requirements of eloquence or grace or even complete sentences. I just want to put some things out into the universe.

I am thankful that

  1. Zeke has finally made two friends in his first grade class and I’ve finally managed to contact one of the moms and have actually arranged a playdate for next weekend. I am both relieved and excited.
  2. My sister has been coaching me in how to say no. You might think this would be simple for me, but you would be wrong. I am rehearsing these lines in my head and planning to use them soon. In fact, earlier today I offered to do something for a group I am in and then I thought about my lines and I rescinded my offer! It felt good.
  3. Several people I care about are dealing with life-threatening illnesses or taking care of loved ones with life-threatening illnesses right now. This is not what I am thankful for. What I am thankful for is that these people all have access to excellent medical care, and more importantly that they are surrounded by family and friends who are providing unwavering love and support. AND that some of these people are willing and able to share what they’re going through online so that the wider community of people who care about them can know what’s going on and offer continuous love and comfort and encouragement. It’s so unnecessary to suffer alone.
  4. Tonight I watched Zoe help Zeke with some martial arts techniques with confidence and patience I have never before witnessed in that situation. It would seem that becoming a black belt and taking a recently added leadership class at EvolveAll have really made a positive difference. She was kind and enthusiastic in instructing him and he was receptive to her teaching and demonstrated immediate improvement. I was proud of both of them.

    (I was going to try to write 30 thankful things here because there are 30 days in November but as the words seem to be just spilling out of me I’ll go for 10 tonight and do the other 20 later).
  5. I have a new client that I am so thrilled to be working for and whose work is making an enormous impact on our country with the potential to seriously change things for the better in the next year. This client completely fell into my lap unexpectedly and I am thankful for the referral from someone I worked with years ago and for the new relationship.
  6. My husband is keeping up with the impeachment hearings so he can explain everything to me. He is more attuned and seemingly better able to understand political news and analysis than I am and he loves to discuss it and doesn’t mind answering my questions. And I am thankful that (hopefully) some people are finally going to be called to account for their unethical behavior. There’s so much more they should be called to account for, but I guess we have to start somewhere.
  7. There are so many extraordinary books in the world and I get to read some of them. I have read (or listened to) some absolutely stunning books in recent months, including The Dutch House; Olive, Again; The Miseducation of Cameron Post; Normal People; Every Note Played; The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl; Children of Blood and Bone; Unsheltered; Sing, Unburied, Sing; Evvie Drake Starts Over; Starworld; Little Fires Everywhere; How Not to Die Alone; City of Girls; and The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. This is not an exhaustive list. But a good one.
  8. We have a washing machine and dryer and a dishwasher in our house. These are the kind of conveniences we often take for granted, but they are actually huge. We do so much laundry in our house. I am so grateful that I don’t have to take it all to a laundromat. We have nice clothes. We have warm clothes. We have plenty of choices of what to wear every day. We can be as clean and as cute as we want to be.
  9. I have choices. I am so fortunate to have plenty of options in my life. At times it may seem like too many, but what a luxury to have too many choices. What to eat, where to go, what kind of work to do, who to spend time with, how to raise our kids, what kind of vacation to take, what camp to send our kids to, how to entertain ourselves. We have immense amounts of freedom and privilege in how we conduct our lives.
  10. I play soccer with a phenomenal group of women. I love my team and I love playing with them on Monday nights and I am pretty happy with the fact that I have become a better player over the past eight seasons. And we have new jerseys for the spring season! Stay tuned for pictures come April.

    It’s time to put Zeke to bed. I am thankful that he still loves to read and snuggle with me.

On Thursday night Barbara Kingsolver, one of my favorite writers, kicked off the book tour for her new novel Flight Behavior at the Washington National Cathedral, one of my favorite places. And I went with two friends and no children. What joy.

She read most of the first chapter of the book, which was completely riveting and made me want to go home and stay up all night reading it. Except for practical reasons I can no longer stay up all night reading and also I’m waiting for my mom to read her copy of the book so I can borrow it.

After the reading, an audience member asked Kingsolver how much of her own life experiences show up in her books. Kingsolver said she doesn’t write about herself, but sometimes moments that strike her will reappear in a novel. She and her husband currently live on and operate a sheep farm in Southwest Virginia. She had read a veterinary manual about lambing, in preparation for helping sheep give birth of course, and read about a method for reviving a calf who was born not breathing. The technique involved grasping the lambs legs by the feet and swinging the lamb around your head very quickly so the force of the air or spinning or something clears the mucus out of the lamb’s airway. Then one day she was called upon to employ this method, and she did, and it worked. Her husband, plowing a nearby field on the tractor, looked over and saw her doing this and stopped what he was doing. “He hadn’t read this particular manual so he had no idea why I was swinging a lamb around in the air over my head,” she explained. So when you read Flight Behavior look for the lambing scene.

Kingsolver, trained as a biologist, said writing a novel for her is “like doing an experiment.” She develops a hypothesis, then creates a plot to test it. Then she comes up with characters whose actions bear out the hypothesis. That’s the first draft.

“The real art,” she says, however, “is revision. I love revision.” Writing the first draft is like weeding a garden, or hoeing a row of potatoes, necessary but not that much fun, she explained. To go back and revise is fun.

“When you know the ending, you can go back and rewrite the beginning so they match. The beginning and ending throw light on each other,” she said. She writes hundreds of drafts of each book. “I could revise forever because it’s so much fun.” Tell that to any high school student.

Her insight that I most need to take to heart. When she’s writing, she doesn’t think of her audience. “I labor alone in a room not thinking of all of you. I do not think about what people expect of me. That would pull me off center from what I have to give. I think about what I have to give in the world. There are so many books out there, but no one has been me before.”

 

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