November 23, 2011
We're a few short days from Thanksgiving and I've got so much to be thankful for. Delicious food in my fridge, ready to be cooked and shared with the people I love the most. A strong, healthy body, which includes an undetectable viral load and over 700 T-Cells (up from 123 at diagnosis). Gainfully employed, with insurance to pay for the medications that keep me healthy. Most importantly though, I remember when times weren't so great. That knowledge offers me a sense of gratitude that lasts the whole year through.
This post was inspired by a time in my life that to many would seem dismal. I can't remember the exact year, although it was probably 1997 or so, which would have made me 19. I was renting a small furnished bedroom in a stranger's house (he took in boarders) and at the time, didn't have too many friends to call my own. At the time, I wasn't in touch with my family and was spending the holidays alone. I remember that Christmas waking up and unwrapping the one present I had bought for myself. It was a Curious George watch. As I unwrapped the present, I remember wishing myself a Merry Christmas. There was no big dinner. There were no friends sending me cards. Just myself and that watch.
But I was happy and I was grateful.
Prior to renting that small bedroom, I had spent nearly two years couch surfing, without a real place to call my own. I had been working at a fast-food place and sleeping on someone's couch, when after about six months, they sat me down and had "the talk." The "it's time you leave" talk. So without any place lined up, I started looking through the back of a local gay magazine. There was a listing for someone who was renting a furnished room. They weren't requiring a credit check or a security deposit. I took it.
My subsequent addictions to crystal meth and cigarettes were still in the distant future, as was my impending HIV diagnosis. My darkest days were yet to come. But for that moment in time, I was grateful. I was grateful to have a bed to sleep in, a kitchen that I paid for the right to cook in, and a job that supplied me with enough money to live on.
It's good to be grateful at Thanksgiving. It's even more important to carry that gratitude in your heart all year round. Life will always be filled with the ups and the downs. Be grateful for each and every experience, good or bad. It makes up the wonderfully complex and rich human experience.