As many days as possible, I list six distinct things for which I’m grateful. The list is archived monthly. Here’s February 2014.
I am grateful for life-long friends who come to visit. Coffee. Doors. Knobs. The hemp terry eyeshade a date gave me thirteen years ago. That Andy fed the kitties again, letting me sleep in.
I’m grateful for old friends of newer friends, providing support. Even more people to reach out to. Restraint. Tomato soup. Coffee from the corner shop. That the sadness still has a sharp edge.
I’m grateful for the life and work of Philip Seymour Hoffman. That I saw Love Liza on video home alone one night and felt something profound. That I left work on my 41st birthday to go see Jack Goes Boating, a spontaneous choice. Having loved that experience so much, I wrote a letter to PSH. Having State and Main on hand to watch with friends tonight. The art book A. & A. brought home for me from their museum adventure.
I’m grateful for hours to discuss the stories of Ottessa Moshfegh and Robin Black and our own work, too. The way talking about story construction invigorates me. Having met people who feel the same way. Getting to spend time with them. Visits to campus. Painless good deeds.
I’m grateful for workshopping with some amazing writers. A’s perfect last line. Having control over my schedule. Walks in the rain. Learning that the data I need to wrangle had already been detailed. Almond milk.
I’m grateful for dreams that help me decipher my feelings. Pushing forward on the latest first draft. Being trusted to give editorial notes. Kind notes from Vermont. The decision to drive home before walking to dinner. Spices on the beer mug rim.
I’m grateful for D. The cord she brought that linked my laptop to the big screen. A time out for some much needed friendly support. Friday lunches with the girls. Another quick walk to dinner. Being seated at a small corner table.
I’m grateful for a morning to sleep in. A day with practically no demands. The perfect virgin low-sugar mimosa that I invented: two parts sparkling water, one part orange juice. That our assigned reading includes an entertaining 2nd person POV. The pink door. ATMs.
I’m grateful for my self-righteous attitude about apostrophes. The scene featuring Mark Wahlberg whose character also has a self-righteous attitude about apostrophes. That You Tube is so great, I thought I might actually find that scene available online. That I had the sense to give up on that mission after about three minutes. Being able to forgive myself for wasting three minutes. Reading the quote somewhere that asks, “Would you give up a day of your life for what you’re about to do today?”
I’m grateful for deadlines. My new system of “clocking in” to focused story work. The way time passes imperceptibly when I get into writing a scene. That I have a structure for this piece to work from/with/into. My small writing group. That walks are not a guilty pleasure.
I’m grateful for compartmentalized bursts of targeted work. The verb: right (to restore to a normal or upright position). That not everything that capsizes is unpleasant. Seeing that odd and wonderful breed of flower on T’s desk. Living in a time and place when you never know what amazing breeds of beauty you might encounter in a given day. Time to stop and photograph what interests me most days.
I’m grateful for noise canceling ear phones. You Tube’s hour-long neutral sound blends. Fragrant essential oils to lend ritual to my work. Having the very oils I bought nearly twenty years ago with a bunch of dear sweet friends. The memories of all the potential we felt then. That the love in our lives has grown exponentially.
I’m grateful that I don’t think being two minutes past the deadline will disqualify me from being workshopped in this instance; however, I’m sort of afraid to really ask. Layperson’s logic. The logic that if I had been disqualified, our teacher would have pulled the piece and instructed my classmates not to read it. The piece is still up. Having near-peace with the fact that I turned in another unfinished draft. Yet further motivation to do focused story work daily rather than in binges so that I can make the most of my workshops.
I’m grateful to look back on a good work week–a balanced blend of serious writing, reading, walking and bookkeeping. Panera’s diligence with their grilled cheese recipes. Remembering cows as often as I choose to order food made out of their suffering. Apples. Valentine treats from creative and loving friends. Revisiting our Paris photos, and savoring the memories out loud with Andy.
I’m grateful for a productive morning reading and writing in the sun next to Andy on our deck. That he asked me out on a date. Finding a good spot to park in Santa Monica that allowed me to avoid Promenade traffic. Border Grill’s salsa. That Bergamot Station is so close. The smart paintings of Paco Pomet. The way my new appreciation for short story construction and deconstruction has transformed the way I digest all sorts of stimuli.
I’m grateful to have encountered a fellow fan of short stories. His mentioning of Nabokov’s “Signs and Symbols”. The coincidence that I had just read a wonderful story in the Paris Review which mentions Véra Nabokov and subsequently found the beautiful photo of her and Vladimir in silhouette playing chess. Finding “Symbols and Signs” online from the 1948 New Yorker, fast and free. Learning that Nabokov preferred the title “Signs and Symbols” instead. This line, “She thought of the recurrent waves of pain that for some reason or other she and her husband had had to endure; of the in visible giants hurting her boy in some unimaginable fashion; of the incalculable amount of tenderness contained in the world; of the fate of this tenderness, which is either crushed or wasted, or transformed into madness; of neglected children humming to themselves in unswept corners; of beautiful weeds that cannot hide from the farmer.”
I’m grateful to catch up on The Americans. A day of work in the comfort of my pajamas. Tofu. Spicy brown sauce. Time to play with new hand-written lettering styles. True Detective.
I’m grateful for Samsara. That K posted the Snopes link. K. For the logical quote from the surgeon, “The baby was anesthetized. The baby was not aware of what was going on.” For surgeons. For anesthesia.
I’m grateful for a parking spot. Flexibility. My wool coat. Memories of wearing it. Expanding comfort zones. An ibuprofen to keep on hand.
I’m grateful for a midweek walk on the beach. The little furry dog. Reflections. Time to reread stories by Claire Vaye Watkins. Forgetting my piece was up for workshop until about an hour before class. Finding the discussion of my story humorous.
I’m grateful for grilled cheese with a friend. Coining a new verb named after a brilliant comedian. His kind feedback. Banana creme pie. The birthday dirge. That I’m not the only one who noticed the annoying tempo change.
I’m grateful for hours to work on a new photo collage. A local source for cheap vintage photos. That it’s a mile away – the perfect walk. Plenty of old chap books to mine for collage scraps. The play/movie Carnage. Great example of character fueled tension.
I’m grateful for a soothing meeting with a fellow writer. The privilege of working with talented, dedicated and generous people. The happiness of seeing my friends acknowledged for their work. The time I make to write and walk. That I made it home safely. That Andy made it home safely.
I’m grateful for The Last Bookstore. Vintage Paley. Five dollar books. Street art. Elevators. Lights.
I’m grateful for to have come across the workshop being offered by a recommended author. The resources to enroll in it. PEN Center USA. The helpful reply message with good news. Andy’s support. A new draft underway.
I’m grateful for Dramamine. Bed rest. Oxygen. Pillows. Blankets. Shelter.
I’m grateful for a dinner break. Comfortable shoes for a walk across campus. Making it to class on time. Another discussion of Jhumpa Lahiri. Kind classmates. New friends.
I’m grateful for gift certificates to bookstores. Umbrellas. Lunch breaks. Tobias Wolff. Wells Tower. The Pushcart Prize Anthologies.