N.C. Harrison refuses to get caught up in small annoyances like broken toes or the after-effects of chemical pneumonia and instead remembers his one rule for Thanksgiving.
It’s been one of “those” kind of weeks around my house. It actually started a week or so ago when bronchitis laid me low. I have been especially susceptible to this particular disease since my bout of chemical pneumonia, in early 2006, and now my chest aches and rattles around each Thanksgiving as surely as the coming of (slightly) cooler weather, smoked turkey and my mother’s sweet potato souffle with brown sugar, pecans, rum and marshmallows.
Several sleepless nights of wheezing and hacking were followed by an unfortunate encounter with a three hundred pound television that I had been asked to move for my aforementioned mother. This enormity, now primitive, has dominated the landscape of her home since 2001 and although I have moved it around the house on numerous occasions I have known, for a long time, that it would get me in the end. It happened on Tuesday when the beast got away from me, on its way out of the house in fact, and crushed my foot. I am glad that it only caught me at a glancing blow, and caught an old Playstation 2 controller head on instead, or my large toe might have been the one to disintegrate instead of ten year old black plastic and circuits. I thrashed, rolled, exhausted my repertoire of profane terms–including Tina Fey’s invented insult “fungdark”–for the television’s parentage and then invented some new ones of my own. Now I sit writing this, digesting ham and comparing the color of my large toe to the red Christmas lights that my father is sorting out to put in the yard.
Still, in spite of the fact that walking hurts awfully enough to bring stars to my eyes and strike up a choir of angels, I find myself thankful. I am thankful that I begin my post-graduate education in January, that my humble musings reach an appreciative audience, and that I can still bench press in spite of my infirmity. I am thankful for the beautiful girl with glasses, a knitted cap and clear, ocher skin who held the door for her during my trip in search of medical supplies yesterday, thankful that she smiled so brightly and asked me if I was okay, too. I am thankful, most of all, that I am enjoying a good Thanksgiving meal (I do so love to eat; it’s part of the power-lifter mystique) and a dog show with my family members, both two and four-legged.
It’s easy, when things don’t go your way, to concentrate on the things you don’t have or on the small things which annoy you. I haven’t exactly found self actualization or my place in the world, yet, after all, and some specific people that I’d like very much to be spending the holidays with again are half the nation and a couple of mountain ranges away from me. Some find themselves wrung out, during this time of year, with aggravating family members or other guests who are not behaving, in their minds, like they ought to. All this can lead to so much sound and fury that the quiet moments of happiness and grace are forgotten.
I try to remember, when things look both hectic and bleak, that I am lucky to be here and all and am thankful for that. I was born sick and, since then, have survived chemical scarring on my lungs, two bouts with anaphylactic shock and more close calls with madmen in eighteen wheel trucks than I care to think about. When I hyperventilate from stress I fix my mind on the moment, when watching the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Offspring” late at night back in my sophomore year of college, where I could barely breathe at all. The air begins to flow easier.
We might trim the tree in a couple of days, or go to see the Christmas light art installation in a small town a few miles from where I live. I think back on going to see it, a couple of years ago, with a good friend I care deeply about, riding in the warm hay with my arm around her shoulders in the cold, crisp air, and the memory makes my blood race a little quicker. This, in turn, causes my toe to hurt like the dickens for a moment but that’s okay, too… sometimes a little pain lets you know you’re alive.
It is so, so easy to get caught up in the small things, in lists of rules, regulations and “life hacks” that are supposed to make our existences smoother. I only have one rule for a great Thanksgiving, though–I try to be glad that I am here, with my loved ones, in warm fellowship and that none of us have been locked away into Outer Darkness. Life is more orderly than non-life and so easier to disrupt–it often takes special effort to sustain and sometimes no amount of effort will preserve it. I just try to be glad, while I keep on trucking as they used to say, that my truck still has wheels… and I hope that all of yours do too.
Photo by Andreas D. / flickr