Thursday, September 1, 2016

Being thankful

Like everyone, I suspect, I spend a reasonable amount of time feeling anxious, or aggrieved, or frustrated, or even angry, about the challenges in my life.

Parenting three growing children isn't always a walk in the park, especially at times of illness and times of transition. Running a freelance business has its ups and downs, and can create both underload and overload stressors. Not possessing a private fortune (ha!) means that money is sometimes an issue. Aging parents and chronically ill friends make me both sad and worried. Having chronic illnesses myself poses non-trivial hurdles in managing my days, weeks and months.

And all that's before you even get into the state of the world, which it's often tempting to characterise as hell meets handbasket. Every age is cataclysmic for those who live through it - my historical training tells me this, and I know it, intellectually - but the press of darkness, the weight of it, has seemed strong these past five years. No, the world wasn't a more innocent place in the 80s, but I, as a child / teen, was a more innocent person than I am in 2016, and less of the horrors penetrated my lower-middle-class bubble. (One of many ways that adulthood sucks, really).

So it can be tempting to dwell, on the hard bits and the sad bits and the infuriating bits. Tempting, but ultimately not healthy, I think. Of course the struggle is real, and shouldn't be minimised, but so is the lightness, and at the end of the day, I have so much to be thankful for.

I have three wonderful, healthy, curious, amazing daughters, whom I love dearly, and who love me and their father and each other.

I have work that I mostly enjoy, pays reasonably well, is very varied, and is highly flexible, including allowing me to work predominantly from home and do almost all the kids' school runs, school activities etc.

Further to that, as a freelancer, I am my own boss, which brings me bushels of psychological benefits that far outweigh the irritation of having to keep my own financial and taxation records.

I am in a long-term, stable marriage to a person I love, who shares many of my tastes and interests, and with whom I greatly still enjoy spending time.

We are, while not flush, not struggling to cover basic living and education expenses, and well enough positioned to be able to relatively easily afford key home maintenance tasks as they arise, and decent swathes of charitable donations (although we could do more, and I plan to). We also manage plenty of luxuries, like meals out from time to time, family weekends away, local holidays, buying books, throwing good-sized birthday parties, going to events that we're interested in, and suchlike. We are also able to plan and save for bigger things if we are careful, such as 2015's kitchen renovation and 2018's planned overseas trip. This puts us in a position of great relative privilege and I am well aware of it.

I have been able to stabilise my autoimmune conditions, and flares have become much rarer over the past 6-9 months, to the point that I am actually quite surprised now to have a run of bad days (whereas this was the norm 18 months ago).

I have some absolutely awesome friends - some long-term, some of more recent vintage - who make my life much better.

I am free to indulge my lifelong passion for reading, as well as build my poetic practice, in ways that I find immensely rewarding.

I live in a state that is becoming something of a beacon in troubled times in terms of the compassion, sense and achievement of our state government.

I live in safety, free of the fear of violent death, or even of having guns casually waved around in my vicinity.

I live in a country where sexism and misogyny are at least blunted in professional and public life by legislation and common consent, despite their pervasiveness in broader attitudes still,

I live, insofar as anyone does in a capitalist economy: free.

By any measure, I've got a lot to be thankful for. It doesn't hurt to remember that, specifically and intentionally, sometimes.

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