What I’m Thankful For

Just a few of the family members I’m thankful for today…

There is quite honestly so much to be thankful for, I often find it difficult to pin down a central focus for blog posts such as this…but that’s no excuse for saying nothing, and with that, I’d like to offer a sincere Happy Thanksgiving to readers of The Writing Life and these few reflections:

Looking back on 2013, I’m thankful for the communities who opened their doors, bookstores, and schools to me as I navigated my first book tour. Likewise, the authors I look up to who coached and inspired me along the way, among them: Kyle Lang, Claire Davis, Jack Driscoll, Bilal Sarwary, Ben Busch, Molly Gloss, Helen Benedict, Van Jordan, and Doug Stanton. Support from organizations like Fishtrap, National Writers Series, and Words After War also came a crucial times, helping me get over the hump of exhaustion and into the home stretch of travels. But more than anything along these lines, I’m thankful for the everyday civilians who have, in some small way, taken the time to read words written by Iraq & Afghanistan veterans (or here) or to engage in meaningful conversations about how these wars are re-shaping a generation. Without this openness to discussion, I never would have believed I had an audience for Flashes of War, and without that audience, I may have found it damn near impossible to write. Likewise, those people–civilian or veteran–who are willing to keep looking at these predicaments and apply critical thinking, creative thought, and compassion over the long haul.

I’m also thankful for the individual students and local arts organizations (and one truly inspiring summer camp) who help me keep my self-employed lifestyle afloat. Without their trust in my abilities as a teacher and press manager, and without their paychecks, I quite literally could not do what I do. I’m 34 and fully self-employed. Not amply, but still–fully–and that’s a luxury and security I do not take for granted. Not for one single day. To those of you who are a part of helping me meet my monthly expenses and encouraging me to keep offering the services that I do, thank you. Your trust in me makes my lifestyle possible.

I began this blog post by stating how difficult I find writing a tidy thanks to be. Even these very small and personal thanks feel so limited, as sincerely as I intend them to be. Therefore, of course I am likewise thankful to wake up each day with the basics of food, water, shelter, and freedom in my life. I’m thankful for the general health of my friends and family and I’m sending direct, positive energy to those who are fighting illness right now. I’m thankful to have the time and piece of mind to explore my life and its options, to engage with community, and to make decisions that try to benefit the world. Too many people woke up today without having their most basic human needs met–and they will spend the rest of the day, and the next day, and perhaps the next months, still in search of those things: 2.1 million Syrian refugees, the US’s own under-served citizens within its very borders…the list could be so long…

I’m going to eat a big meal today. It’s so strange to say that. But I’m not going to swallow a single bite at a table surrounded by the warmth and excitement of new family without at least taking a moment to feel how fortunate it is to be able to do so. We are born into this world and tossed about. I often can’t make any sense of it. But I can pause and say thanks. At least I can do that.

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