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The Other Option | 2009 | Tributaries

11.30.09 2:54 p.m.

Love wholeheartedly, be surprised, give thanks and praise - then you will discover the fullness of your life.  

-Brother David Steindl-Rast


Thanks Having

And I am thankful that you keep reading this

I am aware how fashionable it is for American writers at the end of November to state why they are thankful. Unfortunately for you, it is too tempting a target not to exploit again.

There is a scene in Fight Club where the Narrator talks about having found "the couch", so his couch problem was henceforth taken care of. He would never again have to worry about having a couch. This had been how I unconsciously saw relationships for a long time, that women were a nearly fungible resources that filled in the role of "partner" in my life. I had a girlfriend, so that problem was taken care of. With Melanie, it has always been different. Rather than seeing her as a checkbox fulfilled, something required for my overall health, she adds a whole layer to my life. I told her that she terrifies me in the best way. She is the thing in my life that feels most permanent. Within a year of dating her, I knew beyond a doubt that I could never be content in a world that didn't let her be my eventual wife. She is honest, smart, and committed to our growth together.
I love her a ton
There is little artifice between us, impeding genuine interactions. We have a future together that clarifies with every caress and reunion. Our road is not utterly smooth, but I can't imagine anyone else I have ever known who is better able to wander it with me.

I love my family, even and especially my brother's growing herd of children upon who practice my avuncular skills. Granted, on family holidays such as Thanksgiving, I tend to reach my exhaustion limit within five or so hours, generally a few hours before I can politely make my escape. It is nice to have slightly obnoxious children in my life whom I love, to remind me that my students are likewise loved by someone despite their bad behavior.

I am thankful for my friends, even as they have suffered major setbacks this year. Jacki lost her fiancÚ Kevin to his inability to commit to the life he felt she represented. Again. Despite a few days where she could barely manage to occupy her body, she has risen from the ashes of that relationship. While we still do not see one another as often as either of us wish, I am grateful that I can be there for her, just as she was there when Emily left me two years ago. I am thankful that Melissa seems to have found her way out of the abyss of her mental illness. She still does some things that seem maladaptive, but at least she is the one in the driver's seat, making me roll my eyes with a smirk and sigh, "Oh, Melissa, what did you do this time?" I am also making or cementing new friendships, such as with Tom and Ilana, that vastly improve my quality of life.

I've gotten rid of a lot (or a lot has gotten rid of itself) I do not need to be happy. There is something to be said for Buddhist nonattachment, of winnowing down to just the essentials so one is not wasting too much time on people, situations, and possessions that are not nutritive. My mother asked what I wanted for Christmas and I couldn't imagine anything that would improve my life. I am comfortable with certain binds to this modern world, but I don't need the newest and shiniest gadget to feel completed.

I've come more into myself than I was aware I could. Two years ago, there was a bundle of nerves and neuroses at the back of my brain, affecting my behavior. It was finally excised this summer, leaving only embarrassment that it was permitted to foment so long. I feel whole and unburdened.

I am capable of what I consider personal success. I have come to a point in my writing where I can, fairly effortlessly, sit down and bang out the rough draft of a chapter. My characters do talk to me, often telling me that they won't do what I have scripted for them, and very often explaining why while I'm in the shower and unable to write (which I believe they do out of spite).

Nevertheless, I am more than aware of all I have against me. I am still on unemployment at, as far as I can tell, the worst job market in my lifetime (though I am substitute teaching about three days each week). My creditors, most notably the company that bought my student loans, are not about to forgive me for my lack of steady employ. I have had more than one call informing me that I won't be hired because I am overqualified, which is good for my ego if not my bank account. My car just needed new tires in quite a desperate way, further draining my cash reserves (though I was not daft enough to allow them to coerce me into further repairs I believe they made up on the spot). I live an hour away from my girlfriend and my subbing schedule usually means I speak to her only a few minutes a day (not counting sugary text messages).

But I am happier than I have ever been. I engage in the magical thinking that these set backs and minor tragedies are leading me toward something good and that my problem is that I look at these through too narrow a lens most of the time. Very often, we need to lose something to realize we never needed it or to clear the slate for something even better. We cannot grow if we are not willing to shed old shells.

The time of tumult seems to be ending, at least for a little while. Things rarely stay smooth sailing for long, but I have hope that this will grant us all time to regroup before the next spate of choppy seas. But how would we learn if the storms never came? How would we ever get anywhere in nothing but doldrums?

Soon in Xenology: Maybe a job, parties, Ilana, Tom.

last watched: The Fantastic Mr. Fox
reading: Howl's Moving Castle
listening: Imogen Heap

The Other Option | 2009 | Tributaries

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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