Outside it is a beautiful, sunny fall day in the desert. I can hear my daughter giggling with her best friend as they run around outside. The house is already starting to smell sweet and savory. It is Thanksgiving and I am filled with gratitude and wonder.
Maybe wonder is not the right word. Surprise? Disbelief? Somewhere there is a word that matches this feeling in my heart. As far as I can tell, I have finally arrived after a long, painful journey from the Land of Broken Toys. And I was broken — so broken I thought I was useless. I could not imagine a life such as this. I did not think joy was real. It hurt to dream.
Why am I filled with this feeling today? Thanksgiving.
I know a lot of people are writing missives about all the blessings in their lives today — food, shelter, health care, and so on. And I have those, too. Once upon a time I didn’t even have those! So make no mistake, I appreciate those blessings. I am grateful for those blessings. And I don’t discount the power of the tangible needs we all have and how vital it is that they are met. I have traveled that road. I know what it feels like to feel the threat of real danger.
But this post is not about those things. Well, not directly anyway.
This post is about the intangible. Because you can go through your life and have all your important needs met and still be miserable. And I have carried all my possessions in a sack on my back and witnessed miracles. So the beauty of life is not just encapsulated in stuff and jobs and paying the rent. Needs are vital but they alone do not heal broken toys.
I woke up this morning and did not feel terror. When I got out of bed, I did not have to worry that when I stepped out of my bedroom that someone was going to hit me or throw something at my head (well, unless you count three-year-olds with bad aim). I didn’t fear that as the day went on people in my house were going to get more and more drunk and that particular drunkenness leads to a pain I prefer not to talk about. When I woke up this morning I was not terrified and I did not immediately construct a plan for how to hide until it was over.
In this life I live now, when I wake up on Thanksgiving — in a home where the vile ways of the old days dare not pass the threshold — it sometimes takes me a second to remember that this is reality and not a dream. The primal warrior in me who survived and survived and survived again has put the sword down — which is something I never thought I could do. That instinctive ferocity is not needed here. This place is well beyond the bruised and broken. This is a place that far exceeds merely being safe (which would be enough). This is the place where joy lives. Maybe not every second of every day, but it’s here. Sometimes I almost think I can touch it.
To borrow a line from one of my favorite poems, I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul. But there’s a place beyond that — a place beyond survival. And I am grateful that I have found it.