I wonder what they thought when they saw me…the families at the movie theater this afternoon, and later at the Waffle House. I wonder what they thought when they saw me…the lonely looking, middle aged woman with no family or friends around her. I wonder what they thought.
The truth is, I hope they didn’t see me at all. I hope they were so wrapped up in their own lives that they didn’t notice anything outside of their own joyful holiday traditions. I hope they were making some beautiful memories that they’ll remember forever.
Because the bigger truth is, I wasn’t lonely at all. For me, this is just another Thursday. In my family, we have to grab togetherness when we can. It’s usually twice a year, for about 3 weeks when my husband is home on vacation. It’s been that way for 8 years, and we have gotten accustomed to it being that way. I’m not lonely or sad on holidays, there is a Thursday every week. If it weren’t for the holiday commercials, I wouldn’t know the difference between this, or any other Thursday. We make the most of our time together, and look forward to the time when we’ll be together again. I choose to spend most holidays alone because my husband spends his without his family.
Someone once posed a question on facebook-Who do atheists give thanks to? It seemed a ridiculous question to me then, and it still does today. Let me break it down for you, in case you, too, were wondering. I am thankful TO my close circle of girlfriends…for always listening to me when they ask for advice (even though they rarely take it lol), and for inspiring me to always try to be more openly compassionate when it is my nature to keep it private. They never hold it against me that I’m completely secular, even though they do not agree with me. They are not only proud to be Christians, they are the rare Christians that I am proud to be close to.
I am thankful TO my family. I am thankful that I have a healthy, beautiful daughter and for that I take all the credit. I am thankful to my husband’s ex wife, for allowing me to love his daughter and be a part of her life. Some of us are not close geographically, and some of us don’t talk very often. But they are the foundation of who I am, and I wouldn’t change one single thing about any of them. Plus, they rarely come to visit, so there is that to be thankful for also LOL.
And every day, no matter where he is in the world, I am thankful to my husband. He chooses to work on the other side of the planet because when it comes to me or his girls, he cannot say no…to pretty much anything. It’s the only way he can give us the things he thinks we want, and that is very important to him. When we are done with college and the girls are settled in their lives, he will come home, and we will start learning to live together again. Strangely, we have become even closer in the 8 years since he’s been gone, than we ever were when he was here. We are thankful to each other for that.
I am thankful to my husband for one more thing. He allowed me to change my life, without knowing he was partially responsible for it. You see, if we didn’t spend our holidays apart, I wouldn’t have done what I did. I wouldn’t have gone where I went. Our family get-together is always on Christmas Eve, so early one Christmas morning, in 2012, I got on a plane and flew to Boston. I rented a car and drove to snowy northern Massachusetts and literally came back a different person (one with a cast on her leg). This was his Christmas gift to me (not the cast part). He thought it was just a trip…as it turned out, he was setting the GPS for my destiny. I’ve always wanted to ‘pay it forward’ somehow. But because I am an intensely private person, I just didn’t know how I wanted to accomplish that. And then one week in Ipswich, Massachusetts, at Service Dog Project, I found it. I am thankful to my friends there, who started out as acquaintances, but who draw me back every year. I went for the dogs…I go back for the people. They showed me how I wanted to pay it forward. They showed me how one person could help change someone’s life, and that’s how one person can change the world.
So I wonder what they thought when they saw me, all the people I saw today. They may have seen a person who was alone, but they also saw one who is never lonely-because I carry my gratitude to each one of you with me 365 days a year. And you are the reason I pay it forward.
I cannot do all the good that the world needs, but the world needs all the good I can do.