Thanksgiving is upon us, which begs the question, what do we give thanks for? Then gift-giving celebrations demand we thank givers. Our attitudes about appreciation confront us, and like A Christmas Carol apparition, the Ghost of Gratitude heartens or haunts us, induces inner glow or guilt.
When disagreeable thoughts assault my mind, which is often these days, I stop, give thanks for something, and, leaping from memory to memory, my brain plays mental hopscotch.
For example, bending over (mind out of the gutter, please).
The other day I was fuming about—what else?—politics. I bent over to put on my socks and remembered when I’d hurt my back, how that simple task caused excruciating pain. Mentally, I thanked my chiropractor, grateful for the money to pay him and buy good socks, stored in a lovely dresser, near a closet of lovely clothes, in a lovely bedroom, where I rest in a lovely bed next to my lovely partner, Neil, in our lovely home where we share food and drink with lovely friends. And presto, bango! Life was just so fricking lovely!
Life can also suck big time. I’ve experienced overwhelming grief and excruciating physical pain. Weighted by tons of depression, I’ve fallen to the floor, curled up, rocked and groaned from disappointments with people or circumstances, but I’m grateful for what I gained: wisdom.
To me, gratitude feels good, focuses my mind on the present, calms and refreshes it. A harmony with life grows, yielding a confidence in its goodness. Outwardly appreciating kindnesses, gifts, or benefits from people returns good feelings to them. I know a thankful heart is open to more goodness, attracts it, receives it.
I’m grateful I had great parents, first-generation children of German/Russian immigrants. Reuben and Sarah were born in 1913, raised during the Great Depression, married in 1934. Their first home was a cleaned-out chicken coop. They received one wedding present: a colander (a prized inheritance, but I’ll resist hop-scotching). They became successful, and I observed how they were admirable stewards of their blessings, achieved through hard work and shared with others.
I’m grateful I was raised in Fort Lupton and Brighton, small farm towns north of Denver, in Leave It to Beaver neighborhoods. Though Sarah didn’t cook dinner in high-heels and Reuben didn’t smoke a pipe in a cardigan sweater, my youth was stable, my education excellent, my community safe. I was cared for and protected, never experiencing divorce at home, drugs at school, or sexual abuse at church.
My parents instilled in me common sense, common decency, and common courtesy, which in Trump-World feel uncommon. Even Wally and the Beav had problems with June and Ward. My problems with my parents were compounded by teen years filled with angst over my sexuality. Though I had many girlfriends (who better to giggle with), I had no interest in them physically. Gym class, however, and all those naked guys? …Uh-oh.
I had often wished I was straight, thinking how much easier life would be, but I could not resist this divine urge. After years of turmoil, I finally accepted myself as a gay man. The struggle continued, but I was lucky to have lived during a time in history when gay life burst out of the closet.
I’m grateful for all the queer heroes who blazed new trails I could follow. Special nods go to the guy who in 1977 smacked Anita Bryant with a cream pie, the members of Act Up, and the owners of the Ballpark, Denver’s fabled bathhouse.
Undoubtedly, surviving the AIDS plague taught me the most about gratitude. I have lived two to three decades longer than friends who perished. This year, three more friends died: Ellen from Alzheimer’s, Linda from a car accident, John from a massive heart attack celebrating Pride on a dance floor in Berlin. To them all, I express my gratitude by living with gratitude.
Life is tenacious, even if clinging to debilitating, drawn-out diseases—or transitory, gone in a second like the last lick of a flame. The irony of a first breath is, we are guaranteed, maybe in one minute or 100 years, a last exhale. So what do we do with this life we’ve been gifted?
I was blessed out of the gate, and I don’t take that for granted. I know life is a bazillion times tougher for billions, so I try to be of service to friends, strangers, congregants at my spiritual center. And to serve the LGBTQ community.
This is my 50th article for OUT FRONT. I’m grateful to its readers and owners and editors. It’s a privilege to be a part of this local news source, publishing for 40+ years (!), especially as print media appears doomed (it’s not) and is deemed “the enemy of the people” (it’s not).
The challenges to the LGBTQ community are many and formidable. When I recall how gay men in Syria were pushed off rooftops by ISIS troops, and if they survived, how they were stoned, vilified, and terrified by cruel and cowardly hypocrites, I’m grateful I live in America.
So yeah, I’m grateful I’m gay. Grateful for Marilyn, Judy, Joanm, and Bette. For Alexander McQueen and drag queens, camp and DaVinci’s David (not to be confused with Camp David). For disco and Stravinsky, Midnight Cowboy, Cabaret and Angels in America. Grateful to live in Colorado and (before it turns into the Environmental DESTRUCTion Agency) for the EPA protecting the grandeur of the Rockies. For all the women in my life over the years who have enriched my life beyond measure. For finding a faith I thought non-existent and unattainable. For all the teachers and classes, foreign cultures, and books that broadened my mind. For New York.
For all my careers and employers who allowed me to thrive. For Krispy Kremes and Mom’s cinnamon rolls, and pie, lots of pie, and cakes and cookies! And that I’m not diabetic. Which reminds me, I’m indebted to my healthcare providers for the body they’ve healed. And every day, I give thanks for Lee, my blood and soul brother. And for Neil, oh God, yes, dear, sweet Neil. Oh yeah, and sex! Really grateful for sex. I’m grateful for the gay national bird, the flamingo, because, well, it’s so gay! And the platypus. And laughter, can’t forget that. And for Hammacher Schlemmer, because it’s fun to say. And for doggies. And Baby Jesus because—oh Lord, somebody stop me!
Mine may be a little life, but it’s been filled with grand adventures. More will come.
What are you grateful for?