From Badittude to Gratitude

One of my early blog posts in 2011, which asked, Can you be grateful for what you don’t have? focused on a difficult time in my life – when I was stuck in the aftermath of a divorce, and struggling to see the good in my life. I wanted to turn my frown upside down, zap it away with intention, but I couldn’t. I had a badittude I couldn’t shake, even though I said that I could.

I’ve come a long way since then, but in order to arrive at a place of authentic thankfulness and gratitude, I had to start with its opposite. I had to confront the pain and hardships. The reality of the situation, rather than whitewashing it or pretending that I was fine or happy and grateful. Had I pretended, I would have robbed myself of finding the real thing. I wouldn’t recognize the positive things in my life – that life has given me along the way – with any kind of real appreciation. Some studies have shown that “choosing gratitude can bring out the best in us and those around us.” But I don’t know if I believe that flipping a mental switch – that professing ones gratitude aloud can actually cultivate it on the inside. I think that gratitude – and its resulting easing of anxiety, release of stress, and sometimes, a true feeling of happiness – appears as a slow and cumulative result of tiny little experiences, revelations, and achievements in your life. The achievements – the physical results of gratitude, sometimes come first, as tangible manifestions of the interior growth and hard work you’ve done.gratitude

For example, a few of the things I am grateful for:

  1. My husband.  This gratitude was hard won. Meeting him and marrying him was an outgrowth of years of whining and wallowing and work and therapy and badittudeness and revelations.
  2. My home. My grownup Manhattan apartment, replete with a dining room (in Manhattan!) comes after being a wandering Jew and moving ten times in a decade, without knowing what was to come next.
  3. My family. My parents. My two sisters. While I’ve always appreciated them, only recently have I unearthed an unshakeable love and gratitude, which is evident when we talk. When we make an effort to visit each other.  When I surprise my mother for a random brunch and she screams like I’m a celebrity just stepped off a plane. When we share old photographs of our dorky adolescent selves in braces and bowl cuts and laugh over a private joke. When we are struggling with something that no one else can understand, and a phone call, followed by “Do you have five minutes?” always seems to bring about a resolution.
  4. Work. My job, which with time, investment, and loyalty only gets better.
  5. Writing.  For having finally found my calling in writing. For writing because it sooths my soul, regardless of the outcome or accolades. For craving it instead of wrestling with it.
  6. Gemma. Last but certainly not least, that old bag of sweet bones who has been my sidekick for eleven years is alive and well, and sometimes even puppyish enough to throw her kong in the air and knock over my wine glass.

[Health and peace and security… the deep thanks I have for those, and the awareness of how fleeting they are, would take up another blog post. And I’m a bit superstitious too].

It’s been ten years since I lost my gratitude, and perhaps it has taken ten years to get it back.

Or redefine it.

I can’t wait until Thursday, when my husband and I get to host our first Thanksgiving ever (in my…Dining Room!). For my parents, my sister and her husband and their three children, and for my in-laws (cue gratitude item #7. I have in-laws!). I can’t wait to set the table and make things pretty and attempt to cook the dishes I Googled (Mom’s bringing the kosher turkey though). I can’t wait for my in-laws to arrive tomorrow night and offer them an actual guest room.

I can’t wait until we go around the table and say thank you, and thank God for bringing us together. And reflect on what we are each grateful for, now, in this moment, because you never know what next year may bring.
Wishing you all a joyful Thanksgiving.

 

What Does Your Costume Say About You?

Growing up in an observant Jewish home, I didn’t do Halloween. Instead, the holiday of Purim served as a festive stand in for costumes and revelry. But when I re-entered the New York single scene in my mid-30s and lived downtown, “What are you dressing up as?” (and it better be both sexy and smart ) was a challenge constantly posed.

My answer: “Ugh. Who cares,” or “No clue.”

I’m not a big advance planner, not to mention that my frenetic workweek doesn’t afford me with the bandwidth for costume combing. And, it also may have something to do with my stubborn resistance to trends or group-think.

But the upside is that lazy, last-minute creative concepting can be thrilling, fun, and preferable. When I was a divorcee living in Soho, my fellow single gal pals came over so we could all get ready together, high school style. I was the Girl with The Dragon Tattoo because it required no prep.73439_457961034790_2980109_n I didn’t need to shop for what I already possessed – black clothing, black eyeliner, lots of necklaces, and a bitchy “don’t mess with me” countenance.

On the Halloween before Hurricane Sandy, when my now husband and I were dating, he dressed up as Frankenstein and I donned blue clothes and gray clouds (Frankenstorm). The Halloween after we got married, he was Frankenstein (costume recycle!) and I was Bride of Frankenstein. Last year, we both wore blonde wigs and gowns and were Renee Zelwegger.

This year, I had an ad industry party to attend on Thursday night, and as much as I didn’t want to dress up, I knew I had to show some kind of effort, so on my way I stopped at Ricky’s Costume Shop on 14th Street (mistake!) in search of dog-ears (anything dog themed is my classic default) and I’d speak in a low whisper all night (get it?).

Ricky’s was jammed, hot, and out of dog-ears. But they had plenty of Cougar kits – ears and tails – so I took it as a sign. I could be a Jewish Cougar (the Jewish part requires no accessorizing save some cchhs and hand gesturing). But the line snaked around the store, and I was already late. Here’s a tip: Costume shops pre-Halloween are packed with students and twenty-somethings who are happy to make five dollars purchasing your outfit for you. I found an exuberant volunteer at the front of the line.

My husband and I were invited to a party at 7pm on Saturday, but at 5pm, we still had no idea what we were going to be, so we head out to Ricky’s (upper west side – way better). But just before we got there, a light bulb went off (his). We would be Entangled Particles; two interconnected photons whose measurements and actions are synchronized. They communicate – even when separated by large distances (Einstein’s “Spooky Action at a Distance”). It was clever and topical and coupley. And I could also wear a slinky silver jumpsuit. 12183839_10153746905884791_6310947485647648194_o

As we engtangled Nerds head out into the cool evening, we were warmed to see crowds of joyful children and their parents, their smiles apparent behind their princess or ladybug masks. Some of the brownstones in the West 90s were decked out in Halloween decorations, families out on their stoops talking and taking pictures.

A stark contrast from when we lived in Chelsea and descended into the throngs of loud, young fratty types, and I was heartened to feel that I’d finally graduated to the next stage – or almost. Or maybe I was ensconced happily in between. A newlywed with a new grownup home in a grownup neighborhood, where  I could (could) leave candy out for the young children who live in my building (or eat theirs. Or my dog could). And I could also head back downtown, attend a party at a gallery with my fellow particle, and dance with him in a dark club with the unencumbered high of love and youth.

I very much look forward to not planning for next Halloween.