Thursday, November 27, 2014

Gratitude, basi na sasa.

I feel like a broken record at best, and terribly cliched at worst, going on about gratitude and thankfulness and yada yada today. It's Thanksgiving.  We all get it. You're going to have to bear with me though.  I am sitting here with a mug of sugar cookie flavored tea, having just put the little one to down to nap, inhaling roast turkey perfume wafting from my kitchen.. and I just can't resist lending my voice to the chorus.

The world is not always a nice place to be, frankly.  Accidents happen, babies get sick, cancer exists. Jobs are one stock market fluctuation away from being lost and bills sometimes go unpaid. Good guys do bad things; bad guys have communities that love them and families that need them; the very institutions that are meant to protect us often fail to do so.  It can be overwhelming, all the bad in the world. Feeling like you're one poor decision, one act of fate away from the worst case scenario.

It may seem unnecessarily bleak, dwelling the terrible things that happen, but in a way I think it's an essential ingredient to happiness.  See, when you stop for a moment and fully appreciate that you are living life on a precipice, you can't take that life for granted any more. You don't wish away the day when you know that all you have could be taken away tomorrow. And when you consider all that could go wrong, you can relish what is going right.

Thanksgiving for me is a time to be thankful for what I have, but also to recommit to being more deserving of it.  More considerate of my friends who stand by me through anything. More loving towards the family that gives my life meaning. More involved in the communities that enrich my life. Less focused on owning all the things, less possessive of my time, less obsessed with maintaining control. I am reminded to let it be.  The only way to deal with the bad, after all, is to overwhelm it with the good.

Life is only as wonderful as the people you invest in. I found this little piece, written eight years ago when I was still living in Nairobi. It wasn't the greatest time in my life, I was young and overwhelmed and very lonely, but even through the fog of youthful narcissism there were moments of clarity in which I stopped and marveled at the humanity surrounding me.

October skies over Nairobi.  My view every evening for 2+ years.
11/2006: It's been a happy month. Maybe not entirely, but it's looking to end on a happy note. I have a lot to be excited about and, as always, much to be grateful for.

I am grateful for my shopping routine. I go to Nakumatt to get most necessities.  When I exit the big store I find the fruit hawker, David, sitting by the sidewalk with neat little piles of apples and oranges. I buy from him, then walk across the parking lot to find the sugarcane guy who, for 30 shillings, uses a large machete to peel and cut up a fresh cane for me (and there is NOTHING better on a hot and dry day than sucking on cold sugarcane). I then stop at the corner to meet some guys who sell Chinese bootleg 5-in-1 movies out of a cardboard box, and browse to see if they have anything new (and they always do!)

 I pick up my bags and walk home, along the way passing the spot where the boda bodas (bicycle taxis) hang out; they always ask if I need a ride, I always refuse. Past the matatu parked on the roadside, whose driver always reaches out to touch my hair when he thinks I won't notice.  A quick stop at the roadside, tin-and-cardboard vegetable stand for tomatoes, onions, chilis and spinach, then up the alley towards home,  usually passing our happy drunk neighbor and lots of church-goers (who scowl at me viciously if I wear anything that shows my arms) on the way.  I greet the guards who man the gate to my apartment complex, and scale the 4 flights of stairs to our little apartment.

Looking out behind my apartment complex.  Waaaaay down there, you'll see my husband riding a bike  :)

It's a routine, but it's sort of blissful. My American self is driven crazy by the pace of life here sometimes, but I do have to appreciate how everything revolves around, not what you do, but the people in your life. It's nice. 


True then, true now. Happy Thanksgiving, friends!