On Illness and 37th Birthdays:  A Gratitude List

I turn 37 on Sunday.

*Takes a moment for all the “Clerks” fans to chime in, “…in a row?????”*
I turn 37, and even though I’m sick AF right now, and that’s a TERRIBLE way to start a birthday weekend, I have nothing but gratitude for this Sunday’s events.  In fact, I have nothing but gratitude even for being sick AF, because it means I MADE it to 37, despite mental illness, despite physical illness, despite half a life spent being sabotaged by my brain to think my body deserved deprivation, I made it to 37, and I am blessed every moment I draw a breath…even if it’s kind of raspy and congested because I’m sick AF.
And therefore, I think it’s time for…*drumroll*
I do this every few years, usually after a particularly significant period of my life or a time of rapid
change and development. The last one I created was in 2014, right after I got out of Renfrew. I remember some of the things on that gratitude list very clearly:  Sun. Yoga pants. Family. Frozen Yogurt. Espresso. Tranquility.  All things that someone who had been shut up for nearly three months would find worthy of gratitude as she learned to cope with the now-muted-but-still-omnipresent voices in her head.
And now?  I’m still grateful for sun.  Frozen yogurt FTW.  Espresso, you’ll always be my ride-or-die.  But I’m older now, and have been romping through this sunlight path we call life for another few years, and the things which I appreciate so deeply they are an intrinsic part of me have evolved.  And as I approach a birthday which officially marks my early late-thirties, it behooves me to reflect on everything that makes life worth living, makes life unique, makes life a gift…because it is.  And here are mine:
1.  Still family.  Always.  The nuclear kind, the extended kind, and the kind you choose.  You know who you are.
2.  Stable employment.  There’s something to be said for the security of a regular paycheck which you earn, by doing work you enjoy, for an entity which appreciates it.  But it’s impossible to talk about stable employment without also talking about…
3.  Successfully managing mental illness.  My fellow, crazies, hunker down, this one’s for us:  Sometimes, f*cking up your life is not entirely your fault.  Sometimes, you are just ill, just like people get ill, only it can’t be seen or felt or sensed by others, and you’re judged by your symptoms and the principle of unintended consequences.  But if you can manage it…manage your mental health, acknowledge that you have a chronic disease, even a disability at times, and to be compliant with whatever treatment plan best suits you…you still get to live.  And live well.  And if you’ve been struggling, know that it can get better, and does.  Because it did for me.
4.  Ser Brienne, Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.
5.  My loyal readers.  Both of you.   *pauses for laughter*
6.  No, seriously; if you’ve ever read anything that I’ve written, even directions to I-95 from the suburbs, thanks for your support.  Makes me feel less like I’m screaming into a Nietzschean abyss.
7.  Trogdor.  Because what other cat lets you squeeze her around the middle and then forgives you, every day, ad infinitum?  (Yes, you heard me right.  Infinitum.  Because Trogdor is going to live forever.  No, I’m not listening to you, TROGDOR IS NEVER GOING TO DIE.  DON’T @ ME.)
8.  Family again.  Because, let’s get real, what else is this life really about but the connections we have and the good we create with them?
9.  Pete Boot-Edge-Edge’s husband, Chasten.
10.  2019, and so on.  Because this is not a moment, it’s the movement.
There are others, of course…countless things that make me happy to be alive.  But no one scrolls forever, and as great as it is to write, it’s even better to squeeze cats and make babies laugh and eat baking chocolate chips directly from the bag, even though that’s not what I’m doing right now or anything.
So, on the eve of the eve of my penultimate day being 36, I am pleased to report I am enjoying an existence that is life affirming, in the existentialist sense, and I thank everyone who has contributed to it along the way.
No, YOU’RE eating chocolate chips directly from the bag.