On The Joy and Burden of Gratitude

How do I describe

What it feels like to be understood

By an author

Stranger than my closest friends

The joy of waking up

With that settled feeling in my stomach

Longing only the smell of fresh coffee

The color of the sky

When it is that deep blush

I’ve only seen on flowers

The rush of wind through my hair

Through the tall trees branching above me

As I hug wet grass with my toes

How do I describe

A quiet tea

Your company

And a shared smile

I know will sum up all the words

I’ve been saving

All this time

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A piece I wrote for a friend whose friendship I’m deeply grateful for. Grateful. A word unpacked over and over during therapy. A word I’d always used abundantly and have now begun to use more carefully, less sparingly; especially when I want to describe how I feel about my relationships, acts of kindness and any general appreciation directed towards me.

But it is 2021, and there’s an unrelenting pandemic raging outside as I try to live a little between lockdowns. And so, I wonder: In a world where meaningful conversation was already lost to updates and memes, how do I mark my presence in the lives of loved ones I’m ‘isolating’ from, have not physically met in a long time and have no idea when I’ll meet next? How do I tell them that I love them when I don’t have the energy to pick up the phone or make a video call, to ask ‘how are you?’ for the hundredth time? And what if they’re not even thinking about all of this? What if I’m just running around in a circle of my own making?

Clearly, I don’t know.

A few weeks back though the friend I wrote this piece for made me want to use the word ‘grateful’ again. After a long time I found myself wanting to make the effort to communicate; to describe what it felt like to feel cared for in a way that didn’t make me worry about whether or not I deserved it. It’s been two years since we last met and we don’t know when we’ll meet each other again. And so, it felt important to communicate. Her gentle check-ins, fearless displays of affection — even on her tough days — had helped me through mine. And I was grateful. But more than that: I was happy to be able to express this gratitude without feeling vulnerable / worrying if I was investing too much in yet another relationship in which the person on the other end couldn’t/wouldn’t reciprocate or worse: feels embarrassed about my display of affection towards them. This one time, none of this seem to matter. And since this did not happen often enough, I was grateful. I was grateful, to be able to feel and express my gratitude fully.

Researcher, writer — always wondering why and what if.