This day is so different from last year.
Last year I was invited to Seattle. Last year I sat at my best friend's house and waited for her other guests to arrive; people I'd never met before. People who didn't know that I should have had a firm, round belly that day, showing under my sweater; didn't know that my breasts used to be smaller, that my bras used to fit. Didn't know the me from before, the me who hardly ever cried, who didn't need to wear waterproof mascara every day.
"Did you warn them that I'm a little, um... unstable?" I asked, anxiously.
Last year, in true northwest style, we prepared salmon and arugula and root vegetables and apple-cherry pie for dinner. We drank wine in shades of red and white and rose until the candlelight and the conversation both sparkled with added brilliance, and everything was funnier than usual; and then suddenly, instead of funny, everything was just quiet and comfortable and warm.
Last year, to amuse myself, I threw together ingredients without any measuring involved to make a loaf of pumpkin bread for my hosts -- which turned out to be a thing of such glory that it truly stunned us all; and I can say with confidence that the taste and texture of it shall never be equaled nor accurately reproduced. But that's as it should be.
Last year, when I missed my baby, I pulled out his quilt and worked my pain into it, rather than cry in front of strangers. Though I suppose it was really just my own way of crying in front of strangers.
Last year, I sat and stared out the window at rain dripping slowly off of blood red leaves, and tried to think of something to be thankful for, which felt, at the time, like an exercise in futility. But then I slowly realized that I was sitting in the living room of a person who, for some reason beyond my understanding, really, really cared about me. Who actually wanted me around, despite my sporadic withdrawls and bouts of tears and my inability to see past this moment, then this one, then this.
And I was grateful then, for her and for the handful of other people who felt the same, who would do the same for me. It did not seem like quite enough; it seemed a pitifully small number, in fact, standing between me and a huge, violent, scary world... but I knew it was a start. And while I felt completely ambivalent about whether I lived or died on any given day, I knew that they did not. A year later, those same people continue to be the most important ones in my life.
However. I'm afraid I cannot say with any kind of conviction that I am really happy to still be alive. There are days when I think it hardly matters, one way or the other, and I wonder at times if perhaps my wounds will turn out to be fatal, after all. I must confess, if I died tomorrow, my final thought would be: At last, at last.
But do not worry, dear ones. And do not let your feelings be hurt by my despair; my pain runs deeper than you can ever know, and it is not your responsibility or your fault. I will speak of other things, now, for your sake. Because I love you, too.
Today I am alive, and since I am alive, it is good to be alive in California. It is good that the sun is shining today, despite the cold. It is good that I do not have to see or speak to anyone that I don't want to see or speak to. It is good that I have a place where I can express what I think and feel without fear of retaliation. It is good that later on I will be welcomed to a table, heavy-laden in the best sense of the word.
It is good.
I am thankful for the people who got me here, to this place and to this day. I am thankful for the people who still think it makes sense for me to wake up every morning, the people who believe my life really is worthwhile, despite all. You are brave, to believe such things. I am thankful for the people who read these words of mine, who open up their hearts and who leave a few words of their own in return. You are generous. You are kind.
It is quiet in my room. There is sunlight, stillness, peace. For now, in this moment, and this one, and this: I am thankful.