A few years ago there was something called the gratitude challenge that was trendy on Facebook around Thanksgiving. I wasn’t active on Facebook then so I didn’t participate in it. I found it rather twee and nauseating anyway. In 2016 it doesn’t seem to be much of a thing anymore. This year I thought about it on the Saturday before Thanksgiving though. I had recently begun actively participating in Facebook and I now had several things in my life I was really grateful for so the gratitude challenge seemed like something I should consider doing. Well, a modified version of it anyway. Posting three things I was grateful for each day for a month would have been rather overwhelming for me but surely I could manage one thing a day for a 6 day week of gratitude. You know how I am, joining Facebook in 2016, using a flip phone for most of 2016 until I upgraded to a Blackberry, writing blog posts about events that happened weeks, months or years ago. It only seemed appropriate that I participate in a Facebook trend that went out of style circa 2014.
Sharing the things I was grateful for ended up being a rewarding experience for me and my Facebook friends seemed to appreciate it as well. Hopefully the people who read my blog will appreciate it just as much. Each of the things I’m grateful for could be a blog entry of its own and eventually it will be but for now here’s a roundup of the things that fill my heart with gratitude.
On Saturday I was grateful for my lovely mother. Anyone who has read the biography of my mother that I published on this blog knows that she is an amazing woman who would move heaven and earth for me. I really did get very lucky in the mother department.
The previous day I’d gone to the doctor because since the election I’d been in a Trump slump and I was having trouble sleeping. In the waiting room I read Time Magazine’s coverage of Trump’s election win and I really enjoyed it, at least as much as it’s possible for me to enjoy reading about Trump winning the election. I was called in to the examining room before I could finish reading it and I told my mother I would like to obtain a copy of it later. I also told her that a massage would be a good way to relieve the stress I was feeling. A lot of people on the autism spectrum are hypersensitive and can’t stand being touched, especially not by strangers but I’m one of the hyposensitive ones who’s constantly craving sensation and stimulation. The doctors kept asking me if I was okay with getting shots and having my blood drawn. I wasn’t just okay with it, I enjoyed it. (I think I should become a blood donor.)
That night I found a copy of Time Magazine on my bed and I knew it was courtesy of my lovely mother. I also found a gift certificate for a massage on my bed and I assumed that was courtesy of my lovely mother as well. When I thanked her for the magazine she said “You’re welcome” but when I thanked her for the massage gift certificate a baffled expression came across her face. She had not put any massage gift certificate on my bed that day. We figured out that earlier that day when I was scrambling for a pen and paper, I had grabbed the envelope I found in my drawer and dumped its contents on to my bed. So in addition to being grateful for my mother I was grateful that I stumbled across a gift certificate for a massage.
On Sunday I was grateful for Facebook because it has allowed me to reconnect with so many awesome people that I would not have reconnected with otherwise and I was grateful for all the awesome people I’d reconnected with.
When I decided to re-emerge from years of self imposed isolation and reach out to people from my past, Facebook was the tool I used to do that. There’s no way I could have connected with so many people to the extent that I did without Facebook. When I started making friend requests I was nervous about it and at first I only sent friend requests to a select few people but as time went on I became less and less discriminating about the people I friend requested. These days if I know someone either in real life or online and they’re not an asshole, I’m eager and willing to be their Facebook friend.
Some people have rejected my friend requests and some people have insinuated that I was being creepy or trying to stir up trouble with the friend requests I sent. That stung a bit but I realized that their reasons for rejecting my friend request may have more to do with them than with me and that it’s their loss, not mine because I’m pretty damn awesome on Facebook if I do say so myself. The joy I’ve experienced as a result of my accepted friend requests far outweighs any emotional pain I’ve experienced as a result of my rejected friend requests and I know that through Facebook I’ve made other people just as happy as they’ve made me.
On Monday I was grateful for my dog Lily, who is a sweet adorable puddle of cuddles and love. My heart was broken when my last dog Dakota died and I was afraid no dog would ever be able to fill my heart with so much love but Lily won my heart the moment I saw her at her foster home. At the time I wrote that status my brother was home for a visit so I was chopped liver to her but now that he’s gone back to Texas she’s showering me with affection again.
I adore that dog, even when she’s being obnoxious. I enjoy the feeling of her snuggled up against me in bed so much that I’m willing to forgive the occasional farting in my general direction and middle of the night barking. The leaning her whole body in to yours when you’re trying to do something, the pawing at your face and the french kissing can be a bit overwhelming at times but it’s nice to be so loved. No love compares to the love of a dog, especially the love of a dog like Lily.
On Tuesday I was grateful for all the wonderful teachers and therapists I’ve had. I got really lucky in that department too. I’ve also had some bad teachers and therapists but the good ones more than make up for it. I then went on to express my gratitude for three specific teachers/therapists who are amazing at what they do and who have gone well above and beyond the call of duty. I’ve learned so many valuable lessons from them both in and out of the classroom. They have laughed with me and cried with me, they have been major sources of support, encouragement and comfort. I wouldn’t have gotten through middle school or high school without them and they’ve also greatly enriched my life in adulthood.
Their personal relationship with me did not end when our professional relationship ended because they decided that once I was theirs I was theirs forever. They aren’t just great teachers and therapists, they’re great friends. They were the first three people I contacted when I decided to stop being a recluse. They reminded me just how loved and appreciated I am. They gave me the courage to reach out to other people and they’ve helped me find my place in this world.
On Wednesday I was grateful for my invisible internet friends. I never thought I would feel such a connection to people I’d never met. I thanked them for making me laugh, for commiserating with me about Donald Trump and for defending me against my invisible internet enemies. I told one of my internet friends that she has truly earned the title of best troll ever.
My invisible internet enemies cyber bullied me for a long time and I don’t know how I would have coped with it without my invisible internet friends, especially my friend that the cyber bullies deemed a troll. They also accused me of being a troll. The nasty things the cyber bullies said about me hurt a lot and I couldn’t help but wonder if they might be right about me. Luckily I had my invisible internet friends to stick up for me and to assure me that the cyber bullies were wrong about me.
Some of the things the cyber bullies said about me were that I refused to learn appropriate social behavior, that the only common feature of all my dissatisfying relationships was me and that I did not interact effectively with human beings. I have had some dissatisfying relationships but these days I have quite a few satisfying relationships and I’m also the common factor in those so maybe I do know a thing or two about appropriate social behavior and interacting effectively with human beings.
Earlier I’d expressed my gratitude to one of my invisible internet friends by telling her that it was nice that she was willing to be my friend despite all the horrible things people said about me. She replied that the things those people said about me were a reflection on them, not a reflection on me. She acknowledged that I’d gotten belligerent with those people but that anyone would get belligerent if they were being picked apart the way I was. She said that it wasn’t that she was “willing to be my friend”, she just considered me to be a friend.
On Thursday my status read ” I am grateful for blessings in disguise and I’m grateful that the risks I took paid off. I’m grateful that I’m happier today than I would have thought possible six months ago. I’m also grateful for sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie.”
For the past decade or so my life has been pretty hard and miserable. I’ve dealt with mental illness, loss of loved ones, loss of hopes and dreams and people being cruel to me. A year and a half ago my mother and I moved to Illinois in an effort to improve our lives. I was devastated when my dog Dakota died shortly after we moved and when we ended up coming back to New Jersey. These days I’m very glad the move to Illinois didn’t work out though. It just wasn’t a good place for us and if we’d stayed there I wouldn’t have been able to get together with the friends in or from this area I’ve reconnected with.
At the time I moved to Illinois I was not in touch with any of my real life friends. My mental illness had wreaked havoc on my life. It had made me too ashamed to reach out to people I knew in real life or to socialize with them. I became dependent on an internet forum for socialization. As I spent more and more time on that forum, my interactions with some people there became increasingly warm and friendly but with others they became increasingly negative and hostile. A friend of mine on that forum said that at one point I was being treated so badly there she worried I would be driven to suicide.
I had never attempted suicide nor had I ever formulated any suicide plans but I certainly thought and talked about wanting to be dead a lot. My life felt so empty and hopeless. I did not think it was possible for me to ever be happy or even content again. I struggled with very low self esteem so of course being criticized, attacked and insulted in real life and on the internet did not help matters.
The cyber bullying came to a head around Thanksgiving of last year. I became the center of a cyber shit storm. I was dogpiled by dozens of people who trashed my communication style, my personality, my life circumstances and my mental abilities. Dozens of people told me how annoying and disliked I was. Dozens of people tried to get me kicked out of the only social group I had outside of my family at the time. Thanksgiving 2015 was not a very pleasant holiday for me because I could not stop thinking about all the hurtful comments my cyber enemies had made or worrying about the trouble I’d caused for myself and my cyber friends.
I knew there was a good chance my cyber enemies would eventually succeed in getting me banned from the forum just like I’d known there was a good chance we’d end up returning to New Jersey but when a few months later I was banned because I “didn’t have a healthy relationship with the board” I was still devastated. I was even more devastated when as a result of the drama surrounding my banning I lost some of my cyber friends. My tiny social circle was dwindling even further. I worried that eventually all my cyber friends would ditch me and I’d be left with no one. It seemed like my options were either reach out to my real life friends or be completely alone.
For a while I seriously thought that being completely alone might be the better option but eventually I decided to take the plunge and reach out to people. I worried that my friends had forgotten me, that they’d stopped caring about me, that there was too much distance between us, that too much time had passed since we’d last spoken for us to have a relationship now. There was no need for me to worry. While I couldn’t expect any of my friends to remember all the details I remember, they remember all the important things. I was pleasantly surprised to discover just how much people still care about me and just how little time or distance matter. If someone is a true friend, it does not matter one bit. You can see them for the first time in 10 years and pick up exactly where you left off. You’ll feel so comfortable around them and have so much fun with them, that you’ll find it hard to believe it’s been so long since you’ve seen or talked to them. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
I don’t know that I ever would have reached out to all those people if I had not been banned from that forum. I’m so glad I got kicked out of a place that had become toxic to me and surrounded myself with a group of people who are good for me. Talking to people who tell me how amazing and awesome I am as opposed to people who tell me how annoying and awful I am has done wonders for my self esteem.
I took another risk last week when I decided to attend an alumni event at my high school. I wanted to go but I was so nervous about it. I knew I would inevitably be asked the question of “What are you doing these days?” and I didn’t know how to answer it. I’ve been attacked by cyber bullies and by real life bullies for not having a job. While I knew that no one at the alumni reunion would attack me for not having a job, being asked about it would be awkward and would bring up my feelings of inferiority. I brainstormed possible answers to that question with both my current wonderful therapist and my previous wonderful therapist/forever friend but when I was asked that question, I didn’t even need to answer because my wonderful former teacher/forever friend answered for me. “She’s just hanging out, being Kira Badeera” she replied.
I had a great time at the alumni reunion and the next day I had a great Thanksgiving at my sister’s house. There were sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. I don’t think my gratitude for those things requires any further explanation. While we eating our meal, my sister told me how glad she was that I started a blog and how much she enjoyed reading it. She said I was a really good writer and I’d really found my voice. I only ended up doing 6 days of gratitude on Facebook but if I were to make it a full week the seventh thing I’m grateful for is the opportunity WordPress has given me to express myself through my blog, to read the blogs of other people and to be a part of the blogging community.
One of the people who cyber bullied me once said that I was a spoiled, ungrateful brat. I may be spoiled and I am definitely a brat. In fact brat is the affectionate nickname my wonderful former therapist/forever friend gave to me. In the picture she posted of me from the alumni reunion she used the hashtag ‘original brat.’
However, I am most certainly not ungrateful. I think I’ve shown just how grateful I am for all the blessings I have in my life.