In response to The New York Times article “650 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing.”
178. “What Are You Grateful For?”
Read as, What are you waiting for? I want to feel gratitude. It’s hard sometimes. But let us.
Tony Robbins says, “You can’t feel fear or anger while feeling gratitude at the same time.”
Seneca writes, “It is not the man who has too little but the man who craves more that is poor.”
Lester Burnham, played by Kevin Spacey, recalls at the end: “And I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life.”
Every morning after my train commute, I walk five minutes from the 96th street station to my work on 103rd. I could transfer to the local train and make it to work in one minute instead. But I much prefer to step outside and breath the upper west side air, the smell of a toasted everything bagel topped with cream cheese, let sunlight fall onto my face between the cool mist and old brick buildings. It is on this seven block stretch that I run a list of things I am grateful for that morning.
Usually, “I am grateful for having work in NYC. I am grateful I can pay rent and buy food on my own. I am grateful students listen to me and met the learning objectives. I am grateful for my clean clothes. I am grateful for making time to iron my shirt. I am grateful for my health, and for being healthy the last several months.” And then it’s Thursday, and I’m grateful I made it through the week, so I can wake up on Friday and write in this blog. For that I’m grateful too.
Pretty simple stuff, but again I only have five minutes. It helps me, especially after a forty-five minute MTA transit where everyone around me is sullen-faced and looking down, or miserably arm-folded, or mouth-agape cat napping, or nervously scrolling down yesterday’s Instagram posts. I see the city before it has had the chance to put its make-up on. The most candid New York is at 7 AM. But I am grateful for the trains and the folks on the trains who keep the city running.
I am grateful for my buddy Ian who let me crash in his room this month. I am also grateful for Greg and Alex, my roommates, who keep busy themselves, and yet can still hang out in the living room by the day’s end. Grateful for all my friends am I. You’re the ones who Facetime me out of nowhere, the ones who take photos of us when everyone else forgets, who show up with a six-pack, who encourage, who whisper words of wisdom, who stay together.
Y que sea lo que sea, I am grateful to all my past loves. I am grateful to Kendall for giving me the confidence I needed to go off to college. Her compliments have never left me. Adrienne too, who traveled halfway across the state to see me and tell me how she felt; I’m grateful for her teaching me life doesn’t have to be so serious; it can also be about staying in and watching a flick with homemade chip dip and a blanket. I’m grateful for Vera. “You can tell me anything,” she said, when I never felt so open to anyone. She taught me I can look forward to seeing someone five, ten, twenty years from today, while at the same time accepting that this moment might as well be my last. I am grateful for Sara, for her compassion. She kept me sane in a city that was designed by pirates. Time with her became a sanctuary, my home away from home. Thanks to her I remembered love isn’t something only I feel and must give to someone else, but rather something that exists in the space between people. I am grateful for Virginia. With you I learned my internal world could merge with another’s to form a third. I am grateful for your understanding. I haven’t ever felt so exuberant, so shy, so animal, so divine with anyone else.
I am grateful for my parents. My mother raised four kids, my father too. They took us to see the world on a boat, on a plane, from a tent in the woods to the high floors of downtown hotels. My mother is the reason I pursued education, the push to share what was inside of me with others, because she herself is dedicated to others. My father is the reason I followed my passion, and strive to make it a craft, because he did the same, always followed what was in his heart–like my mother to Houston. I’m grateful to my uncles, who have each taught me a different meaning of life. Hernan, for showing me humor and style are unbounded. Cormack, for his solemn life advice. Ale, for being like an older brother to me. Mariano, for helping me edit my novel and for always leaving his home open to me. Beto, for showing me you can act grown up and still be cool as hell. I’m grateful to my aunts, having each been there for me through different struggles. Susi, for being the best godmother who praised my honor rolls in elementary. Vanine, for her exquisite cooking and generous hospitality. Bubu, for seeing the bright side of where we come from, a country otherwise mired in pessimism, grateful you helped me see the beauty there. Grateful too for Sole, la tía Jill, Vicky and Carola, who have all be there for me when I needed them. I’m grateful for the eight first cousins on my father’s side, and my five first cousins on my mother’s side, and my second cousins in between, each with whom I have a unique and individual relationship. How is that possible? I don’t know but I’m grateful. And where would I be without my grandparents? To Kuka, I am grateful, having helped me keep up with my Spanish grammar, and being the one who introduced me to the classics of Hispano-literature. To Aba too who passed on her tango and travel genes to me. Of course, I am grateful for the few years I spent with Jorge, enough to remember sitting on his lap, or playing with him and the legos he brought me once before passing away twenty years ago. And I am especially grateful for my grandfather, who made it to 80, and could be with us, and who in my eyes has never changed. To me you are immortal. And for that and more I thank you. And, Alana, Anouk, y Axel…my siblings, my three corners, which give my life structure. I hope you have all you’ve dreamed of, joy and happiness, because for you I am grateful.
And I’m grateful for you, the reader. Without you, these are but pixels in the netherworld. With you, these are the lines of a nearby yet faraway romantic no longer ashamed. Your presence here is double for me, since not only do you read, but you let me know. And for that my gratitude is double.
It’s moments like these where I feel like Kevin Spacey in American Beauty, even a floating bag caught in the wind reminds me of how much beauty there is in my stupid little life. And how much I want to live it. It’s ok to let this moment be our last. I hit the schedule button only out of habit. Otherwise I have written all that wanted out of me, and the rest let it be, let it be, oh let it be.
An EP-playlist, why not.