At the beginning of last week it was very hard to find things to be thankful for. At the end of last week I could have named 100 things. That’s how my life seems to go these days—stretches of mundanity punctuated with vibrant beauty. But I’m trying to be thankful in the mundanity too, because mundanity is when my body rests.
On Monday I was thankful for tea on tap. I’m not sure if that’s the correct phrasing, but my latest favorite coffee shop has a hot brewed “tea of the day” that they keep in an insulated carafe. Instant tea! No waiting for it to brew! It reminds me of that feeling of coming downstairs and seeing that someone else has brewed a pot of tea to share, and all you have to do is pour.
Last week my health was pretty dubious. Tuesday was the worst day, and neither Jenny nor I did much of anything. I couldn’t stomach much besides brothy soup and saltines, but I didn’t have the energy to stand at the stove and cook up brothy soup.
Then I remembered…crock pots exist!
I filled a crock pot with pork chops, broth, potatoes, and some random veggies from the fridge. Then I went back to bed. The soup cooked itself to a digestible mush and that’s what I ate for the rest of the week.
So on Tuesday I was grateful for crock pots.
On Wednesday I couldn’t decide what to be thankful for. I have a pretty view out my bedroom window, I thought, but it was hard to be grateful because it just reminded me of how much of this gorgeous fall weather I’ve wasted by being indoors.
However, later I changed my mind. If I had to be indoors and unwell, having a lovely bedroom-window view is nothing but a blessing. Orange leaves and quaint brick buildings. I am grateful.
Thursday I was grateful for a different sort of thing. I was grateful that I don’t have to carry my burdens alone.
Sometimes I get the idea that it’s just me and Jesus in this big world, but it’s not. God gave people other people for a reason. I felt a little convicted when Vanya Hooley wrote on Twitter, “I’ll tell my friends my thoughts. I’ll tell my friends my thoughts about my feelings. But I rarely tell even my best friends about my *actual* feelings, and it just occurred to me that that probably hurts both of us.”
Maybe it’s an Enneagram 5 thing. Nevertheless I decided to tell one of my best friends about my *actual* feelings, and her empathy lifted a burden from my soul.
On Friday I was grateful for old friends. The ones who understand everything about where you come from.
I drove to Pennsylvania this weekend because a group of new-ish friends invited me to go see Hamilton in Philadelphia with them. I was pretty apprehensive because my schedule is so booked up through early December that I was afraid any misstep could send my health tumbling into the abyss. I know so many people in PA that I always tend to overbook myself. So I tried to plan for as few people and as much sleep as possible.
Even though I’ve gone to PA several times since I’ve moved, I haven’t had a chance to catch up with Shanea yet, so I asked her if I could spend Friday night there. So Friday I was able to get up late and take my time cleaning up the house and leaving. I arrived at her house around dinner time, and we spent all evening chatting.
I don’t know if it’s fair to call Shanea an “old friend” because we weren’t friends growing up. She was quite a bit younger than me. But like, Shanea’s best friend’s brother, Trent, was my brother’s best friend, and Shanea’s sister Janane was my sister’s best friend, and Shanea’s brother was my other brother’s best friend. We were in the same very small circle of acquaintances.
I think we became real friends in the 2017/2018 school year when she taught grades 3-5 and I was the secretary. That was an…interesting year, and let’s just say we bonded. Shanea saw a side of Brownsville that I never did, and I really credit her for helping me understand so many of the dynamics of the church and school where I grew up.
As we were talking, I got a text from someone I haven’t really talked to in years. “Trent just texted me,” I said. There was something wonderful in not having to explain who “Trent” was.
“What? Why?” Shanea asked.
Turns out he was in Blacksburg and wanted to hang out with Jenny and I. He also relocated to VA from Oregon, and wanted to connect. Trent, of course, is in that same tiny group of people that Shanea is in. He once climbed in my bedroom window because he wanted to hang out with Steven and didn’t want to use the front door.
Anyway, of course I wasn’t in VA but Trent and his wife ended up hanging out with Jenny and I’m sure I’ll connect with them at some point. I was grateful, for Shanea and Trent and all the others who “get” what it was like in our tiny Brownsville universe.
At the end of 2019 I wrote down my top 10 moments of the 2010s. In 2029, if I write the top 20 moments of the 2020s, it is very likely that Saturday will be on that list.
Saturday, see, I was grateful for Hamilton.
Usually when I talk about the things that deeply move me, they’re very uncool, semi-obscure things. It’s always either musicals or fantasy books. I have to explain why I like them while also understanding that most people won’t like them. And not in a cool way.
But Hamilton is extremely popular. So maybe you’d love it too, who knows!
In 2016 a friend played me two songs from Hamilton and I really loved them. However, I didn’t allow myself to listen to the full soundtrack because I knew it was a sung-through musical and I didn’t want to “spoil” it. But tickets were hundreds of dollars and hard to get so I didn’t see much chance that I’d ever see it for real, at least not for a very long time.
Near the end of 2019, I was in Delaware and I saw that the library had a copy of “The Hamilton Mixtape.” This is an album of some of the songs from the musical and a few related songs or songs that were cut from the musical. I popped it into the CD player of my car and was blown away. Which is kinda funny because I had never remotely liked hip hop music before, but I guess it goes to show that I’ll like any “genre” of music as long as it’s a show tune.
Anyway. During the pandemic I learned that they were going to release a recorded Broadway performance of Hamilton and stream it on Disney+. I watched it with my sisters and didn’t think they were impressed enough, so after it was over I went wandering over the moonlit fields by myself, feeling my feelings like I was some sort of enneagram 4.
Last summer, a friend reached out and wondered if I’d be interested in seeing Hamilton live in Philadelphia with her friend group. At first I was apprehensive about the cost—aren’t tickets obscenely expensive? But if I was willing to sit in an “obstructed view” seat I could get a ticket for $47, which was doable.
We were waaaay up in the theater, but it wasn’t super spread out so I could still see quite well. Although it did give me that weird feeling like if I leaned forward too far I might tumble onto the stage.
As you can see in the picture, the balcony post blocked part of my view, which is why the ticket was cheap. But lucky me, no one bought the seat next to me, so I scooted one seat to my left and had a perfect view.
Then I watched the show, and it was amazing. It made me feel like I understood everything.
It’s hard to explain why I’m so moved by the things that move me. I guess I never like my stories to be too “realistic,” because life is so much more than what we can see and hear. Most of what we experience we experience internally, so we invented metaphors and music to try and convey our internal world to others. In fantasy you can use giant fantastical metaphors that aren’t “allowed” in realistic fiction or nonfiction. And in musicals you can tell the story with music, and thus everyone can feel the emotions of the story as they watch.
Most of the time I exist in the expanse of my own ignorance*, longing to know everything. But in these moments I feel like I understand everything about myself, the universe, even Spirituality. Before seeing Hamilton I felt weak. After seeing Hamilton I felt like God’s strength would be made perfect in my weakness.
So afterwards everyone kept asking, “how was Hamilton?” And I’d say, “amazing,” and hope that if they saw it they wouldn’t be disappointed. After all, it is quite popular. But I do think that most people don’t feel that same sort of transcendence after seeing a spectacular musical. Or maybe they do and no one talks about it.
Dana, one of the girls I went to see Hamilton with, was staying at her parent’s house that weekend while they were out of town. So four of us ended up spending the night there, and in the morning we sat around sipping tea and coffee. Then they went to church and I began the long drive home.
I decided that I was grateful for those slow, tea-sipping mornings with friends. I experienced a number of them that weekend. First on Saturday morning with Shanea, then late Saturday morning when I spent an hour at Esta’s house, and then Sunday morning.
The Week in General
I was super dooper grateful because my plan worked. I specifically scheduled my trip to include lots of sleep and fewer people, and I had good health the whole time with no crash upon return. Hallelujah!
The Rest of November
Originally I wanted to keep up this grateful-for-one-thing-every-day plan through the rest of November. However, the day after Thanksgiving I’m taking a trip to Kenya, and if I have time to post I just want to post about Kenya.
So what I’m thinking is, next Monday I’ll write another gratefulness post, and then I’ll do a gratefulness post on Thanksgiving as well which will end the series.
Take care, and stay grateful!
*I must credit Darren Sensenig, who was part of the Hamilton group, for this turn of phrase. I asked him why he went to college and he said, “I think the expanse of my ignorance was a motivating factor.” I thought that was a really cool way to say it.
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