There are a lot of things that I’m not good at. Lots of things. The list of things that I’m really not good at could easily take up the 900-word limit of this column, but that might make for a tedious read, so I’ll just give you an abridged sampling of my shortcomings, which include: parallel parking (or any facet of driving), yoga, confrontations, Sudoku puzzles, sad-movie watching, understanding football or directions, making grilled cheese sandwiches without burning them, and anything involving horses. I’m OK with not being good at things. Ours is a big world, full of talented, capable people. Let those competent souls be good at the stuff I’m not. For me, I’d rather focus on the areas in which I’ve a hair’s breadth of competence, or in some cases, really shine. One of those areas where I think I’ve got a fair handle on things is gratitude. It's never been hard for me to feel grateful, and it doesn’t take much to make me happy. I’m grateful for the large and the small, for the obvious and the inconsequential. I get excited about little things, like how the air smells early in the morning when I first step outside, for the way the light changes with the seasons, for rocks in the river, for clever greeting cards, for milkshakes, mountains and for my children’s laughter. I’m continually grateful for human kindness and the beautiful idiosyncrasies of life. Gratitude is kind of my super power. But just like any superhero, I’ve discovered the kryptonite that’s threatening me — that kryptonite is 2021.

Friends, I won’t lie, this year has taken enormous bites out of me, chewed me to a viscous pulp, and spit me out to thrash and struggle once more, again and again, since January. From what I’ve noticed, there are lots of other people experiencing a similar cycle of pain and loss right now. Maybe there’s been a cosmic shift or some other celestial occurrence on which we can place blame, but for whatever reason, extreme challenge seems to be the world’s current status quo. I’ve had dark days and sleepless nights, and I’ve done my share of asking why. But ruminating and wallowing are not my style, and despite the ghastly green glow of 2021’s kryptonite, I’m eternally pulled back to my optimistic mindset, the one that sees the glass full and overflowing, the Pollyanna in me that forever seeks the glad. When we lived on our sailboat and unpredictable squalls would churn the sea and blast our decks with icy spray, I’d quell my fears by making lists of the things keeping me safe. I’d take stock of our sturdy monohull, built for crossing oceans in the wildest of weathers, of our clever navigation instruments that guided us, of the thick line and carabiner that held me securely to the boat. Grateful list making got me through some truly terrible storms; I guess it’s time for some more lists.

So, as the 11th month of a particularly horrible year draws to a close, a year filled with life-changing accidents, broken hearts and saying goodbye to friends we love, I know it’s important, now more than ever, to not just count our blessings but to rejoice in them. My gratitude list is long and weighty, the gratitude I feel for my family alone could fill a book. I also remain grateful, not just for the pleasures in my life or the things that keep me comfortable, but for the challenges themselves that have rocked my world. These challenges have taught me patience, perseverance, and allowed me to re-evaluate and revisit priorities. They've forced me to ask, in a big way, “What really matters?” I am thankful for the opportunity to ask this question.

And, of course, there are all of the tiny, delicious delights of life that I will stubbornly seek out amidst the chaos and the confusion and the hurt. I will watch the first, chubby snowflakes fall as I walk my dog on the Bear Creek trail, and I will feel such joy. I will listen to my children trade perspectives on life and school and friends and fairness, and I will marvel at their insights and their giant, tender hearts. I will catch my husband’s smile and my heart will soar. I will take each day as it comes, and I will remain curious, open and ready. I will ask more questions. I will eat all the chocolate, and I will breathe the mountain air in wild, greedy gulps. I will be kind to others and kind to myself.

Just as there’s a part of me that feels weary and beaten, there’s also a part that’s eager and giddy with anticipation. As long as I can stay grounded in gratitude, as long as I can trust that superpower, I know I can find reasons to stay hopeful, to stay excited and exuberant. That’s my Thanksgiving wish, for me, and for all of you.