It’s here again: that day of the week for which I have set aside time to take stock of all that I am (and should be) grateful for.  It’s been a whole whopping two weeks since I started this “Thankful Tuesday” series, and already it happens to fall on a day on which I could use the reminder.   This week has not been my week, really.  It started out alright and slowly became more and more stressful.  I’ve been feeling particularly reflective/sentimental/emotional most of the last two days and, of course, that state of being often results in my remembering more of what’s been lost (both in years past, and more recently) than what’s been gained.  Three hours of sleep, or less, is making my head groggier and groggier in the mornings and I hold on to Lambie, my wonderful real-lamb haired pillow, as long as possible.   This morning, I woke up in pretty much the same state as I fell to sleep in.

Except.

Very shortly after I woke up, a small voice in my head whispered, ‘It’s Thankful Tuesday—what’s going to happen today that you can write about later?”  That question has influenced my entire day.  When a neighbor stopped by, I wondered: “is this is?  Is this the interaction that will lift the spirit a little?”  Alas, no, it wasn’t.  Nothing out of the ordinary or life shattering happened.  The day went on.  The girls and I completed school work. Normally, I’m all ready for some adventure after school, even if it’s just a stop at Dairy Queen.  Today, however, I wasn’t inclined to do anything.  We colored.  We played the DS games.  We played blocks.  We played Charades.  We played cards.  We ate dinner.  Normal, every day things for which I am, as always, grateful. But… nothing rocked me.  Indeed, while I was cooking dinner, I walked into the living room and saw the bookshelf, and my eyes fell on  The Character.  Within the space of a heartbeat, I was crying. I sat on the couch, staring at all the books, until I managed to get myself under control.  Words from readers echoed in my thoughts.  Comments and e-mails I’ve had from fellow bloggers filled my brain.  A few very sweet chats I’ve had flashed through my brain. The feeling of standing before a crowd, knowing God was behind me, overshadowed me.  But instead of gratitude, I was filled to capacity with sadness.  I walked back to the kitchen to try and finish cooking and saw on the microwave the pill bottle. Tomorrow, it will be empty and I have to have it refilled because I cannot miss a single day of that pill. Not for the rest of my life which, granted, I don’t know how far off is but, optimistically speaking, should be at least another thirty or forty years. That’s a loooong time to be taking pills.  Bone deep weariness seeped into my heart.

The night progressed, I checked Facebook like always, and then we settled in for movie time.  It was really a laid back kind of day.  Once the girls were down, I came to the computer and stared at it.  What in the world was I going to write about this Thankful Tuesday?  I mean, I could cheat and write about how great the week started off.  I could cheat and turn an ordinary event that happened earlier in the week into something it wasn’t.  I’m good at that, and I’m good at that because, in the long run, it usually makes me feel better.  But it required too much effort tonight.

So, instead, I clicked the “new post” button at the top of my screen and exhaled.  I’d written some first line when I noticed there was a number 4 in the notification circle at the top of the screen.  Two new followers, a new like and a new comment.  I smiled, abandoned my make-believe post and went to check on those notifications.  I responded to the comment, then went and read and liked a post from each of my new followers, then decided to check the stats page.  That’s when I noticed that, out of the three hundred and some odd hits today, 80 of them were for this post, “Abba”, which is a letter I wrote to God when I was hurting.

My heart turned over and warmed my entire body.  Hope and warmth and true optimism spread throughout my heart and emerged as a genuine smile on my face.  What I’d been waiting for all day finally happened.

On this Thankful Tuesday, I am grateful to anyone and everyone who has ever read anything I have ever written. That means you.  I don’t know what others’ reasons for starting a blog are but I’d wager that quite of us start the blogs for the same reason Facebook is addictive:  we both want and need human interaction and connection.  We want to feel understood.  We want a safe place in which to tell our stories, lament the unfairness of life and celebrate the mini Olympic-sized triumphs that make up our day.  We want a place we can run to when we need to shout “Did you SEE that?!” and a place to leave our memories.  Most of us hope that what we write will be read and felt by at least a handful of people not because we have any real aspirations of being famous but, rather, we want to believe that the things we think and feel are normal and acceptable.  We want a place to vent, a place to cry and a place to laugh.  We want a place to go, when the children go to bed, where freedom of speech guarantees us the ability to reflect upon our lives, and our days, unedited.  And we hope, whether we admit it or not, that someone, somewhere, reads what we write and cries, laughs or at least nods along with our words in perfect understanding.

Personally,  the stats page of my blog leaves me utterly amazed.  Not only do I have regular followers of this blog, people who read it frequently,  but I have regular hits from countries I had no hopes of ever reaching when I first started this.  Finland, Russia, France, Germany… I mean, really, it’s amazing.  And, tonight, it has me filled to overflowing with a sense of connection and unity that is overwhelming.  I feel accepted.  I feel validated.  I feel connected.  To people I’ve never met.  And, actually, that last part, is one of the most comforting parts of it all.  To feel connected to strangers assures me that, even if no one I know personally understands a word of what I say, someone, somewhere, does.  It reminds me that I’m not the only one on the planet.  It makes me believe that, even if I am somewhat dramatic, even if I do sometimes linger a bit too long on the past, what I have to say is important.  Reading others’ blogs fills me with hope.  There’s a few blogs, like Girl on the Contrary, that I read almost daily simply because they make me laugh out loud.  I wish I were that funny and her clean but hilarious humor makes my life richer.  Bloggers like Amazingly Brash indulge my love of philosophy and fill me with determination to hold on to my sense of optimism, no matter how sagging it may be on any given day.  There a few blogs I read regularly because they sound eerily like me.  In fact, it was on WordPress that a blogger mentioned “the little  girl” that haunts her.  It blew my mind, because, people, I’ve seen and felt and behaved in certain ways because of  “the little girl” that haunts me too and this blogger was the first person I’d ever heard of that understood what the heck I was talking about.

There are people who read this blog but have not “followed” it, and who do not comment or “like” posts.  My heart beats a song of appreciation tonight for them.  There are readers of this blog who comment frequently, lighting my world with the e-mail messages that say I have “pending notifications.”  There are readers of this blog who aren’t comfortable liking a post because it scares them so, instead, they e-mail me every single time a post touches them.  Recently, I got one such e-mail that said nothing but the title of the post followed by:  “Amen.”  There are Facebook readers who see nightly links to this blog and read it. I know what some of them think, and I don’t know what others’ think.  But I know they read and still have not de-friended me or refused to allow their children to be under my tutelage.

I didn’t start this blog to get readers. I started it because I needed an outlet.  I wanted a journal and everyone has heard the saying that once something is on the Internet, it’s there forever.  I wanted a relatively safe and reliable way of writing about personal experiences and daily adventures. I chose to do it online because there were things I needed to say, and get out, to someone.  I didn’t care who it was.  I didn’t care if I never knew about it.  I just wanted to be able to say, “Someone knows.”    I didn’t expect the overwhelming amount of support.  I didn’t expect the speaking engagements.  I didn’t expect e-mails from traumatized adults who tell me they just want someone to listen.  I didn’t expect any of that…. but that’s what’s happened.

It’s brought healing to my life.  It’s brought confidence.  It’s brought me friends.  It’s brought me understanding, and slow acceptance.  I continue to post for myself, and because I want my girls to have a way of knowing who I was when I am no longer here.  I still write for myself, in other words.  And, amazingly, I seem to be surrounded by a community of readers that continue to encourage me to do exactly that.

I’ve always believed that strangers are merely friends I haven’t met yet.  I used to believe that strangers were, by default, better than me.  I’ve heard that I’m “broken” so many times, in so many different ways, that I’ve never questioned it. I’ve  judged myself inferior all my life.  But I think now that I did that because I was so afraid of rejection that I never took time to actually get to know others’ on a personal level.  Blogging, and reading others’ blogs, has made me re-evaluate all that.  Maybe I’m still not as good as everyone else… but I’m not as much of an alien as I had feared, either.  Maybe my flaws still glare sometimes—-but I have positive things to offer too.

The greatest gifts are often the most subtle.  I can’t see you.  I can’t see the look on your face, or read the thoughts in your mind, as you peruse the posts on my blog.  But you lift my spirits simply by reading. You deposit hope in my daily life by commenting, e-mailing or “liking” a post.  You influence my life in beautiful and important ways without my ever knowing your name.

Suddenly, I am sure that I’m going to be okay.  We’ll all going to be okay.  Tomorrow will come, bringing rays of bright hope to warm us all, as we reach out to those around whom we are surrounded—and to those whose lives we touch with words typed on a keyboard.  Maybe I have sentimental and emotional days where the sight of my books on the shelves draws me to tears of loneliness and sadness for so much lost. Maybe so.  But I’m not alone.  You’re not alone.  We’re connected by emotions that we all share–the trick is in taking the time, and believing in the importance of, sharing those emotions with others.  So, tonight, I’m especially grateful to you, both for sharing your lives with me and for reading about mine.  If I could give each of you a warm hug, I would.  If I could thank you in person, I would.  Since I can’t, though, I’ll just do what I know to do:  pray that your lives are full of everything that matters to you, and then bask for a moment in the feeling of community, acceptance and gratitude.

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