The thing about being one of those people who doesn’t believe in mere coincidence is that it makes it impossible to ever ignore my current circumstances. This Thanksgiving, to my terror, I took a second or seven to zoom out and get a screengrab of The Big Picture to find that it was painfully obvious that I’m exactly where I am because I’m destined for something effing massive.
Whoa, hang on. Don’t think I’m getting all egomaniacal here because this actually applies to you, too. However, being that I can’t speak on anyone’s [mental] behalf other than myself, I’m limited to a self-reflective angle from which to pontificate. Surprise surprise.
Let’s look at the bare facts:
Literal millions of people have worked for thousands of years to give me the life I have right now. Suffragettes were beaten and imprisoned so I can vote. Architects spent years smoothing out designs to give me affordable housing. Agriculturalists of every type have spent decades providing me with access to fresh, top-quality food of every variety from around the globe that is delivered within moments of my house. Thousands of hands have worked to create pretty things for me to hang in my closet. A bunch of crazy radicals who’d just had enough of their oppressive theocratic home country climbed aboard a tiny boat and moved to North America and begat a whole other group of crazy radicals who waged a grassroots war and started a whole new country so I can have the right to choose my own religion and say whatever the hell it is I want to say. Scientists and their research assistants spent decades perfecting treatments for potentially deadly diseases so I could be treated for various ailments and make it to the age of 26 without any major scares. Some dude sent his intern out in a thunderstorm with a key tied to a kite so he could learn about electricity so I can have refrigerated food and pay my bills online and can stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Hell, another guy tried 3000 times to make a light bulb so I can see what I’m doing at night. Someone else built a bed for me, someone else (the guy with the key and the kite) decided to give everyone in my country a free education, someone else invented an automobile that would take me across 2,000 miles in just a couple days, someone else researched the inner workings of the human mind and developed a way to talk it into functionality, someone else invented a system of symbols that would allow me to communicate with other people on a sheet of paper, someone else figured out how to boil wood and turn it into paper… The list goes way way on. And it’s pretty damned staggering, actually.
If I stop and look at all these incredible luxuries that have been provided for me to exist from day to day, it’s kind of overwhelming to think about how many people spent thousands of years slowly molding the world around me to be exactly right for my life at this exact moment, all wrought with comfort and access and privilege.
And then there are the more specific, “luck”-based facts of my life. I live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world where even the homeless can find a meal and even panhandlers can make $50,000 a year in small cities. I live in a time where communication with the globe is second nature and a wealth of information literally sits in the palm of our hands every day. I live in an era where women are taken seriously in the workplace and as intelligent beings (except to idiots, but who gives a shit?) and people of all races live among each other. How convenient.
When I step back and think about the odds of my having arrived right here, right now, as this person, with this particular life, I can’t help but note how incredibly small my chances would be of rolling the same die again.
But I really started realizing something was definitely up when I zoomed in a little closer and looked at my Specifics. I was born into a middle-class, Southern family with two college-educated parents who are not bigoted in any regard and were – for the most part – able to teach me morals, manners and compassion. I have three siblings whose intelligence has been tested in the “Above Average” zone since kindergarten and who have always remained healthy. I have survived numerous insanely dangerous situations, including a botched suicide attempt and a handful of evenings where I drove or attended shady parties/events by myself while in a days-long drunken blackout. I accidentally became pregnant while in the only healthy, sane, happy relationship I’d ever been in. I was approached and “adopted” by my AA sponsor when I was 20 years old, thus giving me the tools to combat my penchant for constant overembibing at an early enough age so that I didn’t ruin my entire existence. And frankly, I never had a traumatic childhood. I mean, yeah, there’s dysfunction I’ve seen that I can speak candidly about but there was no dark familial abuse, no alcoholism or addiction in my immediate family… in fact, I never once rode the school bus to or from school and my mom was still packing me a lunch in the 12th grade. Suffice to say, things were alright for me on a fundamental level. (We’re leaving out all the mental fuckery and how I used to habitually screw up all sorts of good things because of my self-sabotaging needs for now, enkay?)
I seem to have a good deal of luck on my side.
With all of this genuinely incredible evidence sitting in front of me it slowly started to sink in that maybe the Universe had “conspired to shower me with all these blessings” (as repeated repeatedly in Rob Breszny’s Pronoia) for more than just show. I mean, seriously, what are the odds?
And no matter how I might sit around and doubt myself and get all whiny about my abilities (which I still believe may be severely lacking outside my knowledge) and my pathetic floundering with self-worth, the evidence that the Universe isn’t paying attention to my petty excuses and has already clearly decided I’m worthy of Importance and a Big Purpose is unavoidable. And for someone like me who focuses so much on the “Attitude of Gratitude” (ugh… AA cliches) it would seem incredibly hypocritical not to recognize these gifts for what they are and maybe not squander them.
This is not to say I know exactly what this Great Purpose actually is at the moment but I really should trust that if the Universe helped me out so much up to this point, it obviously will let me know what The Plan is when I need to. And I’d be a real shithead if I said, “Yeah, thanks for all the awesomeness you’ve worked for thousands of years to surround me with, but I’m really just not up for whatever it is you have in mind as a way for me to return the favor. Thanks, though.”
So this year at Thanksgiving, the list of Things I’m Thankful For really became more of a “List of Reasons Why I Should Push Myself Toward Excellence with the Reckless Abandon of Someone About to Die.” I even sat down and wrote a massive list of things I’m genuinely grateful for that are even more reason why I shouldn’t settle for mediocrity and why my life is honest-to-God Important in a big way (heaps of these reasons coincide with others’ but, again, I can’t talk for err’body.)
Sickeningly, like a crazy postmodern gag-gift from God, the rush of warmth, comfort and incredible motivation I found from this List of Gifts was the thing I’m most grateful for this year.
Oh, the aftertaste of saccharin and sentiment.