on gratitude

Michele Catalano
4 min readNov 26, 2020

Gratitude normally comes easy. You can sit down and tick off a list of things you’re thankful for in under a minute. Family, friends, life. But what happens when “normally” is non existent and you’re not seeing your family or friends and life is just harrowing?

We might have to reach back a little further this year for the gratitude. It might not be there, on the tip of your tongue, waiting to spill out as you go around the Thanksgiving table and say what you’re thankful for. It’s hard when that Thanksgiving table is smaller, more private, when the noise of the holiday is muted, when you’re missing the very people you want to engulf in gratitude.

Things are weird, and with that weirdness comes an upending of emotional state. Where in other years you might be flippant and think about how thankful you are for Pop-Tarts and twitter and the expanded Star Wars universe, there seems to be no room for flippancy now. You’re grateful just to be alive, to still have your job, a home, your health. And then you might feel guilty about having those things while so many people are jobless, homeless, sick, or dead. When 250,000 of your fellow citizens are lost to a virus, losses that were mostly preventable if the proper action was taken early on, it’s unseemly to joke how you are thankful for Apple TV’s Ted Lasso.

The merriment seems to be sucked out of the holidays just when we need it most. We need comfort, we need joy, we need to reach into the depths of our souls and find the things that once made us unconditionally happy. Gathering twenty of our closest relatives around a table laden with food is out this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t call upon ourselves to make the most of Thanksgiving. I know you’ll be missing family members. You’ll miss your aunt’s blueberry pie and your sister’s raucous laughter and your uncle’s lengthy tirade against the Dallas Cowboys. You’ll miss a time when you weren’t hunkered down, when toilet paper was plentiful on the store shelves, when you didn’t have to wear a mask or be wary of your coworker’s sudden coughing. You’ll spend time at the small Thanksgiving dinner you do have talking about what’s not there, talking about the state of the world and how the virus permeates our entire beings now. It’s exhausting and it’s depressing and it’s no way to spend a holiday, even a reimagined one.

Michele Catalano

Writer, civil servant, dog lover