Is humble pie on your Thanksgiving menu?

Published 10:00 pm Saturday, October 31, 2015

Rustic table setting

Life in Our Foothills, November 2015
By Steve Wong

When I heard about my friend losing her job recently, it was like a kick in the gut. Granted, it wasn’t the back-leg-of-a-horse kick I had when I lost my corporate job at the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008, but it was certainly a reactive and painful tightening of the languid abdominal muscles that lurk beneath my middle-age spread.

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There was a tearful workplace good-bye with all of the usual comforting clichés: When God closes a door, he opens a window… Something better will come along… Everything happens for a reason.

And we all know the value of a cliché — that, and $3.95 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks, like you can afford a Starbucks coffee when you’re on unemployment. Yet, there was one bit of standard advice I received from well-wishers that actually did prove to be truly helpful, although it took me many months to accept and mentally grasp the insight.

Be thankful for what you do have.

That can be a hard one for anyone needing a new job-interviewing suit and having to iron his own dress shirts that don’t fit anymore because of rapid stress-induced weight loss. But time is indeed the great healer of many emotional wounds, though the scars never really go away. It wasn’t until I actually took to heart that I should be thankful for what I did have that I was able to move on. Yes — and here’s a good one —things can always be worse.

With Thanksgiving plans in the making, I have a list of things I’m thankful for…

I am thankful that I get to write these weird columns and articles for Life In Our Foothills magazine. I am thankful to the publisher Betty and the editor Claire for giving me creative leeway. I am thankful to the citizens of Polk County and the surrounding area for tolerating my observations and interpretations of their lives. Where else could I write like a dog that is being vetted for service work?

I am thankful for friends and family… a young friend who will tell me when I’ve crossed the line and need to back off… a copyeditor who reminds repeatedly that I don’t know how to use ellipses correctly… a wife who forgives my stupidity over and over again… children who aren’t embarrassed by my over-the-top commentaries on things I know very little about… an older friend who understands what is like to be a young man in an old man’s body… my mother who is deaf just enough not to hear the four-letter words I mumble when I can’t get her damn walker in and out of the back of my car.

I am thankful my daughter feels the moral obligation to give two years of her youth to the Peace Corps in a country where the bathrooms have holes in the floor (when they have floors)… for a son who can turn 1s and 0s into computer apps… for my iPhone, iMac, and iPad… for free Wi-Fi at Starbucks.

I am thankful for a country where I can say rude and outrageous things about Republicans and all they can do is say ruder and more outrageous things in reply… where bathrooms have commodes instead of holes in the floor… where gay men and women can love each other without fear of stoning or having vital body parts chopped off… where taking care of the sick and elderly is considered to be a universal social responsibility… where the No. 1 television show is about a ragtag group of Southern rednecks and misfits hacking the crap out of the walking dead (and each other), sparing no gory and graphic detail.

I am thankful I finally found a source for relax-fit khaki pants and round-tail button-up shirts.

I am thankful for the peaches in my backyard… for my dog Futar who wants nothing more from me than to hold my hand… for long summers and short winters… for the panoramic view of the mountains I can see from my backyard… for boiled peanuts… for in-laws who host Thanksgiving dinner year after year and never suggest “Why don’t we have Thanksgiving at your house next year?”… for serving a baked ham, along with a fried turkey.

I am thankful that when I saw my fired/laid off/downsized friend, she was okay… still looking for a job, but okay. She had some promising interviews lined up, had picked up a few private teaching and performing gigs, and was exploring what it meant to freelance.

We caught up with each other, bad mouthed the injustice of the establishment, laughed at the twists of fate, and for a few moments just enjoyed each other’s company over cups of Starbucks coffee. I was glad to see that she could smile, and she thanked me for being a friend.