Sometimes life sucks. And not in the way Kellyanne Conway sucks. Even worse. I'm talking the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm-level suckiness. When everyone and everything disappoints you. When you can't pick up your phone without seeing another heartbreaking CNN alert. When the people you love are in pain or struggling. And when the people you're supposed to look up to are the ones letting you down the most. When no amount of Ben & Jerry's can turn your frown upside down (though their new Chubby Hubby flavor comes close). The last few months have been that way for me, and it's gotten to the point that pretending everything's okay is more exhausting than just dealing with things head on.
Through all this suckiness, I've learned one thing: when life seems this grim, the best thing you can do is stop feeling sorry for yourself and start appreciating all the things in your life that don't suck. Because no matter how badly you may feel, there are countless others who would gladly switch places with you in a heartbeat. As the story goes, if we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back. And with that said, I'm using this article as my catalyst to officially force myself out of this funk.
What better way to do this than by reminding myself of all the things I am thankful for. I'll start with the obvious and the most meaningful.
10. My boys
You know that guilty pleasure movie (Grease 2) or song (2 Become 1 by the Spice Girls) you turn to when you're desperate for an escape? The funny scene that makes you forgot all about your troubles or the song lyric that instantly transports you to your happy place. My husband Alex is that movie and my son Maxwell is that song. They're what makes my heart sing. They're what makes me smile when I don't feel like smiling. When life brings me down, they bring me up. Max with his "me me me" silliness and Alex with his calm, consistent, mature energy that has a way of stabilizing me when I'm on shaky ground. No one's perfect… but these two come pretty damn close. I am thankful for their unconditional love, support and kindness… AND for allowing me to go on a solo hike every Saturday morning to clear my head (by watching the great-looking models and actors hiking Runyon Canyon).
9. My Brother Larry
My mom's been having a tough go of it the past few months. While caring for her husband of more than 25 years — who was struggling with an aggressive form of Cancer — she took a bad fall and had to be hospitalized herself. Weeks later her husband passed away. Shortly thereafter she was diagnosed with having mid-stage Dementia. My family is in Philadelphia and I live in LA, which makes all of this extra challenging. I've been flying back and forth to do everything I possibly can to make this time less awful for Mom, who now needs constant attention. But realistically I can't be there all the time. Enter Larry. He's my older brother — seven years my senior — and while I've been managing to do a lot for my mom from LA — he's the one who's physically been there for her. He's the one who leaves work to take her to doctor appointments and manages her prescriptions and makes sure she gets the best round-the-clock care that she needs. He's the one who always shows up… all while juggling his other respective roles of business-owner, father and husband. My mom's rapid health decline has been really hard for me to process, but having Larry help manage things back home certainly releases some of the pressure. Thank God for my big brother! He's almost forgiven for putting me in the dryer when I was two.
8. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Every year my husband Alex attends the Cabo International Film Festival for work. Since they put him up in fantastic ocean front hotels, I usually sneak away with him for a few days. We just arrived back home from this year's trip and IT. WAS. HEAVEN. It's become our annual tradition. Just the two of us for a long weekend away. No kid. No 5 a.m. wake-up-calls. No Paw Patrol. No deadlines. No microwaved dinners. Just quiet. Beach walks. Massages. And lots and lots of eating. Cabo has become our favorite go-to getaway because the people are lovely, the scenery is picture-perfect and the plane ride is less than two hours from LA. So for all you parents out there desperate for a kid-free respite, I strongly recommended a weekend trip to Cabo. Just don't drink the water. Brightside? I lost two pounds!
7. 100 Grand Bars
Seriously you guys, have you tried these things? They're as good as Whitney's 90s voice and just as rich, creamy and textured. They're made with chewy caramel, milk chocolate, crispy rice crunchies and other crack-like ingredients that make your problems magically disappear… at least for the moment. While they're high in sugar (obvs), they're surprisingly low in cholesterol and sodium. These little chunks of heaven are my go-to fix when I'm stressed out. And I think America has caught on, because ever since November 8th of last year, stores have had trouble keeping them in stock. I wonder why.
6. The new Sam Smith record
Thank God Adele and Sam release their albums on different cycles. Because when one of them goes quiet, the other is ready to debut a brand spanking new album. And this month I'm happy to report it's Sam's turn. The Thrill Of It All is a return to the type of music that shaped my childhood. I'm taken back to the emotions I felt listening to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill or George Michael's Listen Without Prejudice. Deep, personal and timely lyrics, paired with genius vocals against gorgeous piano-driven melodies. Aside from having a few too many cigarette smoking references, this is a classy, self-assured record that expertly infuses blue-eyed soul with gospel flourishes to exquisite effect. (Standout tracks: Him, You Make Me Crazy & Nothing Left For You). Side note: I don't think I've ever seen Sam and Adele in the same room at the same time. Think about that for a minute.
5. Max learning to read
I'm thankful for the recent look on Max's face when he first realized he can read. So much drama went into getting to this milestone. Tutors. Frantic chats with other parents. Concerned discussions with teachers. Frustrated Dada-to-Papa talks where we'd question our parenting prowess. And somewhere along the aforementioned chaos, our little nugget learned to read. It didn't come fast, but it came furiously. And there's no stopping him now. When he picks out our nightly story time books, snuggles under my arm, and starts sounding out each word, slow and steady, I am in my happiest place. Thank God trigonometry isn't until High School.
4. Forever Stamps
How great are Forever Stamps? They're the one thing you know will never change. The one constant that'll never disappoint you. They'll reliable. They're a good investment. And they even come with a built-in sticky adhesive so you can save up your licks for something tastier. I'm thankful for these happy-joy-stickers, especially when I find a few leftover from years past. Nothing makes me prouder than slapping a 2009 stamp on a piece of snail mail like I've one-upped the man and beaten the system. I know what you're thinking. Really, Dave, "stamps?" Yes, really. Now stop judging me and move on to number three.
3. The Book: Spoiler Alert, The Hero Dies by Michael Ausiello.
I'm about to make a very bold statement here. Brace yourself. THIS IS WITHOUT QUESTION THE BEST BOOK I HAVE EVER READ. Take that, Waiting To Exhale. No other true story will make you appreciate everything good in your life more than this incredibly affecting memoir about a charming TV columnist chronicling his beautifully raw love and loss story about meeting, marrying and losing the man of his dreams. (Relax, I didn't reveal too much — the title alone gives more away). The Hero Dies accomplishes the rare feat of effortlessly infusing awkward, laugh-out-loud humor with tenderness and heartbreaking honestly. Every time I turned another page, I teared up. And it wasn't because of the somber subject matter; it was because I seriously did not want this unforgettable book to end.
2. Our Good Health
It's no coincidence this one comes after #3's book review. It's important to appreciate the things many of us take for granted — like our good health. Knock on wood; me, my husband and our son are in relatively good health. It took this very brave and soulful story about someone I don't know to remind me just how lucky I am to be alive with the people I love. A stark reminder that others aren't always as fortunate.
1. The future.
I recently came across a great Lily Tomlin quote: "tragedy plus time equals comedy." There's something to that. It makes me thankful for the idea of time. Because in the future anything — and everything — is possible. Time may not be able to heal all wounds, but it does allow us to reflect on our experiences from a distance so we can see them more clearly. So the next time you go through a rough patch, simply give your emotions some space. Because with every passing day, things will get better. And right now, I embrace "better" with open arms.
As I go back through this list, I start to feel selfish for allowing myself to linger so long under a cloud of somber. Yes, life is stressful sometimes. Yes, some days are really bad. But despite — or in spite of all this, I've got a helluva lot to be thankful for. I mean, come on, Whitney has a new album out of unreleased Bodyguard tracks! So I am ready to hereby proclaim — no more gray clouds.
Sometimes, you've got no other choice than to just say to yourself no more sadness. And then you just have to force yourself to think positively until you no longer have to force it. That time will come. And in the meantime, I've got these ten wonderful things to keep me on track (eleven if you count the new Whitney album).
It's not right, but it's all going to be okay.
Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours.