Counting blessings


The other day, I was organizing the bedroom closet to make space for Sergey’s clothes. In the course of digging through the piles of clothes that have accumulated over the past few months, I rediscovered my flannel pajamas and my sweatpants. Needless to say, fashionista that I am, these are among my favorite clothes, and since it’s break, the next morning I donned my pajamas and donned my fuzzy pink fleece pullover on top, which makes me look like a cousin of Elmo or Grover. Later in the day, I decided to switch from pajama pants to sweatpants…you know, to feel more professional. It turned out to be a fortuitous decision, because I felt mildly less ridiculous when I had to answer the door. It was the mailman, a very friendly man, who had Sergey’s giant box of possessions sent from Israel. That box seems to weigh about sixty pounds. At first, I asked the mailman to set the box inside my door, but then discovered I couldn’t close the door, and with my scholarly (feeble) physique, there was no way I could get the box upstairs into my apartment by myself. So, I asked the mailman if he could please carry the box up, and he assented, remarking jovially, “Now I don’t have to go the gym tonight!”

I’m grateful to the friendly mailman who went beyond the call of duty to help out a frail Muppet. Living alone is hard for multiple reasons related to muscles—especially that one muscle, my heart. Like many Americans, I’ve been thinking about gratitude this Thanksgiving season—and also ingratitude. Feeling debased by the immigration process, I found myself turning bitter. For instance, I’ve been resenting every couple who crosses my path. I see happy couples and I think, “They don’t know how lucky they are to never think about words like ‘CR-1’ and ‘NVC.’” I see grumpy couples and I think, “Why should they have the right to live side by side when they don’t even appreciate it?”

There’s an aphorism that used to confuse me: count your blessings. It befuddled me because I conflated it with a similar aphorism: don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Don’t count your blessings before they hatch?

Well, there is something to be said for counting blessings, even those that are only semi-hatched, or even still devloping in the egg. I read an article called, “Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier” by Arthur Brooks, which I would recommend. Brooks inspired me to do an exercise: counting my blessings. Let’s start with friendly mailmen, flannel pajamas, and sweatpants. And add…

  1. The fact that our separation has been so painful is due to my good fortune in finding a wonderful husband whom I want to spend all my time with.
  2. My family. Without my parents, I wouldn’t have even had a shot at getting Sergey a visa.
  3. All the people who invited me over for Thanksgiving. Thanks to them, I know I have a community here to support me. I chose to spend the day alone to prepare for Sergey’s expected arrival…tonight!
  4. Penn State. They pay me to…take classes? How is that even possible? This gives me a super flexible schedule, which I can take advantage of with Sergey to spend time with him, e.g., doing our driving lessons—and while my current school break has been admittedly miserable, winter break will give me time to take Sergey on a special vacation and to visit my family.
  5. Material comfort, American conveniences. After returning from Israel, I was amazed at timesaving technologies like dishwashers and laundry machines right in my apartment! Thanks to my experience needing to lug my laundry on a bus just to wash it, I fully appreciate the ease of simply walking ten feet from hamper to machine. And the luxury of not needing to spend hours doing the dishes after cooking a meal is also a godsend.

Soon, Sergey will be here. I am cooking Thanksgiving foods—the green bean casserole, stuffing (Mommy’s recipe, of course), and butternut squash soup. Soon I will be doing a joyful thanksgiving, counting the blessings right in front of me, so clear,

no more pixilation to disguise

every eyelash around his eyes

every line on his palms

every whisker on his chin.

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