Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

27 July 2011

Hey, Thanks

I've been reading a lot about marriage equality in New York lately. It's news, of course, so I am bound to come across discussion of marriage equality.

My friends and I, unsurprisingly, never discuss marriage equality. It's a total non-issue among any of my groups of friends because, well, because anyone who is against marriage equality probably hates me enough not to want to talk to me in the first place.

But anyway, I hadn't been paying attention before, really, but...
once the day came and all of those hundreds of couples got married on Sunday, something in me shifted. Not because I am all of a sudden delighted that many many gay people are bolstering the institution of marriage by deciding it is important enough to want, but because these marriages made so very many gay and lesbian people happy. So many.

I was traveling Sunday evening and so I was in the Atlanta airport on Monday morning having coffee and reading the news, and as I read a story about NY marriage equality in Terminal B, tears began to run down my face. I had a similar experience this morning looking at a website that features sixty pictures from Sunday's many ceremonies. I got to #16 before I started crying. It is all just too much! I am so happy for all these happy people. And I am so grateful for all of the people who lobbied to get this passed and for Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg and for the NY legislators who finally, finally were able to do the right thing.

...Which brings me to gratitude.

I often find myself thankful for things, of course, as I am sure we all do. I also rarely simply spend the time to thank people. Mostly this is a logistical issue. It's weird to tell people that I am actually thankful for what they do for me in my life. When they give me things, sure, or when they drive me to and from the airport or help me move or help me lift something heavy (metaphorically and otherwise); when they do those things, I thank them. But frankly it's a little awkward after, say, a great evening spent sharing a bottle of wine, to tell someone that you're thankful for them. I mean, thankful? Our friends aren't being kind or generous per se, right? They are just being themselves and so to thank them for that seems inappropriate.

Now that I am writing all of this, I am not sure what the heck it has to do with marriage equality in New York, but let me try.

I sat down the other day to write a thank-you note to a friend and while I was writing it I realized how so much of what I am grateful for is filtered through myself. In other words, I am grateful for what my friend has done for me and for what his actions have meant for me without him knowing. So I tell him what he has meant to me specifically, how he has impacted me...

And then there are other things for which I am grateful: the ability to be able to do something generous for someone else or an odd trick of timing that means I am in the right place at the right time to make a small impact on someone else's life. These things have nothing to do with me, actually. Nothing at all. Nothing to do, even, with my feelings. But rather, these things – tricks, really, or strokes of luck or fortune – are events outside of myself for which I can be grateful.

I can be thankful that something happened. That someone did something wonderful that perhaps impacts me only faintly. That someone was somewhere when she needed to be so that something else could happen. I can be grateful that good, generous people (like the friend to whom I sent a thank-you card) exist. I can be thankful for gifts that exist even if they were not meant for me and I have not actually received them.

So I am indeed grateful for New Yorker's elected officials, and for all the New Yorkers who made their marriages public, and for the very fact of marriage equality in New York. I have no intention of getting married anytime soon and have shown no interest in it either. And so I know this gift is not for me (at least not right now). But I know, as well, that I am thankful – so thankful – that it exists.