He considered my anger and resentment and then responded with the question, "what are you grateful for today?"
I don't recall what my answer was; I only remember being embarrassed about my complaints. Not that my grievances weren't legitimate or worthy of despair; but I wasn't taking in the whole picture. I was missing the forest for my focus on a few very ugly trees, which only happened to be nearest to me at that particular time in my life. I still had much for which to be grateful.
Now, while I'm always acutely aware of my problems (and aren't we all?), I try to also remember the lesson learned on that car ride.
Today is Thanksgiving 2015. There are some things I could complain about, I suppose, but I'd (euphemistically?) suggest that I'm simply in transition. On October 9th, I released the latest (and final) GioSafari album I Am the Walrus. By the end of the month, I announced that I was pulling the plug on GioSafari, my intensive six-year-long project. I also quit my day job of about sixteen months. You would think that a person making such consequential life decisions would have something else lined up, something to fill the existential vacuum.
But I've never really been such a person.
When I flew to Paris in 2007, I didn't know a soul there, had no reservations, no money, and hardly spoke a word of French. I even accidentally lost my English-French dictionary almost immediately upon arrival! When I moved to New York City in 2009, I had no jobs lined up, no prospects, no connections. And when, in October, I quit my most meaningful project of the past six years and the one job that was bringing in any income, I similarly had no safety net, no fallback, no plan B.
Plan A was to focus on my Uptown Music Lessons -- I've posted ads on craigslist as often as allowed, hung fliers at neighborhood businesses, started profiles on several lesson and tutoring sites online, and I've even begun posting regular instructional videos on YouTube -- in hopes of growing my roster, establishing a sustainable enterprise, and sharing my musical knowledge, skills, and passion with my neighbors.
But truth be told, the lessons have been slow-going. While I do have some other ideas for promotion, it now occurs to me that it may be much longer before my music lessons are viable. So I've taken to gigs and odd jobs, and I'm back to trying to form a band. Anything I can do to carry my weight. Just today I took a gig helping an old friend who is the music director at a church downtown, organizing his sheet music and files. The pay wasn't great, but every little bit helps. Plus, I came across the sheet music for a song by Kirk Franklin, which reminded me that it's not my circumstances that bring me down, but my attitude about those circumstances (another lesson learned in the wake of my bike wreck in 2008).
The struggle is indeed real, but we're keeping hard at work, trusting that we'll soon reap what we've sown.
At the same time, my wife and I are ever mindful that our problems are of the first world variety. We both sponsor children that live in abject poverty. So even though one of the sponsor payments overdrafted our accounts this month, we'll keep them on the ledger, scraping by to help these kids too, knowing that the hardships we face will never compare to the struggles that they must deal with. At the end of the day, we have food in our bellies, a roof over our heads, meaningful work, and friends and family with whom to share it all.
It's not always our first instinct, but this Thanksgiving we are grateful. So we'll keep smiling. Here's wishing you and yours a happy and peaceful day as well. Cheers.