Thanksgiving Is Difficult, But I Am Thankful

It’s a weird time of year. Every Thanksgiving I spend an undefined period of time feeling a vague sense of dread, a sort of mind paralysis. It might be from the inevitable, crazy-busy lead-up to the holiday season. It might just be exhaustion, or the general fatigue of the late autumn that my chronically ill body always experiences in November. But it’s mostly a sort of grimacing feeling as I stare at the overwhelming spectacle of it all. The call for a feast when the world around me seems unworthy of celebration. The parades and the games and the candles and the decorations, all for a holiday that’s commemorating a genocide. It’s so…American.

Last year, on Thanksgiving, thousands of indigenous Americans and allies were camped at Standing Rock, days after over a dozen had been hospitalized after sustaining injuries from rubber bullets, tear gas, sound cannons, and more, all in the fight to keep their water safe. And there I was, at my sister-in-law’s, eating pie and working in the corner because I had a looming deadline, trying not to cry. On the drive home, we were snowed in at Donner Pass (not kidding) and had to be pulled out of the blizzard by a bunch of Confederate-flag-toting locals who chained their 4-wheel-drive vehicles together to get us out of a snow-filled ditch. It was an adventure, but I had to ask myself: Would they have helped us if we hadn’t been white?

This year, I’m staying home and trying to keep my wits about me as I host a few friends; I told myself it would be fun, but now that I’m hopelessly behind schedule to make a meal, I realize I hardly have time for bathroom breaks in between trying to keep my tiny publishing company afloat and making enough money to get by…on an average day. Now I’m supposed to clean my house, do the laundry, set up a meal, and be all fun to hang out with by tomorrow? What the hell was I thinking?

Look. I’m stressed out. And America is a bizarre place.

Yet I do like the spirit of gratitude that, its horrendous origins aside, Thanksgiving asks us to adopt. It’s something I aspire to remember in my life, but often fall short of achieving.

After all, this year, I’ve had my first nonfiction book published, to wide acclaim from places like Playboy and The New York fucking Times. The publishing company I co-founded last year has begun to publish, and I’ve seen the first pages of my graphic novel about pornography, Tracy Queen, and a comic series about a pack of vigilante dogs, PACK, in print. We’ve been able to publish two comics anthologies and an art book because other people have supported our vision at Patreon, and that’s just incredible to me. For the first time in my life, this year, I’ve made my living almost entirely on my writing work. I’ve written for amazing publications like MEL, Glamour, Men’s Health, Playboy. I’ve been able to keep food on the table and an active career going, and even to to the gym. Sometimes. Life, really, is wonderful. I have so much to be thankful for. And I am.

I may be most thankful to have reached a point in my life where my work is able to join a larger conversation about human rights, sex positivity, and the fact that those two things are inextricably linked. I feel that my books reach into the middle space between the deeply divided factions in our society and try to draw people out, present a case for progressive thinking devoid of minimizing rhetoric, name-calling, or hatred. I feel that I have an audience now, one that believes, like I do, that the topics that are so often used to divide us are, in fact, the things that can pull us together. Sex. Passion. Love. Pleasure. These are nearly universal, and they’re divisive specifically because people in power have always recognized them as incredibly potent forces that could unite us. By attaching them to religions, moralities, laws, codes of conduct, and endless shaming, structures of power have managed to make us all so deeply suspicious of each other, so cut off, that we’ve been blundering around in the dark, hurting each other because we literally don’t know how not to, because nobody has ever told us. In my work, I try to shine a light into that murk, to educate about the people that so many of us have been taught to look down on or to think of as fundamentally different. Because they’re not different. They’re people. We all are. And I’m so deeply grateful that some of you like to read what I write, to think about these ideas.

This year, the camp at Standing Rock is vacated. The Dakota Access Pipeline is in the ground. The Keystone 1 pipeline is leaking oil in South Dakota. Environmental protections are being rolled back at a nauseating rate. Neo-Nazis are marching around the world. And millions, maybe billions, of turkeys are being slaughtered for our feasts. But we’re talking about sexual assault, finally, in a real way. California just declared it would recognize people who aren’t gender binary.

Look. America is a deeply confusing place, peopled with a culture that’s literally built on top of an Indian graveyard. Thanksgiving is a spectacle of death and murder and humbleness and love. And here we are. And here we must be, because what else are we to do? I am so very thankful for all I have, and I must also maintain a healthy skepticism of the systems and structures and history that allow me to have it.

Wow. No wonder people drink on holidays.

At any rate, what I’m trying to say here is: Thank you. Every one of you who visits this website, who reads anything I’ve written, who purchases any of my books, who thinks about any of the words I put down. It is my great honor to be here, pondering all of this publicly, and knowing that you might read them.

1 Comment on Thanksgiving Is Difficult, But I Am Thankful

  1. Lynsey,

    I’m a guy who reads and believes you—and pretty much agrees with everything you say. I thought you might be interested in part of the Thanksgiving email I just sent a long-term female friend, in response to her earlier email bemoaning the state of the world:

    “Al Gore and the entire scientific community have been telling us for decades what would happen if we continued to treat the earth like a sewer. The wealth extraction industries, and their enablers, have been bombarding us with epochal lies about it for just as long. Everything shocking that’s happening now—hurricanes, droughts, floods, population displacements, the social breakdown behind mass shootings—are exactly as predicted. Surprise is not an option.

    “For me, the one optimistic change happening now—the one thing with the potential to end the madness before we destroy ourselves—is the fact that women have finally said “Enough!” The time for putting up with “boys will be boys,” the hidden logic behind patriarchy and the force driving nearly every absurd political decision now being made, is over. The fear that women have been taught to expect is a normal part of growing up female, is no longer powerful enough to counteract the need to stop the destruction before it kills everybody. Women are learning that being afraid of men has become a luxury they can no longer afford. And so it has begun—big time—Harvey Weinstein, et al.

    Most women haven’t consciously realized that (1) the dramatic public revelations of male sexual abuse are representative of something much larger at work than a few bad apples, (2) that the impact of their stepping forward now will inevitably affect every aspect of both women’s and men’s cultural foundations, and (3) that as the full implications of “enough!” work their way into mass consciousness, everything but everything is about to change. The thing about fear of bullies is that it’s the bullies who are most afraid—if they didn’t fear those they bully they wouldn’t have to bully them to feel safe. We live in a men-are-bullies culture. All our beliefs and assumptions are built upon it. But now It’s done.

    “I’m as convinced of this as anything I’ve ever experienced in my life: women are about to become at least equal to men, legally and in practice. And when they do, when women without fear of men take charge of our politics, our social assumptions, and our culture, they’ll stop the bullshit. Sure, there are plenty of women who act like men—but once the change has transpired, that won’t work for them any more (they’ll remember how to be who they were born as). And the indirect “control” women have been exerting over men for centuries—a male construct, designed to appease, by the way—will no longer “work” or be even slightly necessary.

    “As you can tell, you really hit a nerve for me with your last email. Sorry to rant, but this is what I believe and I feel strongly that it is both inevitable and critical for our survival.”

    Lynsey, I hope my ramblings make you feel a little bit better today. Reading your wonderful column today made me realize how critical gratitude is to keeping me sane.

    Happy Thanksgiving,

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