Thankful for, 2020

Sarah Buttenwieser
4 min readNov 26, 2020


Dahlias before the frost, Michael’s garden October, 2020

Loving and being loved

Noticing details

Being alive

Science, public health, front line workers, neighbors in the global sense staying home for one another’s safety

January 20, 2021

Deeper work to repair longstanding ills and envision a world where we truly can lift one another up


This is the shortest Thanksgiving list ever. It’s not that I haven’t practiced gratitude deeply during these past months, because I have. I mean it about how noticing details matters so much to me, a truly blessed, lucky, hard won thing that has my abiding gratitude. But wow, to write it down, there’s not a long or lively list to share.

I feel the chilled grey of this rainy morning, the hunkered down and in sensations of wishing I could burrow, knowing I can’t, knowing it’s better not to isolate. The tension of hard days, of wishing for the complete fam, of hoping they are happy — the two not here sound pretty happy — in their lives, which would mean seeing us isn’t necessary in the way it once was. I do and don’t mind not seeing them. I mind it, because we wanted a regular Thanksgiving, which is to say, a chance to choose each other (or not) freely, and we don’t have that. I don’t mind it, because if they are having fun making new Thanksgiving’s I’m so pleased by this. Eventually, I might have a Thanksgiving in Florida walking along the beach, who knows? There will be all different Thanksgiving days ahead, most likely and there will be lovely parts to most of them, I hope.

It’s just a day. Everyone’s healthy. Everyone’s in good situations, overall, connected, interested enough. In the scheme of deadly global pandemic, who cares about the road trip in our van to friends in Newton? We loved it and it could happen again (or things could change permanently, who knows?). We can do different things. We can do hard things. We are doing different things, monotonous things. We are doing hard things, like upending our lives and then pretending they continue kind of unbroken. My life feels pretty damn broken. It’s still my life. I try to enjoy the parts I do enjoy — the noticing becomes critical to this endeavor — and I do. Yesterday, I went for a second iced tea with honey lemon ginger (HLG), because it was all I could think of to cheer myself up and I enjoyed it. I did. It helped. I may have found myself in a week during which self-bribery constitutes a reasonable coping strategy.

On the more macro scale, the realization that certification of Biden-Harris’ win occurred has begun to set in, along with ideas like humility and confidence, notions of repair and assuredness. America is back, which is to say, we care about our world and our place in it. A moral compass has been dusted off, thank the fucking Lord. I knew I missed generally believing in our country. I missed this democracy ideal, I spoke of incessantly, but couldn’t locate tangibly or even trust as something toward which I grasped. I didn’t know just how much I missed fundamental trust in us as an idea and ideal. That’s not to say I ever felt a blind admiration to our country, although maybe without its core values anywhere to be found, my admiration turned out to be greater than I’d imagined. I want to question so much about how things are done. I do not take any of it for granted. If I did before, I don’t, now. I won’t, going forward.

So many of us found new companions during these past four years, and so many of us have connected in new ways with people in our lives over these past eight months, which is absolutely a gift. I can’t believe how much people matter to me, despite how much of the time I feel very lonely and isolated. What a strange, fortunate truth to hold. People matter to me so, so much. (And also, quarantine truth: I’m never alone long enough to feel calm and settled within myself, because the house is never empty and I’m a person who requires alone time.)

Across the hall, Saskia is chattering to a friend (my guess, Mattea), about clothes and decorations and there’s a holiday trill in her voice, despite the fact that our holiday is our bubble, and grilled chicken and mashed potatoes. Yesterday, I did make a special trip to State Street to grab sparkling cider, per Saskia’s request (thus the opportunity for my bonus iced tea with HLG around the corner from the store).

I’m grateful for family. I’m grateful for friends. Stay alive, everyone. Late last night, I read a devastating, long twitter thread by someone whose parents had gone to help a sibling when her husband was dying, I think of cancer, maybe, but maybe Covid, and then her parents and brother got Covid after they returned. Her dad died a few days ago of it, in an ICU, after a lengthy enough and horrific, isolated hospitalization. It was a terrifying, heartbreaking story. The gist of it, stay alive. Let me hug you (and you and you and you) again when that time finally arrives.

The closer we get to a vaccine, with these mounting numbers and busy roads and airports and Amy Coney Barrett deciding religion outweighs public health, well, the chances do not feel better. It feels, like those final months of the campaign rallies super spreading diseases — Covid, racism — that the race to safe finish and victory hugs has the hardest parts ahead, yet to traverse. I remain grateful. I do. It’s a deeper dig and then stronger muscles to find and hold it this year.



Sarah Buttenwieser

Writer, brainstormer, networker — follow me on Twitter @standshadows