The Bitch Slap: On Thanks

two turkeys

image via Creative Commons

You. Yeah, you. The one holding the can of pumpkin pie mix and a bag of miniature marshmallows, threatening your son with his life if he doesn’t shut up about wanting to hold the marshmallows.Let him hold the fucking bag of marshmallows.

Here’s what’s going to happen when you hand it to him:

1.  He’s going to hold it for awhile and lose interest. Hopefully by that time, you’re in the car and on the way home to DVD players filled with Spongebob flicks.
2.He’ll rip it open. OMFG. Guess what? It still scans at the register the same.
3.  He’ll rip it open and eat them. This will make him full or sick. In either case, still no apocalypse. Perhaps a lesson learned.
4.  He’ll throw them at people. Honestly, I’d pay good money to see that shit.

I saw it yesterday during a trip to the grocery: heads are so far up asses this time of year it’s sad. We care more about the yams than the people we’re cooking them for, the brand of the turkey more than the fact we’re acting like one ourselves. I’m no different, really. Except I’m doing my best these days to pull my head out of my ass and actually SEE things…something I don’t think I’ve really done since October 31.

So you’re getting slapped. The lot of ya. Because it seems we could all do with a lesson on the “thanks” part of Thanksgiving.

Erika Napoletano tattoos

This week welcomed new ink into my life, marks four and five with six arriving on December 22. The left arm bears the words, “count to five…” – a tribute to Jason Schippers who carried the same tattoo on his left arm. I remember the night we were chatting about tattoos on Gchat and he was telling me what it meant. It’s from the TV show Lost – when you’re scared, when you think you’re going to quit and can’t carry on, stop. Count to five. One, two, three, four, five. And the fear is gone. We could all stand to count to five more often in life, couldn’t we? My left arm is a permanent reminder that things always have to the potential to turn out more different than we could have ever imagined. And that I’ve missed some incredible opportunities to show my gratitude. There are multiple people in Jason’s life who now wear this reminder and even more who will make it a permanent part of their lives soon.

My right arm bears the words, “the luckiest.” Because I am. While it might not appear that I have much to be thankful for, recent events have slapped me into seeing that quite the contrary is true. I will never be thankful for the loss of Jason, but what he’s brought into my life following his departure? Infinitely. A family I love, greater appreciation for those who comprise mine, and unspeakable gifts of friends – new and seasoned – who open their hearts, minds and arms. The knowledge that you are here, still reading and commenting. The realization that on some days, I can still move you. Make you laugh or smile (maybe both). That I can move forward (because moving on is bullshit). I live a life doing what I love: writing. People pay me for that shit. I look around my life which is much the same yet entirely different than before I met Jason and think…goddamn. I am the luckiest. And I’m going to do what I can each day to keep on keepin’ on.

What are you afraid of? What keeps you from giving thanks? Today, tomorrow…it’s not the planning for Black Friday and running up the credit cards that deserve our attention. And while the turkey really should be cooked all the way through to avoid that pesky salmonella stuff, if it’s a bit dry – cover that shit in gravy and shove it in your gullet anywhoo. Today, tomorrow and the next day. Hell, maybe the whole next month, stop being afraid of giving thanks. Count to five. Fear keeps us from doing the most amazing things. As the old adage goes, “What would we attempt to do if we knew we could not fail?” Be thankful for failure. And then move on until you hit the next point in your life where you must count to five.

And you’re lucky, too. The Luckiest. Each of you. As you go into tomorrow, it’s not the food, flatware or centerpiece on the table that will make the day. Stop spending your time on the bullshit and start spending your time on people. What matters? What doesn’t? If the world stopped spinning for you – or someone – tomorrow, would you be at peace in your heart because you realized you’re The Luckiest and weren’t afraid to give thanks for those times, people and things that meant the most to you?

You’ve been slapped. And I’ll close today with a quote from Jason’s Facebook page that…well, it’s breathtaking.

“What is grief? The most common type of grief is this thing, when we lose someone. But I think that’s not really accurate, not an accurate way to think about it. We think of grief as the pain we feel over something being gone from our lives. But I think grief is something else – it’s the pain we feel about what we didn’t do to make the most of what we had. The pain we feel about not making things happen differently. Sometimes I think grief is how people wish they had the powers of a god. Our hatred of being human, not being able to stop time from passing, people from dying, from getting angry when you should be making up.”

111 comments
Shelly
Shelly

What a great quote from Jason! Definitely breathtaking. I try daily to quit spend time on other things when I can be spending them with the people I love... Most of the time I succeed - need to make it more often though! And - I've always been told to count to 10- wonder what THAT means... Lol. Love the tattoos... My left wrist has one - in mandarin written by an awesome guy that I worked with... It says 'determination - from the heart') Xoxoxo

Justin Matthews
Justin Matthews

Awesome message here. I was reading this while watching my kids play outside in the snow and realizing that those are the memories that will be with us forever. I love the quote at the end of your piece, it makes me think of just seizing the day and doing what you need to do to create and keep those memories that will be stuck in your head forever. I know my kids will only be this age now and there is no way to get this age back if you miss it. Thanks Erica

Kevin Johansen
Kevin Johansen

Yup. This living thing too often gets in the way of being alive. Also, you get the Most Creative Use of Marshmallows as a Literary Device Award for today. On this note, I'm contemplating having "Let him hold the fucking bag of marshmallows" tattooed in reverse on the foreheads of a few people I know...

The Redhead
The Redhead

Very blessed, I am. And I remind myself every day. And I'm all about smacking folks around (especially myself). It's a date.

Philip D. Mann
Philip D. Mann

One of my own maxims fits here: I always do the best I can with the information that I have at the time. This allows me to live a life without regrets and woulda-coulda-shoulda's--and associated regrets--piling up all around. I see a need for this frame of mind in some of the comments previously, and I am very glad to say that you, Erika, are the torchbearer! Keep saying what needs to be said and others may say what they need to in their lives. Keep on keepin' on, all "damn the torpedoes" and such, and others will follow you in their own way. This season and every season, we are all thankful to share this rock with you.

Zohar
Zohar

I think what people don't realize is that the "you can't hold the marshmallow bag" decision is usually not an immediate response to the current request but part of an overall child raising strategy. The reason of this kind of responses is usually rooted in an act which happened last Tuesday (for example) and not twenty seconds ago. I hope that's the case anyway otherwise...just let them hold the freakin' bag. Also, I can usually tell what my child is going to do before they're going to do it. If I felt that my kid wanted to hold the metaphorical bag of marshmallows because he wants to throw a fit and spread the marshmallow love all over the store, I'd rather just let him throw a fit without the damage. And yes, sometimes I need to spank him (lightly) in order to avoid that fit all together. Just sayin'.... I'm grateful for my family and for having my father around for another year. Long story... but I'm very grateful for that, more than anyone would ever know. http://www.ManOfLaBook.com

Ken Brand
Ken Brand

I lean from and laugh with you too. Thanks. The mold really was broken after they poured you - lucky for us.

Jodi Henderson
Jodi Henderson

Holy hell, you've done it again. You've succeeded in writing something that hit me square in the gut and has made me cry with shame. Shame over being scared for too long and shame for not living the best life I can. But I'm working on it and your posts continues to be one of the kicks in the ass I need. Thank you for sharing yourself with us. We're the better for it. PS - I'd like to become a better writer and, in that pursuit, you are one of my writing role models. If I can be half the writer you are, I will consider myself ridiculously successful.

Lalizlatina
Lalizlatina

This is the kind of slap that I will welcome always. Your words move me, yes, they do. Thank you.

Kristin
Kristin

I hate to be the shit talker on Thanksgiving, but the first part of your post struck a chord with me. I think part of pulling our heads out of our asses also includes relaxing on judgments on parents - or people in general. Sure, to you (or anyone else in line who's never dealt with kids all day everyday), the easy answer is to just give into the constant request of the child. However, you didn't witness what the entire day has been like for the family, or how worn down the parent might be after a constant day of just dealing. Whenever I see a stressed parent at the grocery store - I completely understand what they are going through. And rather than thinking, "Hey, you're a fucking asshole to your kid!", I'd rather go buy them a coffee with extra pumps of sweet syrup and hope they don't cry from somebody actually caring about their feelings and understanding how hard it is being a parent. Everyone has bad days. Some of us more than others. Everyone around us is enduring struggles that we aren't privy to. Sometimes people are good about internalizing that, sometimes people snap and act like jerks. It's human. You never know what battles are being waged by those around you. So sometimes, it's something more than just not letting your kid hold the damn bag of marshmallows. With that aside, I am the luckiest, including when I want to strangle my kids at Target, even if I've already counted to five. And I do hope you have a great Thanksgiving :)

The Redhead
The Redhead

Beautiful thoughts, Steve...and thank you for sharing them :) And indeed - we choose how we will remember.

Michelle Mangen
Michelle Mangen

Erika - LOVE the tattoos and so happy to see the Bitch Slap posts are back.

Steve
Steve

A great quote indeed Erika. I for one happen to look forward to Thanksgiving. It happens to be my favorite holiday. What bothers me the most is it has almost become an overlooked holiday. Why you ask? Simple, how in the world can we possibly monetize it like the one that follows. Thank you for the slap! It has allowed me to sit and ponder before writing this comment. To realize everything I have to be thankful for and it is a lot. We all do to much complaining about this and that, myself included. Yet, I have shelter, food, 3 wonderful kids, friends, family and all the worldly possessions anyone could want or need. Now what have I got to moan about? The answer is nothing. I dig the artwork and thanks for sharing the meaning behind it. You are right when you say we move forward but I do feel we move on with memories. Your life is a journey and sometimes we control it and sometimes we loose control of it. The great part is we have memories from the past and we choose how we remember. Think of the good as the bad just destroys you. At least it does me. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and share a warm smile and a hug with all you can! What do I have to be "thankful for," everything and then some.

Brandee Baltzell
Brandee Baltzell

Thank you for the quote from Jason's page. We just lost my grandmother on Saturday, and this definition of grief just sits comfortably with how I am feeling. Treasure those you love. Tomorrow, when you are surrounded by the crazy, the bullemic, the closeted and the plain annoying, remember that they are your family and like it or not, they are part of you. Look past the crap, swallow the snarky comment, and let the hurts go.

Tammy Tilley
Tammy Tilley

In the middle of a deviled egg debacle, my kids wanted to go outside and pick up leaves and then bring them in to color. And it just rained. And I'm thinking 'but the house is clean and family is arriving soon and...'. But you know what? The leaves are freakin' awesome in Atlanta right now, it wasn't raining at the moment, and my kids thought up this lovely little idea all on their own. So out we went. Spent 30 minutes wandering around gathering a couple dozen leaves of all shapes and sizes (what were 'just leaves' in my yard turned into wow look at that one! and hey this one is gorgeous! and look, it's still red!). They traced and colored. My youngest asked me to draw her a leaf she could color in, which I did. She told me I was an 'awesome leaf draw-er' and gave me a kiss. So it's a couple of hours later now, the eggs are fine, the kids are sleeping and I just read your post. Cheers to you for being absolutely right about not only this time of year, but all times of the year. I hope I never turn down the chance to gather up beautiful leaves. ps- did I mention that throughout the egg debacle and leaf-gathering, I'd forgotten about the Princess Aurora sticker I had on my face, courtesy of the youngest? The thought of that will amuse me for days and weeks to come...

The Redhead
The Redhead

I do love it when people share that they feel they're The Luckiest, too.

Erroin Martin
Erroin Martin

Give thanks if you really mean it. Not be a kiss ass.

Elleocwent
Elleocwent

"That I can move forward (because moving on is bullshit)" This is just plain freaking awesome! I'm putting it on my Facebook page, and the Fan Page I run for Survivors of Sexual Abuse. Because this IS PERFECT. :)

Debra Drattell
Debra Drattell

erika, so glad the bitch slaps are back! it was through one of those, posted on a friend's facebook page, that i was introduced to your delightfully irreverent wit and wisdom. now i am a dedicated fan and fb "friend". i really appreciate the honesty and generosity of spirit in your writings. all the best to you this thanksgiving, and beyond. one of the luckiest, debra

@keithprivette
@keithprivette

Thank you Erika! You are so right about the small things. I was sorta lost sight of spending time with my little ones and soooo thankful for my lovely wife pointing out my loss of focus. So worth the kick in the pants and the differences in their lives has been totally noticeable! I am thankful for the internet that allowed me to find you too! I really appreciate your writing and kicking hard core for real action and change to happen. So thank you. Keep up the awesome bitch slapping. We have not met in real life YET! Just wanted to let you know you are a awesome person in all facets a human can be awesome. What is refreshing is that you are you and I and assume we all love it! You have a wonderful and safe thanksgiving break!

Mary
Mary

This is wonderful. Thank you for this post. I often get bogged down with all the reasons my life has not lived up to my expectations. How other people are so lucky. Fuck that. I am lucky. I am well cared for and have a great life and it's time I recognize that shit and stop moping.

Timstich
Timstich

It's funny, but your column never fails to get to me whether I feel like it or not. I'm very glad to see you keep writing.

Jim Raffel
Jim Raffel

The story at the beginning - wonderful. The UPC will in fact still scan on an empty bag or half-empty for that matter bag. Such a HUGE lesson in that simple observation you made. Thank you and enjoy your Thanksgiving hopefully being spent with Family.

The Redhead
The Redhead

I don't necessarily think it took Jason's passing to make me appreciate. It's just been one helluva guidepost to redirect me towards what I've always known is important :) Good to see you, Dan. Happy holidays.

Kat Jaibur
Kat Jaibur

I have just returned from a morning at the doctor's, where my husband was diagnosed with a back injury and shingles. It has totally screwed up my plans for making pies and a casserole. It screwed up my ability to take my mom to get her hair done. And I'm way behind on cleaning up the guest room for the family coming tonight. And so what?! What matters is being there for each other. What matters is the love. What matters is anything and everything we can find to be grateful for. As you have shared your pain over losing Jason, it has made me appreciate what I have even more. Because, like you, I am The Luckiest. What I'm especially grateful for is the ability to appreciate in the moment, to find the good, to say thank you and I love you often. How blessed am I? How blessed are you?! Thank you, Erika. Sending you love.

Mary
Mary

I am so thankful to be forgivable this week! (after hitting the dog with a car) It's amazing that joy can come after pain. counting to five!

Guerrero Ink
Guerrero Ink

I am right there with ya. One of the things I keep trying to get across to people is that I would rather spend time with them versus anything else but that commodity seems to be like asking for gold these days. AND if you really want a good time, visit a mountain lake resort area where the altitude deprivation drastically impairs the brain matter and behavior gets super wild and stupid. You might like GG's comments...on that over on the Fawnskin Flyer.

Tessa Harmon
Tessa Harmon

This is what I needed to hear. Thank you, Erika. There are times when I can't be thankful and I am merely tolerant. Better to be neutral than negative. Maybe some days, when I am so consumed by my little problems I could scream, that's enough. But we should all push through it and be thankful, and fully present in our lives (not just living in our heads, as I have the tendency to do), as much as possible.

Patrick Reyes
Patrick Reyes

Thanks for sharing Erika. We all need constant reminders that we in fact are the luckiest. Look around you at your family and friends. Sometimes we have our heads buried so deep that we forget to notice that they are an arms reach or a hug away. Have a great Thanksgiving.

Amy Oscar
Amy Oscar

What a blessing Jason was to the world. And he's right - the thing people write to tell me most often (I read angel letters for a living) is how much they wish they'd said this one thing (usually, it's I'm sorry) or done this other thing (usually it's making time for someone who's gone.) The most common (by far) sign from the angelic world is this: A sign from a lost loved one who's died that lets a person know: I forgive you and I love you anyway. Reading the letters taught me one thing above all: Love now. Love constantly. It's all love. Love everyone. Include yourself. Thanks, Erika - this post is beautiful. And so are you...

rockgrrl
rockgrrl

Erika, you're the best! Thanks for sharing this and all of your other Bitch Slaps. Hugs from one of your extended network friends who is moved by you!

sjs
sjs

I was so ashamed about two weeks ago when I sat at my computer to write a "Thanks" post and it literally took me a full two minutes to land on something. WTF. It made me realize that as one of The Luckiest I've allowed myself to be spoiled. And I felt really, really gross. I was one of those goddamn Sweet 16 MTV girls thinking that I DESERVE all that life has handed me. When in reality, being one of The Luckiest has nothing to do with what we each deserve as individuals. Being The Luckiest has to do with just being. We all have so much to be grateful for, despite our stations in life, despite our hardships or ease, and despite our possessions and money. Anyway, I'm off to eat a bag of mini marshmallows now. Thanks. :)

J
J

I don't know who you are, but from one ginger writer to another - you. are. awesome. I'll be back.

Chris Brogan
Chris Brogan

I've been down a bit in the past few days, but when I realize WHAT is bothering me, I'm embarrassed and I remember to go help people. Last night, my daughter made her bedroom into a concert hall, put on yet another crazy costume (at 8, she has a fascinating sense of fashion), and played two songs each on both of her Paper Jamz guitars. Kat and I sat there like fans and listened to every song and raised our fists and cheered and made concert crowd sounds. It was a total blast. I try to memorize moments like that so I don't lose my shit when she leaves an empty pudding container on the table (and on the couch) (and on the other table). You're spot on, as they say.

Caroline Halliwell
Caroline Halliwell

Awesome! Thanks to you! Love your last paragraph about grief...I agree..so glad I found this thanks to Amber Naslund Caroline

Kristof
Kristof

Perfect. Thanks for the reminder.

jim
jim

It sounds like you've been on quite a journey of self-examination in recent weeks. Glad to see that some of your inner processing is beginning to surface! Thanks for sharing it.

The Redhead
The Redhead

I'm grateful as shit for you, too. And you know I only got the tattoos to spite you ;-)

Mike Masin
Mike Masin

Thank you for "count to five"; there are days I need it. Being grateful comes easily for me these days. Recently, the one person in my life that makes me whole, that makes the little shit nothing and the big shit conquerable, was given her quality of life back by modern medicine. Four surgeries, for two completely different problems that held her captive for years, in a degenerating partial fog because of the meds she couldn't live without, were all successful and she is med-free and back to the person I married more than 25 years ago. Being grateful is a daily ritual. Have a great holiday Erika, looking forward to the next bitch slap.

Kipp
Kipp

Hey, Erika - Thanks for this. It says a lot. This past Saturday morning, I got a phone call no one wants to ever receive - the day before, my cousin's fiance had shot and killed himself. She returned home from work and found him. Needless to say, the family is reeling. There's no playbook for this type of situation. We buried him yesterday, and a lot of things came up. One thing in particular is troublesome - in spite of living 30 minutes away from the two of them, I had never met him. There were understandable excuses (there always are) - he was a pilot, so he was always traveling, my cousin works ever-changing doctor's hours at the hospital, and my schedule has never been anything close to predictable. I always knew I would meet him when the time was right. But the time was never right. It fell into the column of 'things you say you need to do, but never take action on.' Life does move quickly and unexpectedly. And the sad reality is, none of us are guaranteed dinner tonight. You're spot on when you say that quote is breathtaking. It says it all. Schippers was right - I think the true pain of grief comes down to opportunities lost, and not realizing the urgency of making the most of what we have, when we have it. Regret's a bitch. If we can take that grief and turn it into action, though...that's possibly the greatest gift one can receive. Thanks for this. I know it's timely in your life...and it's definitely timely in mine.

Gary Olson
Gary Olson

This is probably my favorite thing about the web. I stumbled upon your blog a couple weeks ago, and, it's almost like you are providing a lucent voice to some of those buried feelings, notions, and beliefs that I've been fighting with lately. Fear sucks. And I've just realized that it's been a major factor in the decisions I've made (or more importantly, the ones I haven't) over the course of my 38 years. I guess realizing that is the first step, but what you said here pretty much sums it up: "Count to five. Fear keeps us from doing the most amazing things. As the old adage goes, “What would we attempt to do if we knew we could not fail?” Be thankful for failure. And then move on until you hit the next point in your life where you must count to five." A big 'thank you' for helping provide some clarity! Gary

davinabrewer
davinabrewer

Erika, Fantastic bitch slap.. and such a wonderful quote, thanks for sharing. I can dig the touchy feely when it's like this: funny, sad, snarky and no bullshit. Makes me grateful for all I have, that's for sure. I'm declaring tomorrow a whine (not wine) free day, so thank you.

Shane
Shane

I always love the honest and refreshing flavor of your slaps. They leave a good taste in my mouth. Keep 'em coming but don't forget to put down they computer for a few days here. Happy Thanksgiving!

toywithme
toywithme

Lady you can slap me anytime!

Habbala
Habbala

Wow wow wow. This is perfect. PERFECT. I have been working on being grateful this past year... and it's been life changing. My grandpa told me once that every action and emotion comes from one of two places: fear or love. I'm choosing love.

The Redhead
The Redhead

And you have a good holiday, too :) Thanks for stopping by today!

Rachel Moore
Rachel Moore

Thank you for this. Excellent reminder in these commercial-ridden times. Have a good holiday!

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