My partner and I recently had the privilege of spending a few days in Big Sur, the jewel of the California coast. With meandering creeks and ancient redwoods on one side and a huge expanse of Pacific Ocean on the other, we wanted to do nothing but sit and soak it in. The awesomeness (and I mean that in its original, non-Kardashian sense) defied words.
Though there are few places grander on earth, Big Sur reminded me that moments of appreciation for life’s gifts are available all the time, if I’d only summon the comparatively paltry energy to seek them out. It’s not the view itself, but the willingness to see it.
In the midst of our gee-whizz reverie, we got an email from someone we both love very much, who described in detail his regret about the lost opportunities of his life. We ondered how he would have felt if he were sitting there with us, watching the sun go down. Would it be as bad? It’s not that we didn’t take his sadness seriously — we did. Our hearts ached for him and if we could have magically changed the past, we would have. But here we were, with dramatic proof that regardless of every hurt and insult, for most of us it is possible to make the choice to stop, breath and experience beauty. It’s there for the taking.
Our friend still possessed the power of choice, and much more too: security, health, freedom and the love of people in his life. Though much still lies ahead of him, I sensed that he could only see the past, which I do not deny was marked by injustice and pain. I know, though, that he is blessed this very moment. My only wish for him is that he could feel it every once in a while, as Traci and I did in Big Sur, and we vowed to stop and notice more often, even when we’re not in places that practically hit you over the head with something to be grateful for.
Since I’m supposed to be writing an LGBT column, I’ll now try to share what this has to do with our community: We are nowhere near where we know we should be when it comes to civil rights. In some places in the world, we’re even going backwards (Russia, India — I’m talking to you). Many of us are isolated in unsupportive communities or shunned by the people we love. We should be fighting any urge to rest on the laurels of our amazing victories of 2013 (DOMA, ordinary people voting for equality). Gratitude for what’s good, however, is something else entirely.
To everyone, every day, whomever summoned the courage to stand up for justice when things appeared hopeless, I’m grateful to you for the freedom I often take for granted. To every parent who chose to embrace your LGBT kid even if you didn’t understand the LGBT part, I thank you for tilting the universal scales a little more towards love. No matter what 2014 brings, may we all feel blessed, loved and awed by the simple beauty of life.
Abby Dees is a civil-rights attorney-turned-author who has been in the LGBT-rights trenches for 25-plus years. She can be reached through her website: www.queerquestionsstraighttalk.com.