It doesn't always pour when it rains, and there isn't always smoke where there's fire. But lately, it has indeed been pouring, and simultaneously on fire.
I spent four days at the World Fantasy Convention, my first literary convention, where I had star-struck moments meeting people who created fantastic works of fiction, and where I met ten times as many whose work I should already know, if I wasn't such a neophyte in the world of science fiction and fantasy literature. I spent the conference in rapid vacillation between exuberance at being a part of the writing community, and deflating inferiority at my relative lack of accomplishments. I'll be sharing more impressions of the conference on the mailing list, so I'd encourage you to subscribe if that interests you.
I was eight hours into the return trip, exhausted and not feeling very well, when my wife called to say she believed one of our dogs had bloat, and she was heading over to the emergency vet. Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV) is a life-threatening condition in which the stomach fills with air and rotates within the body, putting pressure on the diaphragm and cutting off blood supply to internal organs. By the time I arrived (in markedly less time than google had predicted I would) the vet had confirmed GDV. There were two options - surgery or euthanasia.
I'm trying to understand the many factors that allowed me to say yes, please do the surgery that will save my dog's life. Many people wouldn't have had that luxury. For us, it wasn't an insignificant sum, but it was money we were saving for other purposes. It would mean some planned home repairs wouldn't happen for a while. Not a difficult decision.
I feel grateful for this, but at the same time, I'm not sure where to direct my gratitude. It seems my economic status is mostly the result of being the random recipient of good fortune bestowed by an impersonal universe. Some people like to point to their hard work, or credit the work of those who went before them, in achieving their level of economic privilege. But let's be honest. Much of the variance in my economic equation was fixed at the time of my birth. I don't believe it was God's plan, or karma, or because I'm such a great person. It just worked out that way.
To me, gratitude is like a transitive verb - it must have an object, a recipient of the action. I don't know how (or why) to express gratitude to a process that is mindless and fundamentally unfair. I just know my dog, whom I adore, is still alive. Beyond that, I'm kind of baffled.