A Short List of Gratitude

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My friend Isabel writes these amazing lists. They are not simply lists though. She has somehow transformed something very mundane and ordinary into moments of poignant truth and understanding. This list is inspired by her. By her way of being. By her willingness to see.


  1. I was 19 before I had my first real boyfriend. He was 9 years my senior, transplated back in the midwest from San Diego after a stint in the Navy. We met over the phone – he called to place orders and I took them. For our first date, a blind date, he took me to a steak house. I wore a trench coat and black heels and we talked about beer and the Cardinals, this new city and the coming of winter. 3 months later I was let go from that job. One month after that he broke up with me. February was a cold month.*


  1. She arrived on the unit a day or two after I did. She was model tall and just as thin with wavy blond hair that cut into her chin. Her blue eyes were swollen and for some reason – maybe it was just seeing those big blue eyes and knowing that I had sat on that very same bed only a handful of hours ago – I felt compelled to talk to her. Except I didn’t talk. I wrote. I dropped off a letter to her, placed it beside her crooked legs, and left. I can’t remember exactly what it said but I remember that she hugged me later, wrapped her arms around me. She was wearing cashmere in July.**


  1. I was raised solidly middle class: perfectly manicured lawns in homogeneous suburban neighborhoods with good public schools. I drove a new car when I turned 16 and though I didn’t have everything I wanted, I never needed anything. But I spent my mid-twenties trying to make $10 last 14 days. It might have been the days I sipped broth for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that I began to unravel and fill up on shame. My hands stayed tucked into the deepest corners of my pockets.***



* Even the breaking was gentle. Just as everything else with him had been. So I am grateful for that splitting. For him teaching me how to heal.


** I am grateful for how, in her awkward and quiet way, while draped in cashmere, she showed me the power of words – how some words never need to be spoken.


*** I am still learning how to open up the palms. I am still learning how to receive in moments of need and in moments when life is bursting with abundance. I am grateful for learning that it is okay to be full.


This is a list of gratitude that on the surface does not look like one and yet, sitting here now, during this month of November when we will begin to acknowledge all of the light in our lives, I hark back to the darkness.

Sometimes you only know where you are because of the time you had to spend feeling your way through.


I am Alisha Sommer, wife and mom of three. I drink coffee and wine, love the smell of freshly baked bread, and laying in the sun. 

I believe in stories with soul – the kind that are brave and vulnerable and warm. I believe in honoring your truth from moment to moment. I believe in finding the light and holding it close. 

I write, publish an online literary journal, write guest-posts here and there, and co-lead a cool little writing course

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