On Thankfulness.

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. There are many Americans who look to this day as a national day of mourning, and for good reason. In my family, though, we recognize the holiday, and like many others, we try to center thankfulness and love and our relationships with each other. Over at the Guardian today I’m writing about the things I’m thankful for.

This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for my church.

I’m grateful I have a space that offers moral guidance, that reflects and builds upon my values, that pushes me to be a kinder and more generous person and that offers me a sense of purpose. I’m grateful for the warmth and support of a like-minded community. I’m grateful my church is a space that is available to me every day, whenever I need it.

I’m grateful that, like so many other young, secular people across the globe, my church isn’t a religious institution or a hierarchy. It’s not even a church, technically. It’s the weekly dinner with the friends I’ve had for more than a decade. It’s the candle-lit yoga studio where I spend an hour every day quietly looking inward. It’s the comment section of my website, where a ragtag bunch of gender studies nerds, political junkies and social justice geeks have found each other, and where we argue and laugh and have a little reprieve from a real world where things are often ugly, painful and marginalizing – even while we talk about things that are ugly, painful and marginalizing.

The holiday that for me is the most spiritually rewarding, the one where I learn the most and reassess my path and give thanks and feel simultaneously peaceful and energized? It’s the annual New Years trip I take with my three closest friends, to somewhere new every year, with no boyfriends or partners allowed.

Almost all of us have a church. It just might not get a federal tax break.

You can read the whole thing here.

In the column, I include you all (awww) in the list of things I’m grateful for, and I include this space in the list of spaces where I find “my people,” and where I find reprieve, and where I grow. It feels silly, crediting The Internet or a blog with helping to shape you, but this has. Don’t get me wrong — y’all give me a giant headache sometimes too, and there are days (many days) when I want to throw my computer across the room, or when The Internet makes me so mad/sad/frustrated that I break down into tears like a big ‘ol baby. But this space has saved me more times than it’s hurt; this space has been, and continues to be, a landing pad and a cushion.

Four years ago I graduated from law school and started working at a big law firm. It was a weird turn; I never thought I’d be a corporate lawyer, but $200,000 in educational debt made firm work a financial necessity. I got lucky and worked in a place that was truly wonderful, at least as far as law firms go. I was given full leeway to continue blogging and writing and doing my activist work, and I made a concerted effort to draw a big bright line between work and writing. When internet trolls and long-time stalkers attempted to get me fired and interrupted my professional life, my colleagues were supportive. I got to do a lot of pro bono work, largely in the areas of asylum work for trans and lesbian women, domestic violence victims and FGM survivors, and housing rights for low-income people facing eviction.

But I was still a corporate lawyer, and even billing a ton of pro bono hours didn’t change that. And I was a corporate lawyer who moonlighted as a writer. I ran this space, I freelanced, I tried to do speaking gigs, I went to events. I was working one job where I had 10-16 hour days, and then a second one on top of that, which was what I really loved and wanted to do. I was exhausted and burned out before I really even started. I didn’t sleep much; I didn’t date much. For the first two years at my firm, I did pretty well. I worked hard, and I was stressed out and exhausted, and I let my work in this space slide, but work-work was good. I billed tons of hours. I went for weeks only sleeping three or four hours a night. I knew I wanted to leave eventually, but the money was nice — after three years of being the one broke one in my friend circle while I was in law school and they were all employed, it was especially nice not to be stressed about money all the time. I was deeply, fundamentally unhappy, but there were other benefits. And I wasn’t miserable, just stressed out and dissatisfied and a little lost.

And then, not this past summer but right at the beginning of the one before, I got sick.

“Sick” isn’t even the right word. At the time, it felt like my whole body was just failing me. It’s something I alluded to here once or twice, during some blog fight or another, where I had done something stupid and I just did not have it in me to deal with the fallout, and I felt like I was failing everyone; I said I was having “health problems.” And I was.

It started with my neck. I’ve had neck and shoulder issues since law school, mostly from stress. At one point when I was in school, the muscles cramped up so badly I couldn’t move my head, and walked myself, sobbing in pain, to the health center. I was given some shots of muscle relaxants and prescriptions for more, which I couldn’t really take because of final exams. That’s always been a painful area, and it acts up when I’m stressed. By year three of a law firm job, I could barely turn my head from side to side. I went to a few different doctors, finally ending up at a spinal specialist who sent me to get an MRI to see what was wrong with me.

Around the same time, I went in for my annual women’s health check-up, and my doctor found a lump in my breast. She also found something wrong with my uterus. She gave me referrals for sonograms.

Over the next month, I spent a lot of time in hospitals and doctor’s offices. I spent a lot of hours on my roof, drinking wine with my friends and trying to find a distraction. I didn’t tell anyone, at first. Finally, one evening after too much rose, it all came spilling out, and there are few things I hate more than crying in front of other people, but I sat on the roof and cried and my friends rubbed my back and told me everything would be fine.

Spoiler: Everything was. Eventually.

I got the MRI, and when I went back to the spinal doctor he informed me that at 27 I had spinal arthritis that would probably keep me in physical pain for the rest of my life, as well as two protruding discs in my neck that were responsible for the severe pain on my left side. To compensate, my left shoulder muscle was over-working, and the muscle tissue was damaged, causing more pain. He recommended against spinal surgery for someone my age, and instead prescribed physical therapy several times a week, and suggested I do yoga more regularly, since that seemed to help. Pain was just going to be a part of my life; I should figure out ways to manage it.

Unfortunately, when you work at a big law firm, daily yoga and an hour of PT several times a week isn’t exactly easy to schedule.

In that same period of time, I went in for sonograms of my uterus and my breast. The uterine sonogram looked normal, and the rest of that particular health story is for another time. A few days later I was back for the breast sonogram.

When my doctor found the lump weeks earlier, I called my mom. She went into Nurse Mode and calmly and matter-of-factly talked me through what was going to transpire. “Your aunt used to get breast lumps,” she said. “It is probably nothing serious. And if it is something serious, there’s nothing worrying will do, so don’t get yourself in a tizzy. We will get through this.”

“Are you getting a mammogram?” she asked.

“I… think so?” I said.

“Do you know what a mammogram is?” she asked.

“I… think so?” I said.

“Ok,” she said. “Picture a garage door. Now picture it coming down and squeezing your breast until it’s flat as a pancake, flatter than you ever imagined a breast could possible get.”

“Oh god,” I said.

“Yeah,” she said. “It sucks.”

I’m not sure if this is a New York thing or just a hospitals-are-shitty thing, but god, the waiting. I showed up on time for a 10am appointment, scared and nervous about the garage door machine that was about to come down and squash my boob. And… I waited. When they finally did the exam, it was blessedly a sonogram and not a mammogram, so there was no garage door — just a big thing that looked a little like a Hitachi Magic Wand jamming into the side of my boob. Then I waited some more, until a doctor brought me into a room and told me that yes, there is a tumor in there and they can’t tell what it is. So wait a little longer and we’ll see if someone can do a biopsy today.

I waited longer.

A middle-aged male doctor came in with a younger male resident. The doctor was nice, and having them touch my boob was significantly less weird than I thought it would be. They felt around the tumor — which hurts, by the way, when it’s squeezed and prodded — and the doctor said he’d take a biopsy and look at it under the microscope to tell me right away if I needed to keep worrying. They took turns jabbing needles into the lump — when they take a biopsy of a breast lump, they apparently have to get a good “sample,” and the only way to do that is to forcefully jerk the needle around inside the lump to get a bunch of cells — and then disappeared. I sat in a little white room by myself for what felt like hours, although it was probably about 40 minutes. By that point it was about 4pm. I hadn’t eaten all day. I had been in that fluorescent-lit hospital for hours. I bit back tears. I kept checking my blackberry, responding to work emails. I made the kind of promises to God that one makes when one is scared. And I promised myself that whatever happened, I would treat myself better, and take care of my health, and focus on what I found sustaining and nourishing, even if it meant being less financially secure. I promised to put my own needs ahead of work; I decided that I had a year left in me, and then it was time to go. I told God that if this all worked out, I wouldn’t compromise my health like this again. I’d do better. I wouldn’t ask for anything else.

The doctor came back in and said, “It’s not cancerous.”

It was a tumor, he said, but a benign one. If it bothered me I could have surgery to have it removed, but otherwise we could leave it. “Ok,” I said. “Thank you.”

I walked to the subway, hungry and dazed, and called my mom to tell her the good news. She was relieved. So was I, but I didn’t have the rush of lightness I had expected. I decided to go home for the day.

Even then, I was grateful I had health insurance — and fancy law firm health insurance that paid for most of my medical costs.

The next week I started going to physical therapy. I started doing yoga regularly. I left work by 7 every night, sometimes earlier. I took vacation. I took sick days. I went out with friends. I went on dates. I said no to projects I couldn’t fit in. For the last year of my employment at the law firm, I had what all the women’s groups call “work-life balance.”

Except, of course, by law firm standards I was no longer an ideal employee, or even a very good one.

I made a choice, but it came at a cost. I worry, still, that some folks I worked with at the end of my time at the firm thought I was lazy or unmotivated — and comparatively, I suppose, I was. The truth is that I did stop working as hard, and it was intentional.

This past May, a full year after The Summer My Body Broke, I left the firm.

Leaving a well-paid, stable law job and becoming a freelance writer while still in six-figure debt and without much of a safety net is on its face one of the stupidest and most reckless decisions I have ever made. It is also one of the best.

Maybe I’ll be singing a different tune in a few years. But right now, my only responsibilities are myself and a cat — when better to take a big leap? When better to decide that I can actually survive on spoons full of peanut butter and an apple for dinner, if everything else in my life is feeding me?

This Thanksgiving, I am particularly grateful that my life is what it is right now. I am grateful to know that, as a generally risk-averse person (what other kind goes to law school?), I can thrive in instability. I am grateful to know that I am still capable of taking big risks. I am grateful that there are actually people out there who want to pay me money to write things.

I am grateful for my health, even though it’s not perfect. I am grateful that I have learned how to care for my body and manage my pain, even though my body still hurts a lot. I am grateful that, after a lifetime of body-image issues, I have been given the tools to reimagine myself as a complex ecosystem that I need to care for, and that will serve me best when I treat it with kindness and forgiveness, instead of a thing that seats its value in its aesthetic appeal to others.

I am grateful, really and truly, that throughout this process I had this space. It was the distraction I needed. It gave me a sense of doing something bigger. It was food for my mind and my soul when law school was awful, and then when my day job was thoroughly unfulfilling. And, more practically, it has been a platform off of which to launch a second career. Established writers always tell wannabe-writers that the best thing they can do is “just write” and “write every day.” This has, for almost a decade, been my place to just write, to write every day.

I am grateful I have a space to just write, every day. I am especially grateful that my writing space is public, and comes with a community of smart, engaged people talking and responding (yes, I am grateful even when I feel like people in this space are being jerks, and even when there’s push-back. I could live without the trolls and some of the pedantry, but nothing in life is perfect, is it?).

So thank you, for making this place what it is, and for making this little corner of the internet feel like home.

Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate today.

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85 comments for “On Thankfulness.

  1. EG
    November 22, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    I don’t know what to say, Jill. Not one of those health scares is minor. I’m so sorry they happened to you, and I’m so sorry for the chronic pain, which is no small thing to live with. But I’m also very, very glad that you’re better now and that you were able to prioritize your health and happiness and make your life better.

  2. Sid
    November 22, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    I’ve often been pretty critical of you in my posts here, but I truly value this place and I’d dare say its been a catalyst for much-needed personal growth over the past 5 or so years I’ve followed it. While I don’t agree with some of what you write, I nearly always appreciate your perspective. I’m very sorry to hear of your personal problems and hope your body gets better (btw have you thought of powerlifting? If its done with proper from, it often helps significantly. Physique 57 is also something I’ve personally found great for helping w. spinal pain, although classes are pretty steep.) So from one anonymous Internet schmuck’s door to yours, Thanks.

  3. November 22, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    I have nothing to really say except thank you for writing this.

  4. FashionablyEvil
    November 22, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    It’s not just New York–I had a breast lump last year (thankfully benign), and man, there are few things worse than sitting in a waiting room of a breast clinic surrounded by other worried, panicked women.

    I am glad to hear you are on the mend!

  5. Vidya
    November 22, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Glad to hear you’re doing well.
    But could I request a trigger warning on this post? The beginning of the the post really didn’t give me any clue that it was going to start discussing medical-sexual violation halfway down. :-O

    • November 22, 2012 at 1:02 pm


    • November 22, 2012 at 2:32 pm

      Are you serious with this? Jiminy crickets.

    • PrettyAmiable
      November 22, 2012 at 11:21 pm

      Medical procedures are not automatically “medical-sexual violations” just because you don’t want to read about them. I can’t help but think it’s really offensive for you to rewrite this incredibly honest, soul-bearing piece to include something that isn’t here – there was no medical-sexual violation. Thanks.

    • Bagelsan
      November 23, 2012 at 8:20 pm

      Oh Feministe commentariat, never change! >_<

    • amblingalong
      November 24, 2012 at 11:55 pm

      The beginning of the the post really didn’t give me any clue that it was going to start discussing medical-sexual violation halfway down.

      Of course no doctors should ever touch anyone on their breasts or genitals (with their consent!), ever. Because that’s worse than potentially dying. Totally.

      • amblingalong
        November 24, 2012 at 11:55 pm

        Also, fuck you for the whole breasts = automatically sexual thing. That’s literally the exact same mindset of the people who want public breastfeeding to be a crime.

    • November 25, 2012 at 1:10 am

      I have to say, as someone with a lot of medical/doctor-related anxiety, I also found Jill’s description of her experiences (which were clearly very disturbing for her) also quite disturbing for me and, given that everything started with Thanksgiving on the face of it, also kind of an unexpected turn at least from what I thought I’d be reading when I clicked the cut link. So I understand where this request came from (although I was not triggered personally, just caught off guard) and some of the reactions to this comment are unnecessarily harsh, IMO.

      As for “medical-sexual”, while I agree that breasts *shouldn’t* be automatically sexualized, the truth is that they often are, including by medical professionals who should know better or by virtue of the poisonous social context. So there are people who have experienced procedures like Jill’s as just that.

      • PrettyAmiable
        November 25, 2012 at 9:42 am

        I can’t get behind this.

        Disturbing, sure, in the sense that anything can be disturbing to anyone for any reason. But calling something a sexual violation when it isn’t (and rewriting someone’s experiences for them) is never okay.

      • Radiant Sophia
        November 25, 2012 at 9:59 am

        Some people experiencing procedures like Jill’s as medical-sexual violation does not equal Jill experiencing those procedures as medical-sexual violation, which is what Vidya is claiming. Asking for a trigger warning is fine, but Vidya is, in effect, claiming that Jill was sexually violated. I believe we can leave it to Jill to determine if she was violated or not.

      • November 25, 2012 at 10:21 am

        Right, so I never said it was a sexual violation for Jill. Or even that I agreed with Vidya’s request. What I said was, “there are people who have experienced procedures like Jill’s as just that.”

        Vidya *also* did not technically claim that Jill was sexually-violated, although her wording left something to be desired – I read her comment as indicating that for her the description made her think of medical-sexual violation, whether or not that is how Jill would describe it herself. Personally, it would have been helpful for me not necessarily to have a TW for medical-sexual violation (which is very specific and somewhat dramatic), but to have some indication that I was about to read a lot of personal serious medical/health-related information instead of the critical Thanksgiving commentary I was expecting (or bracing for, depending on how it turned out).

        My problem is that Viyda made a request, which, while I don’t agree with it, does *not* deserve the increasing hostility that was being levelled at it. Especially given that I know there are people here with an axe to grind about content notes/warnings in general. Someone read something that disturbed them and asked for a trigger warning. The OP can respond (or not) to them with a yes or no without everyone else jumping down their throat.

      • Radiant Sophia
        November 25, 2012 at 3:03 pm

        @ Jadey

        I see your points, especially in light of your comment below.

      • November 25, 2012 at 10:25 am

        Also, I have to say that it was amblingalong’s comments that pushed me over the edge to respond to this, because I was pissed off at a cis man telling a woman how to feel about her breasts in a medical environment. Vidya may very well have been traumatized through sexual violation in a medical setting (because this does fucking happen and it is bloody traumatizing) and should not be victim-blamed as someone who is just over-sexualizing her own breasts.

      • trees
        November 25, 2012 at 12:42 pm


        Thank you for saying this. I was pretty disturbed by amblingalong’s comments and I can’t really articulate why I responded that way. And I say this as a mother who did extended breast feeding. I also have a serious medical phobia, and lots of body memory of trauma around my breasts, from my long history of sexual violence (it’s the gift that keeps on giving).

      • November 25, 2012 at 3:14 pm

        Thank you, Jadey. I didn’t have the words to articulate that either. I didn’t really agree with Vidya’s post (medical stuff? sure. Sexual violation? I didn’t see any), but the replies were, uh, disproportionate.

      • amblingalong
        November 25, 2012 at 9:17 pm

        Also, I have to say that it was amblingalong’s comments that pushed me over the edge to respond to this, because I was pissed off at a cis man telling a woman how to feel about her breasts in a medical environment. Vidya may very well have been traumatized through sexual violation in a medical setting (because this does fucking happen and it is bloody traumatizing) and should not be victim-blamed as someone who is just over-sexualizing her own breasts.

        Really? Because I read Vidya not talking as about her own experiences, but as telling Jill how she must approach/understand Jill’s experiences. I apologize for the way my post evidently came across.

        That said, I still think Vidya’s post was incredibly inappropriate.

      • amblingalong
        November 25, 2012 at 9:28 pm

        should not be victim-blamed as someone who is just over-sexualizing her own breasts.

        To clarify: the inappropriate sexualization of breasts, as I saw it, was when Vidya told Jill that because Jill’s breasts were touched (in a medical setting, with her consent), that touch by default represented something sexual, and furthermore, a sexual violation. If we’d been talking about Vidya’s breasts, I’d agree with you, but we weren’t.

        To assume that anything to do with breasts is sexual seems to me fundamentally screwed up. I really don’t think that’s tantamount to saying people who have their breasts touched without consent don’t have a legitimate grievance.

  6. November 22, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    We’re all grateful for you, Jill. :D

  7. November 22, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Yikes. I knew from your allusions earlier that you had been facing health difficulties, of course, but to know what you were actually going through is a lot more to take in.

    I’m really glad that you are doing better now, chronic pain and precarious employment and all, and I’m also very, very grateful and amazed that throughout it all you kept Feministe going. You say that you felt like you were failing everyone, but really and truly no one can or should be perfect. I think you made the right choices for you, to look after yourself. Thank you.

  8. FYouMudFlaps
    November 22, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    Someone is showing off her awesomeness :P You are awesome so you’re forgiven.

  9. Kristen J.
    November 22, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    Dear god. Suffering through all of that during law school and the first few years of legal practice? Those years are taxing on a body to begin with, to add chronic pain must have been nearly unbearable. I’m very, very sorry to hear that you were in pain, but equally glad that you’ve found tools to manage it that work for you.

    And thank you. Thank you for this space where we can learn and grow; debate and discuss; laugh, cry, and commiserate. You are the bravest person I know. Thank you for being here.

  10. November 22, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    Oh my word, Jill. So so much love to you, for everything you’ve been through and for sharing your story with us. I COMPLETELY understand why you hadn’t done so before (and used to get quite annoyed at people who seemed to be trying to get you to explain your “health issues”, as though it were their damn business). But I am happy you felt safe enough to do so now, because I think it speaks to perhaps a greater inner peace and serenity, in the face of all the difficulty you’ve endured. I am so so happy for you that things went as well as they did, but also extend all the compassion in the world for the pain and fear and anxiety you had and likely continue to have.

    I’ve also been dealing with severe chronic illness, and have been in a long, barely-moved-along recovery process, while also dealing with constant bullshit and stupidity and insults from others, and my own self-recrimination and regrets. But I am here, and things are finally starting to maybe sort of get a little better, so I am thankful for that.

    I have a feeling that even with the worries about your decisions regarding work and your debt, that you are going to do well. You’re brilliant and strong and you seem to have a wonderful circle of support, and I’d bet the emotional and psychological benefits of doing what is best for you at this time will be greater than you think. You’re an admirable person, Jill.

    Thanks for this space and for this post, and everything you do :)

  11. November 22, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Very nice poste, Jill; I’m gladde you are feeling goode now, both physically and mentally!

    As far as leaving your law firm jobbe, while it may not be clear to you now, I suspect that in years to come, you will discover that your legal training in law school, at the firm, and through pro bono representation has been a benefit to you regardless of where your career aspirations take you.

  12. Alexandra
    November 22, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    I’m so glad you’re in a better place, Jill. I’ve been reading this blog off and on since 2006, when I was sixteen; it’s one of the few feminist spaces on the internet that has endured (and which has somehow grown with me as I’ve grown – that has helped me grow).

    One of the horrible things about chronic pain is that you become so inured to a low or moderate level of pain that when the pain gets bad, one is often slow to acknowledge that it is bad, or needs attention… Right now I’m dealing with chronic migraine, a headache now every day for fourteen days in a row, and boy howdy it’s getting old… and I’m playing the game where I’m going to see my primary care doc for a second time and she’s going to farm me out to specialists, which will ruin the next few months.

    People who say that suffering builds character or, in the Victorian fashion, purifies the spirit, make me laugh. A little bit of suffering goes a long way. But not to be too Buddhist about it, pain need not be suffering, thank God.

  13. November 22, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    Jill, you’ve definitely been through a pretty rough time. Also, it must have taken a lot of bravery to let go of the security of a corporate job, but it sounds like you’ve definitely made the right choice for you.

    I rarely comment this days, but I have been reading this blog ever since Lauren created it. Thank you for continuously providing such a great place for all of us.

  14. pheenobarbidoll
    November 22, 2012 at 5:36 pm


    In 1637 near present day Groton, Connecticut, over 700 men, women and children of the Pequot Tribe had gathered for their annual Green Corn Festival which is our Thanksgiving celebration. In the predawn hours the sleeping Indians were surrounded by English and Dutch mercenaries who ordered them to come outside. Those who came out were shot or clubbed to death while the terrified women and children who huddled inside the longhouse were burned alive. The next day the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared “A Day Of Thanksgiving” because 700 unarmed men, women and children had been murdered.

    Cheered by their “victory”, the brave colonists and their Indian allies attacked village after village. Women and children over 14 were sold into slavery while the rest were murdered. Boats loaded with a many as 500 slaves regularly left the ports of New England. Bounties were paid for Indian scalps to encourage as many deaths as possible.

    Following an especially successful raid against the Pequot in what is now Stamford, Connecticut, the churches announced a second day of “thanksgiving” to celebrate victory over the heathen savages. During the feasting, the hacked off heads of Natives were kicked through the streets like soccer balls. Even the friendly Wampanoag did not escape the madness. Their chief was beheaded, and his head impaled on a pole in Plymouth, Massachusetts — where it remained on display for 24 years.

    The killings became more and more frenzied, with days of thanksgiving feasts being held after each successful massacre. George Washington finally suggested that only one day of Thanksgiving per year be set aside instead of celebrating each and every massacre. Later Abraham Lincoln decreed Thanksgiving Day to be a legal national holiday during the Civil War — on the same day he ordered troops to march against the starving Sioux in Minnesota.

    But hey, as long as it means something else to the important people, it’s all good.


    • November 22, 2012 at 5:56 pm

      Yep. There’s 364 other days of the year to be thankful without also being racist as fuck, guys.

      That said, Jill, I’m really sorry you went through all the shit you did. That’s pretty epic and SO not in the good way.

      • pheenobarbidoll
        November 22, 2012 at 6:25 pm

        Agreed. And while I do have sympathy and empathy for all the horribleness you’ve endured, it’s really disappointing to read about it this way, on this day.

        It’s no different than posting on LGBT awareness day about how some people are insulted/offended by the words ” that’s so gay” but my family say it for these reasons and we don’t mean it that way.

        I came here to get away from the thankful on thanksgiving crap, not to get slapped in the face with it.

    • Idiomatic
      November 22, 2012 at 6:14 pm

      It’s true, this day is rightfully associated with a lot of horror. That’s probably why Jill acknowledged it at the beginning of her post. But aside from the dubious appropriateness of attempting to turn a deeply personal post into a political crusade – the next time, maybe you could quote something with a bit less charged language? Bonus points of the events described can actually be cited or substantiated. As it is, the anecdote reads more like a horror story designed to illustrate the point of Why Thanksgiving Is Bad, rather than offering a more objective view of the many atrocities that actually were documented.

      • Li
        November 22, 2012 at 6:28 pm

        Yeah pheeno. Next time you’re describing genocide, can you try being a little less charged about it?

      • pheenobarbidoll
        November 22, 2012 at 6:38 pm

        Well, you know, it’s a biasedpolitical crusade so I’m afraid “charged” language comes with the territory. It’s in the Indian Make White Man Feel Guilty Handbook.

      • shfree
        November 23, 2012 at 3:40 am

        I tend to believe that people are entitled to be as subjective and personal about genocide, particularly of their own people, especially when one is trying to emphasize the fact that there were atrocities committed. Emotional language and rhetoric has its place in the world, and it is a driving force for social change. So, damn straight “charged” language is appropriate here.

      • November 22, 2012 at 6:49 pm

        Bonus points of the events described can actually be cited or substantiated

        Um, yeah. If you actually click the link provided, you’ll find a whole whack of footnotes.

      • matlun
        November 23, 2012 at 9:37 am

        No. There are no references or citations whatsoever for the first article.

      • November 22, 2012 at 6:51 pm

        As it is, the anecdote reads more like a horror story designed to illustrate the point of Why Thanksgiving Is Bad, rather than offering a more objective view of the many atrocities that actually were documented.

        You mean, like history books which clearly aren’t at all biased towards the European colonists?


      • im
        November 23, 2012 at 2:09 am

        (sarcastic voice with faint note of guilty pride):
        Yeah, we got ALL the gold stars.

      • November 22, 2012 at 7:13 pm

        But aside from the dubious appropriateness of attempting to turn a deeply personal post into a political crusade

        Hehe, a crusade. As if it’s just so silly to bring up the evil history of Thanksgiving on a post that, for whatever reason, has a positive perspective of Thanksgiving.

    • November 22, 2012 at 6:52 pm

      Christ, that’s just…horrible. I feel ashamed for sincerely believing that the history behind Thanksgiving was all about settlers joining hands with the native population.

      • pheenobarbidoll
        November 22, 2012 at 7:47 pm

        Nothing to be ashamed about. You were taught this as a child, by people in a position of authority. Why wouldn’t you believe it? I can’t and won’t fault anyone for having had that belief at some point in their lives, because it was intended for you to believe it. It’s certainly not your fault you were manipulated and lied to.

      • im
        November 23, 2012 at 2:11 am

        While I have managed to avoid shame in the midst of this condescension, I am extremely frustrated that I cannot decouple this celebration from the awful past it has been connected to.

      • Li
        November 23, 2012 at 3:12 am

        Hey, do you know what I do about my country’s colonial holidays? I don’t celebrate them. No decoupling necessary. And I’m extremely frustrated at the number of settler people whose main concern in the decolonisation process is how bad it makes them feel and how they just don’t get to do fun things like commemorate the slaughter of indigenous peoples anymore.

      • shfree
        November 23, 2012 at 3:29 am

        Hey, do you know what I do about my country’s colonial holidays? I don’t celebrate them. No decoupling necessary. And I’m extremely frustrated at the number of settler people whose main concern in the decolonisation process is how bad it makes them feel and how they just don’t get to do fun things like commemorate the slaughter of indigenous peoples anymore.

        QFT. I can get pumpkin pies both before and after the holiday and they are just as tasty as they would be on this one Thursday of the year. And I’m pretty sure it applies to every other traditional thing on the menu that I don’t eat too, so the food angle should all be sorted. Plus, there is no escaping football and passive aggressive family squabbling whenever I would go to any large scale family function during the holiday season, so I think I can honestly function quite well without this one day, and just thank people and things some other time.

      • matlun
        November 23, 2012 at 10:00 am

        Christ, that’s just…horrible. I feel ashamed for sincerely believing that the history behind Thanksgiving was all about settlers joining hands with the native population

        It was, though I think making that a primary focus is more a modern construct. The original celebration was probably more about the early colony getting a good harvest and managing to prosper.

        Even if you see the original focus as an early celebration of harmony between settlers and natives, should that make it a celebration today? Considering the history, perhaps a day of mourning for lost opportunities would be more logical?

    • November 22, 2012 at 7:29 pm

      Pheeno, you’re right. I was uncomfortable with Jill’s framing of her post around Thanksgiving (because it really was unnecessary to the actual story of her post – Thanksgiving doesn’t have the monopoly on thankfulness), but I set those feelings aside because I wanted to focus on her really powerful story and I rationalized it as being okay under these circumstances. But then I didn’t think about how much easier it is for me as a settler to do just that and that if I was able to step outside how I personally have experienced Thanksgiving and what it means to me, I would have realized that. I should have known (and done) better, so I apologize.

      • pheenobarbidoll
        November 22, 2012 at 7:45 pm

        Thank you Jadey.

    • konkonsn
      November 22, 2012 at 8:30 pm

      Are the books Chuck Larson recommends still good for reading (especially The Invasion of America as ze specifically recommends that one)? I can’t see a date for when this page was put together, so I am unsure if they are considered out of date.

      • konkonsn
        November 22, 2012 at 8:32 pm

        Sorry, I’m being stupid. I forgot I know how to google. Looks like something I’ll be picking up.

    • Pseudonym
      November 23, 2012 at 9:12 am


      There really is a TRUE Thanksgiving story of Plymouth Plantation. But I strongly suggest that there always has been a Thanksgiving story of some kind or other for as long as there have been human beings. There was also a “First” Thanksgiving in America, but it was celebrated thirty thousand years ago. At some time during the New Stone Age (beginning about ten thousand years ago) Thanksgiving became associated with giving thanks to God for the harvests of the land. Thanksgiving has always been a time of people coming together, so thanks has also been offered for that gift of fellowship between us all. Every last Thursday in November we now partake in one of the OLDEST and most UNIVERSAL of human celebrations, and THERE ARE MANY THANKSGIVING STORIES TO TELL.

    • Karak
      November 23, 2012 at 2:28 pm

      This is the first day I’ve had off in a week, the first chance to see my life partner in two weeks because we live in dire poverty with our families. This Black Friday will enable me to (hopefully) buy the new shoes I need for working my job. My current shoes are both falling apart and cause me pain.

      I get two guaranteed days a year off work to see my family and my partner. I’m not skipping one of them or making the rare chance to be with people an awkward clusterfuck on a moral principle. I have 363 other days of the year to live and die on that hill; Christmas and Thanksgiving I celebrate.

      • November 23, 2012 at 3:50 pm

        I get two guaranteed days a year off work to see my family and my partner. I’m not skipping one of them or making the rare chance to be with people an awkward clusterfuck on a moral principle. I have 363 other days of the year to live and die on that hill; Christmas and Thanksgiving I celebrate.

        Yeah, because that’s what’s pheeno’s overall goal is, making you have a shitty day based solely on the flimsy principle that genocide is bad.

        I suppose you’d say I’m hoping you’ll have a miserable Christmas as well, because I think the whole story of a virgin birth, star in the east, three wise men, etc., etc. is a bunch of nonsense.

      • Bagelsan
        November 23, 2012 at 8:22 pm

        pheeno has a goal?

      • November 23, 2012 at 8:45 pm

        pheeno has a goal?

        Duh, of course…how else is she going to play soccer?

      • November 23, 2012 at 5:51 pm

        I have 363 other days of the year to live and die on that hill

        Uh…while I respect your right to have your festivals, um, maybe don’t say you’re being fake-verbally-crucified for anti-racism’s sake when talking about genocide? I mean, it might not be the most tactless thing you could say all day, but I’m not sure how often you randomly tell people about your poop cycle.

      • shfree
        November 23, 2012 at 7:08 pm

        Uh…while I respect your right to have your festivals, um, maybe don’t say you’re being fake-verbally-crucified for anti-racism’s sake when talking about genocide? I mean, it might not be the most tactless thing you could say all day, but I’m not sure how often you randomly tell people about your poop cycle.

        Tsk, Mac. I’m sure Karak suffers mightily every other day of the year with all the constant reminders of the genocide of Native Americans flooding our society, so why shouldn’t zie have that one piddly day off? We wouldn’t want any taint on the holiday seasons, nosiree bob. *eyeroll*

  15. November 22, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    I appreciate pheeno’s reminder of our sordid past and couldn’t help but think that Thanksgiving would be better celebrated in a similar vein to the way that Jews celebrate Passover, as a reminder of past suffering.

    That said, the rest of my comment will address the ‘meat’ of Jill’s OP.

    Firstly, Jill, thanks for sharing. I’m sure you’ve noticed, but your blog has caused quite a few of us to share our stories of ours and loved ones battles with health. I have always felt this to be a safe space in which to self-disclose, without (too much) judgement, and that’s down to the atmosphere you’ve set here.

    Secondly, having seen my wife go through a health crisis at a similar age, I can say, now, 13 years later, your attitude is the correct one to have. With hindsight, I realize we could have both done with your relaxed attitude at times.

    Thirdly, Have a happy family Thursday, whatever you want to call it.

    • im
      November 23, 2012 at 2:27 am

      I too am kind of frustrated by the inability to escape these sorts of things. In my fantasy, we would simply put an end to our harms and our aids, and go back, or better create a new continent.

      Too many things that I do, turn out to be doing things AT somebody, and it’s never something you would know. I’ve lost so much, just because of finding out it made others loose more. Can no congress of the Sons and Daughters of Europe rule that the false and odious connection between this modern festival and the supposed feast be dissolved? Would those who are still alive accept this? Can a willing volunteer for the role of the Exotic Other be found?

    • Pseudonym
      November 24, 2012 at 2:12 pm

      When the Jews start a holiday mourning their genocide of the Canaanites rather than their own suffering your analogy might make sense.

      • November 24, 2012 at 3:48 pm

        When the Jews start a holiday mourning their genocide of the Canaanites rather than their own suffering your analogy might make sense.

        Yes, except the person who posted the info to which I was referring is native American, and my point was that it should be a holiday remembering the suffering of indigenous North Americans. Maybe you could use better reading comprehension.

      • A4
        November 25, 2012 at 12:03 am

        Not very familiar with Passover are we?

  16. sage_femme
    November 22, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    I don’t comment here very often, but I want to say thanks, Jill, for sharing all of this. I’ve been reading since 2008. While I don’t consistently agree with you or other Feministe writers (and that includes associating thankfulness with thanksgiving, as discussed by posters above; I think they’ve covered it decently so I won’t push any more), I’ve found a lot of good in your work, and I recognize the time and effort that it takes to be publishing so many posts, so consistently. As someone with writerly aspirations, you’ve definitely just added a check mark to the ‘hold off on life-taking-over career moves that would keep you from writing well’ side of my current internal debate. You’re kicking ass, and I’m excited to see more of your published work in the future.

  17. Kayay
    November 22, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    Thankyou so much for sharing this. Puts my trans-hostess-family issues in proper perspective.

  18. Unree
    November 22, 2012 at 11:21 pm

    Thank you, Jill.

  19. Foxy
    November 22, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    Thankyou for this column.Hope you become well soon

  20. Tony
    November 23, 2012 at 12:42 am

    This space is certainly something I’m thankful for. I hope everyone here stays healthy and safe.

  21. Echo Zen
    November 23, 2012 at 1:27 am

    Wow. I don’t have much to say that differs much from what everyone else has already voiced. I’ve read Feministe since I was practically a kid… and Jill, you were the person who encouraged me to start guest-blogging here, which has been such an amazing experience. Some of us had a feeling something was going on with you behind the scenes, but this is the first time we’ve known the extent of it. In light of all that, my mates and I are so grateful for this space you’ve made. :-)

  22. Lyndsay
    November 23, 2012 at 5:46 am

    I do know about the difficulties of finding a balance between taking care of money and taking care of everything else. We are aiming to save half our money for debt but we also have to enjoy life and find balance. I do know health, both mental and physical, come before money and I wish you the best in finding balance.

  23. November 23, 2012 at 7:30 am

    Bravo for Thankfulness and for Feministe. you are one of very few sites that keep me sane.

  24. Lauren
    November 23, 2012 at 9:05 am

    Well, shit. Considering all the times I encouraged you to shutter the doors on this thing — shows you what I know.


    • Marksman2010
      November 24, 2012 at 4:13 pm

      Aw, hell no. Then we’d miss Jill as much as we miss you. Be doubling-down on the despondency. That ain’t no good.

  25. TomSims
    November 23, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Thanks for your very thoughtful post. You are an impressive young lady.

  26. November 23, 2012 at 11:14 am

    *hugifies Jill*

  27. tinfoil hattie
    November 23, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    Thank you for this beautiful, moving post. I had tears in my eyes for much of it. I am so heartened that you did what was best for you and for your body – the whole blessed “ecosystem,” as you put it so eloquently. This really gave me pause. I will take a page from your book and start – right now – to treat myself with gentleness and kindness. Who knows what the “fallout” will be? I might even be less impatient with others!

    Thank you, again.

  28. martini
    November 23, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Best wishes, Jill. :)

  29. Drahill
    November 23, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    You’ll be okay. I also made the decision to leave a much more stressful law firm job and transition to public interest government work instead. Much less money (right after having a baby, no less) but much more work-life balance, better hours, better work environment, everything.

    The worry about money is justified, but honestly? I’m still convinced that no amount of money in the world can justify risking your physical, mental or emotional health, your family life, your friendships or your well-being. It just can’t. It works in the short term, but it will never end well (at least not going by the people I know). So please don’t doubt that you did the right thing, at the right time. I know there’s probably an argument to be made here that these stories reflect a bigger need for change in our profession, but that’s another day’s post. For now, just know that you did do the right thing.

  30. Marksman2010
    November 24, 2012 at 6:55 am

    I knew you were a trooper, Jill, when you posted pics of your wounded feet after hiking to class during the subway strike, but now after hearing this…

    It’s not easy to disclose these things, I know. So I’m grateful that you took the time and effort to share this with us. And I’m VERY thankful that the medical issues were not more serious.

    I–or we, I’m sure–appreciate that you’ve kept this site up and running through the years. The Internet would not be the same without this place. Thank you.

    Best wishes,


  31. cq
    November 25, 2012 at 2:11 am

    Jill, thank you. Sending you love and light.

  32. number9
    November 25, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Thank you for sharing Jill. Hope things continue to improve for you and that the health scares are behind you.

  33. DonnaL
    November 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    Jill, I think I can understand the choice you made as well as anyone. I worked at one of the larger New York City law firms (I’m quite sure you’d be as familiar with it as I’m familiar with the firm where you worked) for 16 years — beginning long enough ago that my starting salary was $28,000, and that a salary that high made me feel rich, and like I’d never have to worry about money again, even living in Manhattan — and have been at a smaller New York City firm for about as many years since then, making far less money than I would if I had I stayed at a large firm, but still far more than I could make doing anything else. All while struggling with a severe chronic illness, and, until I transitioned 7 years ago, with my transness. And I have been consistently miserable, and have felt like I’m wasting my life, for pretty much the entire time. I missed my chances a very long time ago to leave the law firm world voluntarily, and now it’s much too late, for reasons I won’t get into here. I am extremely happy that you took your chance. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

  34. November 25, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    I’m thankful for your awesome writing year round, and your courage in sharing this. I’ve been through a very similar breast lump scare and it is petrifying.

  35. Holly
    November 25, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    I love this blog. I’ve never commented on here before, but you are an inspiration Jill. Your posts are always my favorites.

  36. Wiley
    November 26, 2012 at 5:15 pm


    I hope you read these comments. I know you may skip all or most of them, but I hope you see the people thanking you and telling you how much your writing has meant to them.

    And, selfishly, I hope you read this comment. Because I want you to know how mind-blowingly important you, specifically, as a Feministe writer, have been to me. I joke with my friends that you and I only disagree on two things (period sex and stay-at-home moms, for the record), but really, we “agree” on so many things because your writing has given me an in to the world of feminism. Feministe is the only feminist blog I feel like I have a relationship with. It’s often the only thing on the internet I can stand to look at. It has taught me a great deal, and entertained me, and comforted me, and although I appreciate (nearly) all of the blogging staff, it has been your posts that have been particularly illuminating. So thank you for your writing, thank you for your work.

    In addition, I’d like to thank you for your kindness and your time when I guest-blogged. Giving me a platform to express myself led directly to me confronting my demons and beginning to heal. And you were supportive and encouraging during the editing process as well.

    I wish you the best in everything that you do. You are one of my heroes, and I have respected and enjoyed your writing and the community you helped to create here for the entire time I’ve been a conscious feminist.

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