So, I have been giving this whole gratitude thing a lot of thought as we head into another Thanksgiving long weekend.

Gratitude. I know what you’re expecting me to say: how grateful I am for the Carpenter, our incredible children and this amazing life we’ve built together. Yep. I am blessed and I know it. Trust me. But that wasn’t what I was going to say.

Honestly, I’m grateful for the struggles in my life. I am grateful for the low times, when life sucks, when the money won’t stretch and the time won’t either. I am grateful for hot tears and cold feet. These are the moments when you find out who you are and what you’re made of, and that is empowering (even if you ugly cry, and let me assure you, I have Meryl Streep-ed that action). This is when you realize you are alone: in your head, in your fear, in your choices.

You can’t survive unless you can stand on your own two feet. Resilience is self-taught. Character is crafted. You learn how to stand up for yourself best when you are backed into a corner. Fight or flight is the adrenaline rush that makes you take action.

Most times, I teeter-totter and lose my balance, until I put my arms up at my sides like an airplane, with my tongue sticking out as I concentrate on finding my balance.

And while people will promise to be there for you, they aren’t living your experience. They can’t fight for you. They can join your army, but really, you have to draw your own sword (mine is blunt, but play along). And I have learned to come out swinging. At this stage in my life, I’m a survivor. That’s what I’m grateful for.

But we need that army behind us. I have been blessed by some of the greatest soldiers around me. Most of them don’t even know they enlisted to be Kelly’s Heroes, but that’s what they’ve become.

My friends are the family I would have created, had I been the architect drawing the master plan. We are a small army, but a mighty one. When the going gets tough, the people you need appear. Some of them I haven’t seen in years. We cross paths over social media, or text messages, running in and out of each other’s lives by chance. Other friends I see every day. These are my lifelines. Some days they don’t even know they are the knot that has me holding on, but they are, and some days, I get to do the same for them. It’s an honour. Either way, for a group of pacifists, I have a stellar army.

I never thought I’d be grateful for the hard times, but I am learning that they are as valuable as good times. You can’t appreciate one without the other. That’s where the marrow of life lies, in between the bones of the good times. It’s the daily perseverance that holds us up.

Some people jump out of bed every day optimistic and happy. I fantasize about lying under their bed, waiting for them to put their feet on the floor so I can grab their ankles and scare them silly. Laughter helps.

This Thanksgiving, I will take nothing for granted and everything with gratitude. I believe that’s the point.

Soldier on, my friends.