Manuscripts Burn


"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Monday, December 24, 2012

On Gratitude

My wife says I'm ungrateful.

Not all the time, like as in, "You're an ungrateful lout and you don't appreciate what I do for you."  Just sometimes.  Usually around this time of year, or my birthday, and usually regarding the same thing: receiving presents I neither asked for nor wanted.

I think it's important that I reiterate those two points separately and as a formula of sorts.  I find that I am ungrateful when I receive a present that BOTH:

a)  I did not ask for AND
b)  I did not want

The reason why I phrase it that way is that sometimes you receive a present that you didn't ask for but that someone genuinely saw and thought you would want.  So, for instance, I burn candles while I'm writing although I never ask for candles as a present, partly because what kind of a straight man would ask for a candle as a present but mostly because I like to pick out my own flavors. 

(Yeah, I'm a guy who genuinely enjoys candle flavors.  Fucking sue me.)

So, one time my mother-in-law brought me a string of various candle flavors (it was literally a string, like soap-on-a-rope almost) which was a delightful and unexpected present.  Reaction: gratitude.

Why do I bring up this subject at all?  I don't know, fuck you, it's my blog, I'll write about whatever I want. 

I'm a big proponent of the concept that "it's the thought behind a gift that counts."  However, I think I interpret this in a radically different way from my wife. 

My wife's thought process (I assume) goes like this: "Someone bothered to think to get me a gift.  Any gift, therefore, passes the 'it's the thought that counts' test.  Status: grateful."

My thought process goes more like this: "Someone bought me a gift due to societal pressures/social graces*.  Is it something I asked for?  No.  That's fine, because it could still be something they thought I might like.  Is it something I might reasonably like?  No.  Status: ungrateful."

In my opinion, if someone buys you something that runs completely contrary to what you, as a human being, have ever demonstrated a desire for, then they in fact fail the "it's the thought that counts test" precisely because THEY DIDN'T THINK ABOUT YOU.

I'll give you an example, and this is a real example.  In case you don't know me in real life, I despise having my picture taken.  I am a reverse shutterbug.  Unless immense pressure is brought to bear I will avoid a camera at all opportunities.  I'm that guy who you're pissed off at because his Facebook avatar is always a cartoon or something instead of an actual picture of him.  I've been this way all my life.

When I was deployed to Iraq I had a further concern about picture-taking, namely Operational Security or OPSEC as its more commonly known.  I actually took the time to have lengthy conversations with each of my family memebrs explaining to them that I would not be telling them when and where I was because it would endanger the mission, and I certainly wouldn't be posting picture of myself and my Soldiers and our weapons on MySpace (yeah, this was back in the MySpace days) because, again, terrorists love open access to data about Soldiers online.

So one of my family members asked what I wanted re: care package, to which I had a whole slew of answers because there was some stuff over there I couldn't get or couldn't easily get or just used regularly and needed: cigarettes, Tastykakes, things like that.  Lo and behold, I receive a package in the mail and what does it contain (you can probably guess at this point): a digital camera.  A gift that I quite literally could not use, nor would I happen to like it even if I were not in Iraq, and all this INSTEAD of the things that I might actually have wanted.

I considered this the opposite of a thoughtful present, in fact, I considered it something of an insult as in, "Oh, we know better than you what's important, because of things we learned from Hollywood, and we're deliberately not listening to you talking about saving Soldiers' lives by not giving the terrorists stuff to use against them."  Because I can't tell you how many times I had to hear that sentiment, and then there it was, a $200 hunk of uselessness staring me in the face essentially saying, "We don't care about you or what you say."  I was quite peeved and rather the opposite of grateful.

Does this measured thought process re:gifts calculus make me an ungrateful person?  I don't know.  I tend to think it makes some people jackass gift-givers rather than me ungrateful.  But, whatever.  I still claim the moral high ground in this argument, because at least unlike some people, I don't refer to people as "bitches" while demanding that they give me only money.  Such materialism.  For shame.  Have you forgotten the reason for the season, sir?  It's Jesus.  Or cookies or something, I don't know.

*naturally, if the gift was unexpected or unrequested, or came from someone who had no reason to get me a gift, my status immediately becomes grateful regardless of what it is


  1. Well, you are quite justified in that example. It was something you had specific reasons to want to not have and you went to great lengths to explain those reasons. In that case, you are entirely in the right to be aggravated by what happened.


Enter your e-mail address in the box below and click "Subscribe" to join Stephen Kozeniewski's Mailing List for Fun and Sexy People. (Why the hell would anyone ever want to join a mailing list?)