Updated: Nov 24
I miss my family, the one I used to have and the one I never had. Don't get me wrong, I am over the top grateful for my husband and our poodles who is, who are our family now. This has been the first Thanksgiving without our parents, all dead and gone, and the first without any of our sons being home for the holidays. Our simplified version of this day has been wonderful in so many ways and I have to say it has been a huge relief to be off the hook for the holidays and yet my heart is tender as so many memories arise with the aroma of the warming spices of this time of year. Gratitude is part of my daily practice and we give thanks nearly every time we sit down together for our meals. For us, Thanksgiving is not just one day on a calendar, "Thanks-giving" has become our practice for living.
Nothing is constant but change, especially the emotional weather forecast. Feeling the chill of autumn in the air as the light becomes more refined, the vibrant color gone from the fallen leaves. The first frost, sweetened apples have been pressed for cider. Actually it’s my heart that is feeling the squeeze.
The veil has been thin since All Hallow’s Eve and Dia de Muertos, yet so is my skin when it comes to remembering the death dates of my late father, my late daughter, my late husband, so many dear late friends and as of this year, my late mama. There is no space, no room for “feeling the feels” when it comes to handling the shopping list, the laundry list for cleaning, the endless food prep and even more clean up again before the next round of shopping begins. For those of us who are grieving the loss of our loved ones these are the times when we are inundated with memories. The holidays are especially difficult for those of us that are faced with death anniversaries peppered in during the times when everyone else is celebrating with, perhaps even taking for granted, their living loved ones.
Even those who have not had a family member die are becoming sick and tired of the old holiday paradigm. Maybe that is because everyone has been sick and tired. Maybe this is from Covid, the incomprehensible stress of these times or simply being stuck overworking in the rat race, over trying in the bump and grind of a broken system. Thankfully, both of us have just recovered from our bout with Covid so it did not ruin our holiday. Perhaps holidays suck because of our unrealistic expectations about family or managing the split of the kids from divorced households. The ex has left, moved on literally or figuratively to their new life with their new mate leaving you out in the cold. Perhaps our stomachs are churning from over eating too much “toxic positivity” from social media, aka advertising. No matter the cause, it seems that grief is what’s being served up for dinner.
However it may go, we have another glass of wine or another cocktail and chew our cannabis infused food in an attempt to stuff our feelings around the preparation and stuffing of the turkey or, in many cases these days, a suitable vegan alternative, another big business. Why not just pop another antidepressant? Even those are not working anymore when we have to take one pill to pep up and another one to cancel it out to calm down.
Let’s just cut to the chase and “talk turkey” for the holidays. Who came up with this notion of thanksgiving anyway? In grade school we were force fed the history of a romanticized autumn harvest feast between the Plymouth colonists aka “pilgrims” and the Wampanoag tribe. After digging a little deeper the Wampanoag tribe helped the Pilgrims survive a long sea voyage after their exile from England. That support was followed by years of a slow genocide of their people and the taking over of their land. Most American Indians consider the fourth Thursday in November a day of mourning because it was the beginning of the end of their rights, freedom and dignity.
There are many reasons we are grieving. Many of us have lost a close loved one. Many have died this year to hideous acts of violence. One could blame the Covid era and over a million deaths in this country alone while some are having anticipatory grief over what seems to be the slow death of what is left of our democracy. Those who are sober are sad because the climate crisis is real with a great concern about the condition of the earth we leave behind for our children. Watching the news these days is enough to give anyone indigestion. Heartburn. If this seems grim, it is.
A holiday weekend is a fine time to get real and acknowledge that perhaps we need to take a deeper look at our traditions and where they came from in the first place. We have to see the bigger picture in order to assess and reassess our values. We can slow, way, down, simplify and not buy into the lie of mass consumerism and materialism in all its myriad forms.
Make whatever feast you want out of your most favorite things to eat. Give thanks. Give thanks, everyday, anyway. Share food with family, relatives, friends, the homeless. Offer a spirit plate. Turn off your devices and go outside. Be on the earth, breathe in the air. Just Breathe. Take your attention from the external world and go inward. Consider giving more than a moment of silence for those who have died and share your listening heart with someone who is grieving. Let it be. Acknowledge the land where you reside, honoring the earth and all of the ancestors and those who came before you. Contemplate reframing the idea of “thanksgiving”, let everyday be an opportunity for giving thanks and for “thankful living”.