The Thanksgiving That Is
Image by Debby Hudson on Unsplash
These are not ordinary times. Yeah, you’re thinking. Tell me something I don’t know! For me, it’s forced me to remember something I know but easily forget: that when we get stuck in the tangled web of what was, we lose the opportunity to see what is and what can be. It’s that rear-view mirror thing. But, untangle yourself from that trap and oh, the possibilities!
We can spend so much time looking backwards or worrying about the future that we fail to see the gifts that are the present. Yes, even this year when we’ve been turned upside down and everything we know has been shaken out of our pockets. We adjust our plans and our expectations. And that’s getting a bit old. Particularly around holidays. I know that I could have hosted a little pity party for myself but instead I decided to do a pivot. I shifted my thinking to what I can do rather than what I can’t and that feels so much better.
Old sights and memories mesmerize us. We feel sad about who and what’s gone: the people, the events, those things we can’t do anymore (at least not at the moment.) A mist of nostalgia descends. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this.
For instance, I have been hosting Thanksgiving for many years. It has always been full of little and big traditions that I love. To keep me sane I make lots of lists. I keep a legal pad tucked in with my cook books where I write down my Thanksgiving menu. The menu informs the shopping lists and all of that determines various tasks that get broken down over the day or two prior to the big day. After the holiday I rip the page off, fold it in half and tuck it in the back of the pad.
I don’t know why. I just do.
When I pulled out my pad for this year’s very abbreviated meal some of those pages fell out. As I picked them up, I noticed a sheet of paper that included a lunch menu. The rear-view mirror loomed and transported me back in time.
Eleven years ago, after a horrific accident that took 5 aunts and uncles, a friend arranged for masses to be offered for each of them in a local church. Several family members came to each mass. The last one was the day before Thanksgiving. I invited them back for lunch and a new tradition was born.
This particular lunch was tomato consommé, steak salad and cranberry pumpkin bread. I know my mother and Aunt Susan, along with one of my sisters and a few cousins would have been there. It was part of a bigger tradition which included my mother, sister and her family coming on Wednesday, staying till Friday and then getting together with another family for lunch and a poinsettia buying expedition. That tradition is over 30 years old!
My mother and aunt are both gone now. There won’t be a poinsettia get-together this year. Even as I type this, I feel teary. A longing for the “old days” surges up through my chest.
Holidays can really do this to us, you know? And even as I felt sad, I caught myself and shifted my gaze away from the rear-view mirror to the now. What can I do? Even though it’s different, I can still make it special.
The question is what can we do
That question is so relevant in our non-pandemic life, too. What can you do at this stage of life rather than what you can’t do? You’ve got so much going for you at this age. Life experience, clarity, confidence, resilience. I mean, sure, at this age I’m not going to be part of the corps de ballet at Lincoln Center. But what can I do to feel agile and graceful? Oh, yeah, I can do yoga. I don’t want to go back into the corporate world but I have a lot of knowledge and experience to share. That’s why I can be a good coach for those transitioning from a decades old career to their next act.
Hey, a little grief is healthy. I’m not going to forget my parents or friends who have passed, the wonderful times we all shared. The special birthday, the vacations, the holidays. Or the things I did when I was young, my career, my accomplishments and my belly flops. All of this, and more, is what makes me who I am. It’s the same for you.
Choose to love all your memories but decide in this moment to make new ones.
Make a smaller turkey and fewer sides. Watch the strange Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. Make it easy; make it fun. Who knows? Maybe out of this will come some new traditions!
Here’s to gratitude, pumpkin pie and a beautiful day!