Sunday, November 18, 2018

The gratitude holiday can be hard

This is the week when our fellow country-people typically put aside all differences and gather around the table with family and friends and articulate what each is grateful for, just before diving into a meal piled high with calories.
A fantasy if I ever heard one.
The fact is that there is much sadness in our country this week for many reasons and I personally know of many families who are hurting and might be hard put to verbalize gratitude right now.
But maybe there is strength and character in the trying.
I don't know. I'm having trouble myself this week.
The holidays are hard at best. We put Hallmark expectations on ourselves and then feel bad when we fall short.
Financial hardship.
Family discord.
Health challenges.
Death and dying.
How are we to feel grateful with all that swirling around us?
I lost a very dear friend two weeks ago today. Alzheimer's disease stole her from us. My heart still hurts from that loss.
My own health challenge is raising its ugly head again this week and I start another round of doctor appointments to look for another solution.
And then, of course, there is my eternal underlying constant - John is not physically here with me anymore.
My way of noting Thanksgiving is to pretty much ignore it. Since I'm vegetarian now, I, of course, dispense with the usual dinner menu. So, instead, I will gorge on sweet potatoes and various other meatless dishes. Then I will sip wine while I curl up on the sofa with my cats and dog and read or watch some rented movies.
But I don't say that because I want people to feel sorry for me.
No, celebrating Thanksgiving Day in that way is exactly what makes me feel better.
And I encourage anyone else who is struggling with this holiday to do what makes your soul feel better too.
Be with friends and family.
Or don't.
Or stay home.
Eat a festive meal.
Or not.
The point is, there are no rules.
Don't set yourself up with expectations and then scold yourself when you haven't met them.
That is a recipe for disaster and unhappiness.
There is no Thanksgiving Police.
But I do encourage you to find something to be grateful for, no matter what it is. That is good for your soul.
I am grateful for having friends who did think to invite me over, even if I declined. And then respected my choice.
I am grateful for the love of my cats and dog who will be cuddling on the sofa with me.
I am grateful for the friendship of my friend who died. We had twenty-plus years together and she was a mentor and wonderful friend. She sat next to me during John's funeral and held my hand throughout.
And I am grateful for the marriage I had - and still have - with John and the love he continues to show me.