Every year at this time, I receive correspondences from estranged parents and grandparents who express sadness about missing their adult children and grandchildren at Thanksgiving. One estranged grandmother wrote that she found herself resenting all the ‘happy, happy people and their happy families.” Her perception was that everyone was happy but herself and she was particularly upset by the fact that she would be spending Thanksgiving alone, with no family with whom to enjoy a traditional turkey dinner.
As attractive as the Norman Rockwell images of the holidays may be, many of us can’t relate. There is so much hype about the holidays and everywhere we look, we see idealized images of families hugging one another and laughing with good cheer. Add to that the ubiquitous holiday movies and sentimental TV commercials and we’re tempted to run and hide under the nearest autumn themed throw. The reality is that many family gatherings are quite stressful, due to undercurrents of dysfunction, unresolved anger and resentments.
Many people will spend this Thanksgiving alone or as an ‘add on’ for dinner at a friend’s house (including me). Homeless people will eat turkey dinners at soup kitchens, mentally ill people will forage for food from dumpsters and abandoned elderly will eat microwaved dinners in front of their TVs.
This morning, I decided that I would say ‘Thank you’ for everything. Looking out my window, I give thanks for the winter wonderland I see; I look up and I am thankful for the mystical grey sky. I walk into the kitchen, make coffee and I am thankful for my effortless mobility and for the wonderful aroma. It is an excellent exercise to be thankful for everything because gratitude seems to perpetuate itself.
I find that the holiday season is a good time to go within to that perfect place in my heart where I am whole, quiet and accepting. It’s simple: All is as it is. I remind myself that my happiness does not depend on how many people are sitting at my dinner table, but rather on what I am telling myself about my particular circumstances. The only way to be at peace is to be thankful for what IS and to stop comparing and let go of expectations of what I think the holidays SHOULD be. I know I have the power within me to enjoy this season, if I make up my mind to do so.
This year, I pray for the poor, the homeless, the disabled, the lost and lonely. I pray for my adult child and grandchildren. And I pray for all parents and grandparents whose families have been torn asunder by alienation, abandonment and estrangement.
May you be encircled in warmth, caring and love on this Thanksgiving Day.