Can I make a confession that will make me unpopular? I’m not a big fan of Thanksgiving. No, not thanksgiving… Thanksgiving. Yes, the holiday, the one with the capital T. I know that’s a pretty awful thing to say about a cherished holiday. It’s not the meaning behind it that irks me, nor is it the gathering of family and friends. Really, it comes down to this for me: I don’t like the excess it ushers in. The meal itself (an average of 3000-4000 calories) is excessive and doesn’t necessarily symbolize our thankfulness. Then it marks the beginning of the holiday season, which retailers start promoting before Halloween, where we push and shove each other to get the latest coveted items, complain about the long lines to buy mounds of gifts for people (sometimes out of nothing more than obligation), all the while saying “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” but feeling Bah-humbug in our hearts. Hmm, judging by the leftover turkey legs hoisted and ready to launch at me, I’m not making many fans here. Okay, I’ll stop the griping about the holiday season and step down from my soapbox.
What I do love is real thankfulness. I have a ton of things to be thankful for and no meal or gift will adequately symbolize my gratitude for what I have been blessed with throughout my life and, most especially, throughout 2012. Perhaps what can express the joyous feelings I have are my words.
This year I had 112 days to really connect with my husband and take care of him the best way I knew how as I said my long (but still too short) good-bye. No turkey-and-stuffing feast can commemorate my feelings and memories. I have enjoyed the privilege of heartfelt conversations with my sons that have allowed me to grieve and heal, and feel incredibly proud and fortunate to be their mother. That beats any stocking-stuffer or glittering tree. I have met people who have changed the way I look at living and dying: hospice nurses, doctors, chaplains, and volunteers. The way they cared for us has been life-altering. I’ve received messages from strangers thanking me for helping them see joy in hard times… that has humbled me. Those things can never be wrapped up and topped with pretty bows (and if they were it wouldn’t do justice to their beauty). I’ve felt the closeness of new friends and old who have literally and virtually wrapped their arms around me and let me know what love looks and feels like. Yes, that is warmer than any holiday wish. People I don’t know gave me their time and donated their money to my family to help us tackle hospital stays and bills, not once, but twice. All these things happened outside of the holidays and they deserve so much more than a day or a season to be celebrated.
I totally understand why we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas and I don’t mean any disrespect to those who get giddy this time of year. I know that there is nothing wrong with special meals and the giving and receiving of gifts. I just wish that these things came out of the blue more often, and not on the obligatory days we set aside on the calendar. I wish they came with peace and harmony and simplicity, rather than crowds and sales and long return lines. If you think back to just a few days ago, what was the best part? Was the ginormous feast what made the day spectacular or could you have been just as happy eating nachos with your friends and family and talking about all the ways you were blessed in 2012? Can you name every gift you received (or gave) during this season last year…or how many you returned? Would that day have been a waste if you had nothing to unwrap other than your arms from around the people you cherish?
I’ll continue, just as you will, to celebrate holidays. Nope, there’s nothing at all wrong with setting days aside. But I long for a bit of a shift, where perhaps we become more mindful, more intentional, in being thankful and giving throughout the year. I know this is something I can definitely work on. Lots of people have used social media to shout out thankfulness each day during November, myself included… what’s wrong with doing that 365 more times starting December 1? Why not give a token of appreciation on a random Tuesday? Or an all-out, festive meal on the 18th of any month? How about using your best dishes for PB & J and Mac & Cheese to make your kids feel super important? Or hand out free, heartfelt compliments every single day of the year? I don’t think expressing gratitude and spreading happiness as often as possible will diminish the celebrations during this time of year. Hmm… it might even make them sweeter.
Giving Thanks Every Day = Joy
Thanks for sticking it out through my little griping session. Hopefully I didn’t offend or hurt any feelings. Oh, this also wasn’t a commentary on any particular celebration this year. In fact, as I write this, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.