Is it trite to write about Thanksgiving on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving? Oh, what the heck. I have so much for which to be thankful, it's a nice reminder to pause and reflect on my blessings.
Where to start? So often we take our health for granted until we get "the call" that something is wrong. I am so grateful for my health and that of my loved ones. We have had our bumps in the road, but thank G-d, for today, we are well and strong and continue to laugh.
I am thankful for my family and friends, for the wonderful community in which I live, and for the opportunity to do this special work that I get to do every day. I am truly cognizant of how fortunate I am to love my job. I know many people who dislike their jobs and dread having to devote so much of their lives to something that makes them unhappy.
That felt nice. Stopping to be mindful of the wonderful things that surround me on a daily basis.
On to Thursday. Or Wednesday or whenever you begin the preparations for the holiday, which for some may have begun way before this week (or month). I have one friend that literally has a spreadsheet for her Thanksgiving prep and meal and another friend that has been posting her daily tasks on Facebook throughout the week to include laundering the napkins and washing the crystal by hand. Oy! How have we, as a society, taken this idea of a peaceful day of thanks and turned it into bumper-to-bumper traffic, ridiculous lines at the airport, insanity at the grocery store, overstuffed bellies and NOW the impetus to run around the mall at all hours of the night before the dishes are done?
I can't really answer that broad inquiry with any semblance of intelligence, but I thought it was a good question. What I can bring to your attention is the family dynamics surrounding the turkey and mashed potatoes. I have often shared with my clients that what we see on tv on the gravy commercial with the happy intact family all clean, thin, coiffed and usually, White, is not a real Thanksgiving. That is the made-up dinner table with people getting paid to look the part and sell gravy.
What my clients, my friends and I experience is real life. Sullen teens, angry great uncles, families running from one house to the next to meet the in-law's expectations or kids at one parents' table on Thanksgiving only to repeat the meal on Friday due to a custody arrangement. We also see multi-racial family gatherings, same sexed parents celebrating with extended families (I dare you, gravy commercial, to portray that family) and laughter and yelling and tears and joy. This, my friends, is Thanksgiving: American style.
Gravy commercial humor aside, Thanksgiving can be stressful for many. As wonderful as it can be to gather amongst family, age-old wounds can surface; hurts, tensions and emotions may run awry, especially after a few glasses of wine. I encourage my clients to be mindful of triggers and use self-care when necessary. Sometimes a simple time-out from an overbearing relative can maintain one's inner peace; excuse yourself from the table, take a walk, check on the kids, or just take some deep breaths.
There is nothing more important than setting firm boundaries. A boundary is an imaginary wall surrounding you. Having good boundaries is when you are aware of your own needs and ensure that your wishes and desires are respected. When you protect your boundaries, those around you will begin to follow suit and subsequently also respect your boundaries. It can be difficult and frightening to say "no" when it is a new behavior, you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings or rock the boat; "thanks mom, but no thank you, I don't want a second piece of pie even though I know how hard you worked on it", or "I am exhausted from all the cooking, so I am going to rest a bit while the rest of you clean up the dishes".
Change is hard and many of us haven't been taught to be mindful of our own needs, set boundaries and take care of ourselves. I can promise you that once we begin to take these essential steps of self-care, we will more readily be able to give thanks on Thanksgiving day.
Happy and healthy (both physically and emotionally) Thanksgiving to all.