In previous years I’d have been delivering after-dinner speeches on “Surviving the Holidays”, quipping that Thanksgiving keeps therapists in business. I’d be adding client hours to my calendar to accommodate all those in a state of panic at the prospect of spending extensive time with extended family. I’d be teaching a lot about boundaries. Role-playing “sorry that won’t work for us” conversations. And my old stalwart: bingo cards with customizable squares for grandad’s inappropriate remarks, sister’s drama-bombs, hooded nephews consuming two-thirds of the food without so much as a grunt of conversation, vegan nieces eschewing the nut-roast in favor of turkey, and martyr mothers insisting on doing EVERYTHING by themselves before collapsing in a pool of tears because they’re exhausted and nobody helped.
Yet the reason I could have fun with it was because despite the frenzy, the travel chaos, the over-buying, the over-eating, the food-comas, the green-bean casserole (yuck!) and all of the family drama, Thanksgiving has always been a celebration of gratitude. It’s been a time of coming together as family – biological, legal or chosen – to remember who we are, where we’ve came from, and the belongingness that bonds us as we muddle through this thing called life.
Since I didn’t grow up here, I’ve always had the luxury of being a curious observer, peering through the lenses of my clients and two sets of in-laws. And I’ve found that without the nostalgia for Thanksgivings past, I’ve never had to brace myself for the disappointment of Thanksgivings present.
Paradoxically, I’m grateful for that. This year more than ever.
Because this year, as we hurtle into the Thanksgiving season, we do so – not so much with gratitude – but rather with a hollow awareness of what and whom we’ve lost. What and whom is most important. What and whom we’d unknowingly been taking for granted.
And from that space of awareness, I invite us all to notice – perhaps for the first time – exactly what and whom is precious.
And then to hold it closely, and with both hands.