“The holidays will be hard,” many have told me, recalling their experiences of the first of everything after losing their spouse through death or divorce. These folks have gone on to share suggestions to help me through this season.
I’ve thought about their counsel and now, with Thanksgiving in sight, I’m making my plans. Like all the days of the past months, there’s no other way but through, just keep on stepping forward.
Since my husband and I separated in June, I’ve found that the most important thing I can do is stay grounded in the present moment. To put my attention on the past or to ruminate about the future only leaves me angry and anxious. A recent devotional reading pointed out that to focus on anything other than the present is to live in fantasy. Before reading that, I’d seen my tendency to be absorbed in fantasy as a product of my daydreaming-ADHD-self. Now, I have an A Ha! about how much more of my life has been spent in fantasy than I’d realized.
Perhaps one of the good things that has come out of this change in our marriage and in our family life, is a greater ability to be honest. Now I stop and ask myself, “What do I want?” instead of automatically thinking of what I need to do for others. Even as a mother, I don’t have to be the planner, the organizer trying to provide the ‘perfect family holiday’ for everyone. I talked with my two sons, letting them know that each of us should consider what feels most comfortable in how to celebrate each holiday. We need to do what’s best for ourselves as we navigate this new normal.
I’ve had invitations from family and friends to share their Thanksgiving meal. Part of me wants a quiet, cookless holiday; just showing up at my friend’s house and not having to prepare anything will be perfect. To have turkey, cornbread dressing, sweet potatoes and a slim slice of pie will suite me. Afterwards, a solo hike through the woods, enjoying the remaining colored leaves, perhaps the smell of wood smoke, and the refreshing rhythm of a nearby stream, seems like what will feed my soul; it’s what I want.
This time of year is filled with so many memories and expectations. As I think about what Thanksgiving is really about, how it became a national observance in our country, I look beyond fall, food, and football to slowing down and finding a grateful heart.
In this tough year when I could quickly list what I’m not thankful for, it’s more important than ever to stop and list what I am grateful for. Last night, after keeping my grandson Baker all day, I wrote while eating my dinner in a nearby restaurant. I’d purchased Thanksgiving cards and set aside one for myself. Inscribed inside the card was the following:
“Thinking of you with gratitude and sending wishes for a very happy Thanksgiving.”
I filled all the white space of the card, writing down every gift that has been placed in my life. Some of the most impactful included family, friends, and readers who’ve supported me through this time of change;
the joy of taking care of Baker, hearing his squeals of delight as he makes new discoveries;
fun-filled evenings of dancing that have reduced my stress and increased my circle of friends.
I think I’ll keep my Thanksgiving card close in the next week and pull it out to help me navigate this first holiday. In each moment, I’ll focus on the present and remember all that I have to be thankful for, with each gift represented like fruits and vegetables spilling forth from the cornucopia of life.
How About You?
How are you planning to spend your holidays this year?
Do you have a situation that requires you to change your usual way of celebrating?
How can you do what nurtures you? What would that be?