Welcoming the Mess of Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving, so I imagine that very few of my readers will be tied to the computer anxiously awaiting my Thriving Thursday thoughts.  For the few of you who are in such need of distraction that you’ve decided to show up, I hope you will find room here for exactly whatever it is that you are experiencing today.

Holidays are complicated.  And part of the complication is that we think that they “should” be simple, uncomplicated and happy—like in the movies.  The pressure for perfection is often especially heavy for moms who feel that they must orchestrate everyone else's holiday happiness.  And that idea brings pressure for kids too—who are supposed to be happy (or at least act happy)—as a result of all the work that goes into creating this perfection.  

So today, more than anything I just want to give you room to have your holiday be whatever it is—which is most likely a big complicated mess of happy and sad, perfect and imperfect, horrible and beautiful. 

Historically Thanksgiving is certainly complicated.  For some Americans the pain of our historic memory of the slaughter and suffering of Native Americans makes it hard to celebrate this holiday at all.  Others don’t think about that history, or don’t want to think much about it.  They have fond memories of making pilgrim and “Indian” gear in grade school and don’t want those memories tainted.  Others try to walk a middle line and just focus on the “thanks” part – who can argue with gratitude?

Certainly holiday family gatherings are almost inevitably a mix of joy and sorrow, especially for adult children who head home to their families of origin and discover that they don’t feel quite at home there anymore

This year political differences may add an extra challenge for those whose views differ from the perspectives of many of their family members.  Home might not feel safe.  That’s hard.  It’s also totally normal.  But if that’s you, I suggest you give yourself some extra compassion and space.  Do what you need to do to care for yourself in ways your family cannot do anymore (or maybe never did.)  But you don't need tell the story that you're "supposed to be happy" or that your family is supposed to be different than what it is.  That story will only increase your suffering.

One of the best things you can do for yourself in whatever your mix of experiences is today, is to let it all just be what it is. 

Just feel the feelings.  If you feel grief, let the wave of sorrow run through you and out of your eyes.  If it’s overwhelming happiness, revel in it.  If you feel lonely.  Notice it.  If you’re angry, feeling it doesn’t mean you have to express it all: write it out, hit a pillow, go for a run, then decide what you want to say or do.  Feelings are for feeling. 

Where we often get into trouble is that we judge our feelings with “shoulds.”  I should be happy.  I shouldn’t feel lonely.  I shouldn’t be angry. Why can’t I just be thankful?

Intentional gratitude can absolutely help shift difficult feelings.  I recommend choosing it.  But judging the part of you that doesn’t feel what you want it to feel doesn’t usually help at all. 

Feelings are amazing sources of wisdom for us.  So here’s my recommendation - just listen.  Let them be. Call them good.  Thank them for coming. 

As my friend and amazing life coach Anna Kunnecke often says, “You are an f**ing cathedral.”  You are big enough to hold it all (and some turkey and pie too!.)  It’s all sacred.  All of it. Blessings on this day.  I am thankful for you.

Here's to Thriving,