Thanksgiving is supposed to be the time of year when families gather, share a few laughs, eat a delicious, filling meal and make happy memories. You might even sprinkle in a few traditions, like watching football or the Macy’s Day parade, hanging Christmas decorations or doing Black Friday shopping. Hundreds of thousands of people travel across the country – the world – to be with the ones they love. Adult children go home to visit parents, grandchildren go to visit grandma and cousins congregate to catch up and fellowship like old friends. If this sounds like Thanksgiving at your house, you can be grateful for that all by itself.
Because Thanksgiving is not this way for everyone. Some people, for various reasons, dread this holiday. Today, I am going to touch on a few of those reasons and delve into ways that we can be thankful this holiday season, no matter what is going on around us.
Stuff going on in our country
It can be difficult to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday when it feels like mayhem and chaos are going on all around us. And the things that are causing us anxiety may not be anything that we have direct control over. Things like politics, global warming, increasing crime rate and mass shootings, high gas prices and overall inflation. We can’t forget that we’re still in the midst of a pandemic. People continue to get sick and die from COVID-19 and there’s an ongoing battle over masks and vaccines. Not to mention the toll all this has had on our children. And our mental health. It also feels like basic respect for one another has completely disappeared. It’s a wonder how any of us can get any sleep at night.
Stuff going on in our lives
Sometimes, life happens. Our marriage is on the rocks, or our divorce was recently finalized. Your child’s father (or mother) recently abandoned you and you’re not sure what will happen next. You lost your job, your car broke down, you’ve been evicted. You were barely making it before but now, you‘re really hanging on by a thread. Someone special to you passed away. You or someone you love has a terminal illness. The list of life stuff that happens is endless, and it always happens suddenly, without warning and when we’re the least prepared.
Stuff going on in our families
Some people dread gathering with their families because they view them as being plagued with negativity.
- Think verbally or emotionally abusive or judgmental. Around that dinner table, you might hear things like, “You’re not doing enough,” “How come you can’t keep a job?” “You’ll never be as successful as your sibling,” “How come you’re not married yet?” or “When are you going to have a baby?”
- Think drama, drama, drama. Maybe drama just follows them everywhere they go. They talk behind other people’s backs, stir up trouble where there is none and create an uncomfortable environment for everyone around them.
- Think trauma, trauma, trauma. Some families are reeling from something traumatic that has happened – either in the past or in the present. Things like incest or physical abuse, a death, injury or illness, or a drug addiction.
- Think being stuck in their ways. Some people, especially within a certain age or generation, refuse to accept anything outside of what they view as “traditional” or “conservative.” They might be racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic or something else entirely.
- Think differences in politics or religion. Maybe the very thought of anyone in your family voting red or voting blue just angers you to the core. Or maybe you’re the one who broke away from the party to which your family has belonged for so long. Maybe you have rebuked the religion your family has traditionally believed.
The New Oxford American Dictionary defines thankful as “pleased and relieved.” We all want to feel pleased and relieved. And we all can. We can feel these feelings no matter what is going on around us. Here are a few ways to do that.
Peel back the onion
It’s easy to sit and think about all the things going wrong in our lives. Work is stressing you out. You’ve been under a lot of pressure lately. Sales just aren’t what they were pre-pandemic but you’re still expected to perform. The cost of just about everything is going up and your take home pay can’t keep up. Your kid isn’t doing well in school. You wish you could spend more time at home to help him, but you’ve been having to work overtime to help make ends meet. I say, peel back the layers of that onion and find, at the core, what you’re thankful for. Peel back the layer of a bad boss, pressure and deadlines, the unanswered sales calls. You’ll find that job that you once prayed for. The job that, without it you’d be out on the street. That’s what you’re thankful for. Your son isn’t doing well in school. His grades are horrible and he’s been bringing notes home from the teacher regarding bad behavior. Peel those layers back and you’ll have your son. The one you always wanted to have. Named him after your grandpa because he meant so much to you. In life, there will always be something to complain about. But if we focus on the things we have, underneath all of those layers of complaints, we will see what truly matters in life.
Remember the times
There is so much going on in the world right now. So many reasons to worry. To be angry. To be anxious. One way to be thankful in the midst of all that is to remember the good times. Remember back when things were good. When you weren’t worried, angry or anxious. When you were happy and carefree. Meditate on the fact that things were good once and they’ll be good again. Life is filled with ups and downs. Ebbs and flows. You may be down right now, or in an ebb. But soon enough, you’ll be up again and abundance will be flowing.
In the bigger scheme of things, all we really have is now. This very moment. This particular point in time when you took the time to turn on this podcast and listen to these words. This very second when you are wherever you are living your life. Because the very next second is not promised to any of us. I know it sounds cliché, but we’re breathing, we’re in a present state of mind. We’re in a position where we can make a decision now that can change the course of the rest of our lives. We might not be where we want to be, but in this moment, it’s possible that we can get there. We don’t have the things we desire. But in this moment, it’s possible that we can get them. Things aren’t going our way, but in this moment, it is possible that things can change.
There are people out there with no family to gather, no homes in which to host and no dinner to eat. They’re lonely; estranged from family or just don’t have any. They’re cold, with no shelter or roof over their heads. They’re hungry. Not sure where their next meal will come from today, let alone Thanksgiving. If this is you, my heart goes out to you. I pray that things get better for you soon. If this is not you, be thankful for that.
There are so many things going on in the world, and in a lot of our lives. If you’re struggling to find the “thanks” in Thanksgiving, I encourage you to, just for a day, tune out all the things that worry you, or cause you anxiety. Those things will always be there. But your loved ones deserve this small amount of time where they have the full you, where your mind and heart are truly present. And while in this space, meditate on the things that truly matter in life. You may have to peel back the layers of the onion to get to the heart of what really matters to you, but do it. Also, remember the good times and focus on the fact that good things have happened before and they’ll happen again. And lastly, reflect on this moment. It’s all you really have, and in this moment, the possibilities of what could happen next are endless.
Here are your positive affirmations to ponder on this week:
- I am thankful.
- I am pleased.
- I am relieved.
- I am not letting other people’s judgments effect how I feel about myself.
- I am not allowing anyone’s drama, beliefs or politics dictate how I live my life.
- I recognize what really matters in my life and I am thankful for it.