Friday, November 29, 2013
"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." ~Gilbert Keith Chesterton
I bowed to my Inner Selfish yesterday.
Thanksgiving brings a host of mixed feelings for me. I have good childhood memories of Thanksgiving. Each year was spent with my favorite cousin, Jeff, and his family. I felt, at those times, that I had an ally, a friend, someone a little bit like me who understood my whims and ideas and feelings. For three days I had a haven with a person I loved who loved me back--and no abuse from my mother. She was even kind on those days. Jeff and I avoided our mothers (and all adults), and it was nice to be able to relax with someone.
On the other hand, I hate Thanksgiving dinner. I always have. I'm not fond of meat, in general, so a meal dominated by a huge bird does not appeal to me. Jeff, who loves turkey, used to insist that I liked it, too, sliding extra helpings on my plate and covering the meat with cranberry sauce and giblet gravy. I hate giblets. I would eat a little of the potatoes (not a huge fan of those, either), search in vain for salad not made with Jello or some sort of whipped topping, and leave the table as soon as I was able, spurning the pies of a dozen flavors (I also am not fond of pie), and seek out an orange or apple that was bound to be in the kitchen somewhere. I still hate Thanksgiving dinner.
Jeff and I were of one heart when it came to large crowds. Thanksgiving always brought large crowds. Jeff would find a hiding place for us, and we would stay there playing video games, reading comic books, or playing Uno. Sometimes, if we were feeling sociable, we would join our older siblings in a game of Monopoly. I still have difficulty with large crowds.
So this year, Darrin volunteered to help with a community Thanksgiving event, and DJ had to do a stint on the ambulance for his EMT class, and Adam was working in the morning, and Tabitha had the stomach flu the night before and was finally sleeping--so I went to a place where I could be alone, and I spent time with me. An evening Thanksgiving dinner was scheduled with my parents. I stayed alone for about seven hours. I read, played stupid Facebook games, practiced a piece I've been memorizing, sang songs I love, went for a walk, and stared out my window for an hour. I didn't make the traditional Thanksgiving phone calls to Darrin's family or my sisters--nor did I answer phone calls. I ignored texts (except for the one from Blueyedane, because I love him and he doesn't make me feel like I'm invisible) and I sent none.
And I chose no one to receive my annual Thanksgiving email. Each year since I've had access to email, I've chosen someone I care about deeply and I've sent them a note on Thanksgiving. I've told them why they make my life better and expressed my love and gratitude for them. I love this part of Thanksgiving.
This year I just didn't want to. Maybe I'm ungrateful? Maybe I no longer love as deeply? Maybe I care more about the Thanksgiving email than the recipient does? Because I'm pretty certain that no one really wonders if I love them or am grateful for them, so it might come as a nice surprise, but there is no way anyone feels as profoundly about receiving that email as I have felt about writing it. Except this year I didn't feel anything.
At 3:00 I checked the turkey and started peeling potatoes. Adam insisted we do all fifteen pounds which turned out to be about ten pounds too many. Then I made candied sweet potatoes (and some plain ones for Grandma and me). I chopped onions and celery for stuffing and had Adam deliver them to my mom's house. At 4:30, my mom called to tell me she had rescheduled dinner for 6:00. I looked at the almost cooked turkey and told her it was a mistake, at which point she confessed that she hadn't even begun making rolls or stuffing and she was still making pies. I reminded her that we were only cooking for nine people. She ignored me.
So the turkey was dry and nasty, the stuffing underdone, the rolls were sort of horrid, the marshmallows had sunk to the bottom of the candied yams, and we had way too many mashed potatoes. Darrin said dinner was marvelous. Adam and DJ thought it was fine. The other guests took large quantities of leftovers home with them. Darrin says I am Thanksgiving Scrooge. He's right.
This morning, as I watched the sun rise, I realized that if I had to do my day over again, I would do the same thing. There is something about my alone time that I crave deeply right now. But I sort of regret not writing my Thanksgiving email. So today, I'm writing one--to me.
You're pretty hard on yourself a lot of the time. You always believe you can handle the stress and sadness that creep into your life with more grace and dignity. You wish you were better at friendship and parenting and playing music and cooking and keeping house and loving people. You want to live life with more joy and see more that is beautiful, but sometimes the ugly and sad are overwhelming and you're not as good at life as you want to be.
But today, the day after Thanksgiving, I'm choosing you as the recipient of my gratitude email. Because I think sometimes you should be thanked for the things you do--things no one notices and sometimes you only notice after a long time has passed and you finally recognize what you've done.
Thank you for not giving up. There have been so many times when you've wanted to and life has been really painful. But you continued, not always very gracefully, but with as much determination as you could muster, and you're here today--and that's a good thing because if you weren't you would have missed the sunrise this morning and it was breathtaking.
Thank you for trying to learn about people and relationships. It's really hard--probably for everyone in the world. You've had some wonderful moments and made beautiful memories as you've worked on allowing people to know more about you and spend time in your life.
Thank you for giving stupid gifts to people. You learned a great deal about yourself, and some of those giving times were really helpful as you worked on integration. I'm guessing the recipients wondered why you were giving them things, but it's not really important. They can work on dealing with their feelings about it on their own time. You needed to do it, and it wasn't easy because some of those gifts exposed you to vulnerability and allowed others to gain knowledge about who you are and the things you love. For you, that takes a great deal of courage. But what you gained in the process was invaluable and probably indescribable. Thank you for doing it even though it was difficult.
Thank you for forgiving the people who have harmed you. The angry times were important. The sad times were more important. The lonely times were horrible, but probably also important. Now that the rancor and bitterness have passed, you will always understand that what was done to you was wrong and should never have happened, but you have chosen to be someone who will find joy and beauty. I'm happy that you chose that. Your life will be better and you will eventually replace the ugliness of your experiences with the beauty of your choices.
Thank you for getting help when you needed it. Not everyone can do that. It takes strength and a willingness to look at what is hurting when one wishes to heal. The healing is still happening and seems to be taking an eternity. But part of that is because you're still deciding who you are. One day you'll know--and I think you'll like her...no...I think you'll love her.
Thank you for taking time to care for your physical needs--for getting a mammogram and a physical even though those things are really horrifying to you and trigger memories you'd like to forget. But you did it because you understand you are at risk for breast cancer and you need to take care of yourself. That's a really good thing and I'm glad you did it.
Thank you for getting up every morning and smiling because you're happy. Thank you for recognizing you're happy even when life is really hard.
Thank you for being me.