Preparing for Thanksgiving has been difficult for me this year. I think it’s the stress that I have found myself facing — things that I don’t like that affect my job but that I don’t have the power to fix, discord and misunderstandings in some of my key relationships, trying to have faith in the things that I believe God has promised me (especially now that it looks impossible for those promises to happen), and trying to push myself to the next level of personal development. It’s been a tall order, and I frequently find myself physically and emotionally exhausted.
After Halloween, some of my friends began posting daily grateful thoughts on Facebook. I abstained. I was afraid my mindset might have me posting bizarre things like “today I’m grateful that I was able to get out of bed — without fighting back the urge to cry,” or “I’m grateful that things aren’t any harder for me than they are right now.” They might be true expressions of gratitude at that moment, but I just don’t think my circle of friends on Facebook would truly get it.
Thankfully, those moods don’t last very long, and they seem to be directly related to some circumstance in my life — it’s nice to know that relief from the dark times is coming if I will just hold on long enough.
Of course, I still wonder — how do I prepare for a holiday that is all about thankfulness and gratitude when I am emotionally worn thin?
Here are some of the “survival techniques” I have found myself doing as Thanksgiving approaches:
- I release myself from the “shoulds.” Holidays are filled with expectations: decorating, preparing meals, keeping up with traditions, keeping in touch with family and friends. A week or two ago, I sat down with my son and discussed how we wanted to keep the holiday. I discovered that neither of us wanted to travel — even if it meant being separated from our extended family for the holiday, and that neither of us felt the need to prepare a feast. In fact, what my son wants most during the holiday break is for me to go out into the workshop with him and help him with a project he started. I think our new tradition will be to talk and plan breaks and holidays that meet our needs — not the expectations of society, friends, and extended family.
- I’m taking things a little easier on myself. The past few weeks, I have been so exhausted that things I started for fun just seem like a burden. In fact, I was running home from work Thursday, and I suddenly stopped. All I could think about was how nuts it was to keep pushing myself so hard — I was punishing myself, not rewarding myself for a hard day’s work! I walked the rest of the way home, and arrived much happier and refreshed than the days before. I had to remember that if my body, mind, spirit, or emotions are “out of sorts,” I need to stop and listen, because something isn’t right.
- Even if I’m not sharing them publicly, I’m taking stock of the things I’m thankful for. O.k., I may be the only one who can completely understand why I choose to be thankful for something, but I’m fine with that. If I choose to be thankful for the sensation of drawing a deep breath while running in freezing temperatures, that’s my thing. If I choose to be grateful that, for the past two days, the dark mood lifted and life looks wonderful again, so be it. I don’t have to share things publicly (although I guess I just did — I wrote them into my blog). Gratitude can be a beautifully private thing.
So, whether you or I choose to celebrate a traditional Thanksgiving, to celebrate an eccentric Thanksgiving, or to simply honor the day by taking stock of the good things God has given us, may we all have a Happy Thanksgiving.