I don’t know about you, but Thanksgiving has a tendency to bring out the worst in me.
Not once in my adult life has Thanksgiving gone the way it is “supposed” to go (there’s an attitude always bound to get you into trouble). My sister and her husband work in grocery management, so vacation around the holidays is unheard of, leaving my parents and I on our own to celebrate. On top of that, while I love my parents – really, I do – I am not welcome to be myself around them, to want and do the things that make my heart sing this time of year. My perfect holiday picture is a crackling fire, wine, lots of babies and couples in love and pets and weird aunts and darling grandfathers, holiday music, slightly drunken games, classic movies,and lots of warm socks. I really like good socks, especially with elves or turkeys or multicolored stripes on them. But my family is simply not these things. Alcohol has never been allowed in my parents’ home, there are allergies to animals and the smoke of fires, and our numbers only get smaller instead of bigger with passing years. My dad has even resorted to writing checks rather than invest any time or energy in presents for my mom and I. So, needless to say, family at the holidays has never been a dream come true for me.
One of my favorite Christmas movies is “While You Were Sleeping”, in which Sandra Bullock, without her own family, finds herself sucked into a crazy, loud, big family that fills her life with noise and love and chaos. I always wanted to be her. For nearly 15 years I have prayed to find myself somehow adopted into that picture. I’ve had it occasionally, though not for the holidays, through my beloved New York “framily”. Talk about noise and chaos. If a bunch of the most delightful Bronx-Italians can’t do it for you, no one can. I think my near-move to New York was heavily influenced by the hope of holidays with them.
So yet again, I found myself alone with my parents on Thanksgiving, eating some tasty food together, but otherwise feeling very un-merry and un-bright. I really, truly thought this year was going to be different. Cowboy and I had talked about the holidays and spent a little time chatting through where we’d be when. His family is ENORMOUS. Like, a whole town on it’s own. I think we would have had three or four Thanksgivings today. This summer, when I’d realized my holiday dreams might finally come true this year, my heart had swollen to ten times its size in anticipation. I did my best not to think about it today, but now, by the end, I’m worn down and I cried the whole drive home. I asked God, “How many more years are you going to put me through this? How much longer do I have to go without the hope of a family of my own to be myself with and build my dreams with? I cannot keep getting crushed under the weight of this disappointment year after year.”
Of course, I realize a lot of this lies in changing my expectations and being grateful for what I do have, and believe me, you guys, I am REALLY trying. I am grateful to have my parents near now that I (mostly) get along with them, so I can spend time with them while they’re still in mostly good shape (the mid-70s are starting to get to them). I am grateful to have a sister and brother-in-law who I can FaceTime with on their sunny Florida patio from our frigid Tennessee gray. I am grateful to be in a family that can afford such unnecessary amounts of food. But HOLYHELL am I lonely. Moms and Dads and sisters and friends, while truly PRECIOUS, don’t fill “that” spot. That spot for the person with whom you intertwine your life and your body and your soul. The person you become “we” with, and have “our” with.
I don’t have any trouble GIVING thanks to God for His goodness. Who else would I thank, and how could I not when I see He’s done for me? But that’s step two. Step one is first getting to the place of HAVING thanks, by which I mean digging deep and sifting through the shit to recognize that every year of reflection will show you both disappointments and blessings, and that gratitude is essential, even for the pieces of your life that got lost. As they say, gratitude is the seed of joy, and I want to have a softer, more joyful heart than I do now. With that in mind, here are the things I’m going to HAVE thanks for from this crazy year:
* I have thanks for destruction. I am so grateful that God loved me so much and saw the full measure of my unhappiness that He saw fit to tear my life to shreds so I could have the opportunity to try and rebuild it the way I wished it was.
* I have thanks for tough friends. I had to hear a lot of things that were incredibly difficult to hear this year. But they didn’t shy away or play nice. They spoke their minds and then offered their hearts and their homes and their help to get me where I needed to go.
* I have thanks for patient parents. I know it scared them to see me “unemployed” and thinking of moving away from them again, but they let me work it out for myself, which is the only way it could have ever accomplished anything good.
* I have thanks for the fact that I wore cowboy boots today, and happily. Seriously. I’m so glad that God pushed whatever little buttons He did to get me to run to the country and fall in love with it and so many of the people I found there. I’m still not sure how I’m going to get there for good, but I know it’s my future.
* I have thanks for the weird little community that has grown up around me this year. Mostly fierce, brilliant, wise women, and a few good men. I feel like my life flooded and all the best people showed themselves by floating to the top. This journey has drawn them out of the corners and right to the center of my heart, and I now have this crazy gang of kindred spirits who understand my wildness and vulnerability and are right there with me. I think big things are yet to come from this.
* I have thanks for memories. This is the hardest one. They HURT. It HURTS to think about the beautiful mountains I loved but had to drive away from. It HURTS to think about how giddy I was when I could just work on the farm all day instead of go to a job. It HURTS to think about every heart-stopping, breath-taking, deliriously happy moment and sweet touch I had with Cowboy. But would I give any of it back? There are moments where I come to close to saying yes, but I can never follow through. My life had at least one small season of pure, boundless joy, and I’d be a fool to erase it to stop the pain of missing it now.
Wishing all of you a blessed Thanksgiving and having thanks for all of YOU that read along and encourage me.