Thanksgiving, the other way.

I hate the holidays. They always feel like a nasty game of musical chairs. If you end up without a chair at a table, you are the loser. So everybody tries to find a place to be, even if that place isn’t that nice. We’d rather spend the holiday with people we don’t really like and who don’t really like us than spend the holiday alone.

Thanksgiving is the first of the holidays. I dislike Thanksgiving. I love giving thanks, I just don’t like Thanksgiving. It is a trial run for Christmas. Both holidays are where you push yourself into a role that isn’t you, to please people you don’t like.

The holidays have left me cold for years. They always make me feel artificial. I’m expected to cook when I don’t cook. I’m expected to cook foods that are only cooked this time of year. I’m expected to wear nice clothes and act nice and play nice.

For twice a year we get together with people we don’t spend time with during the rest of the year because we really don’t like them. If we liked them, we’d spend more than twice a year with them.

Perhaps this is why so many people drink during the holidays. Perhaps this is why so many people go out to see movies or to the mall during the holidays. That way they don’t have to spend any time with each other that involves any semblance of having to communicate with each other. Perhaps this is why so many police get domestic disturbance calls during the holidays.

Nothing puts the “fun” in “dysfunctional” like the holidays.

I propose something different. Instead of doing the way that we’ve always done it, let’s do it differently. Let’s do it the way that we really want to do it. Let’s reinvent the holidays.

This year’s Thanksgiving could have gone really badly. I’d gotten into a huge disagreement with my sister in law. I’d realized that I’d been faking it going over to our parents in law’s anyway. Skip it. Skip it all. Why pretend anymore? I got tired of that gnawing feeling in my belly that says “something’s wrong!” I’d ignored it, suppressed it, hidden it. It was just part of dealing with the holidays. It was part of my childhood, ignoring that feeling. That sick feeling was just normal.

But this year I chose to do something different. Why spend time with people I don’t like? Why cook foods I don’t like, or that I only eat twice a year. I mean, I like sweet potatoes and all, but what about the fourth Thursday of November says I have to eat them? And why is there nothing healthy to eat on Thanksgiving? No fresh vegetables to be seen – everything is baked or broiled to within an inch of its life. It feels a little creepy to give thanks over food that is going to kill you.

It seems like the healthiest part about celebrating Thanksgiving means actually doing something to be thankful for.

This year was just my husband and I. This disagreement came just two days before Thanksgiving so there wasn’t enough time to wrangle an “Orphan’s Thanksgiving” like I’ve done in the past. We ate at the dining room table for the first time in a decade. We normally eat in the living room, while watching TV. This time, no TV. This time, candles. This time, just the two of us, facing each other, enjoying our meal, and spending time together.

It was very healing. It was exactly what I wanted. It was exactly what we needed. I caught a glimpse of what Sabbath is like.

We used special plates. We cooked what we wanted. There was turkey, sure. I don’t think it is possible for me to rewrite Thanksgiving without at least having turkey. But there was more, and it was healthy. It was all from scratch. Mashed potatoes made with purple potatoes, seasoned with cilantro and thyme. Sautéed carrots and snow peas, cooked in butter, white zinfandel, and turmeric. And crunchy bread – hoagie rolls, fresh from the bakery, heated up in the oven with a little butter. It was perfect. It was just enough, and not too much. I think we’ll do it again, and not wait a year to do it.

Maybe next week.

Today, I’m thankful for the courage to make new traditions. Today, I’m thankful for the desire to take care of myself. This was a good Thanksgiving.

Advertisements

Peacemaker and the Process.

I said at one point about a year ago that my goal in life was to be a peacemaker. I’m not doing a very good job of it. Either I need to reapply myself to my goal, or I need to be honest with myself about what my goal really is.

When I said that was my goal I was in the deacon discernment program in the Episcopal Church. It was tedious. It was a lot longer and harder than I thought it would be. I thought that if a person said that they wanted to be helpful to people, they’d be given some training and some oversight and a task right away. Folks would get help in a helpful way, soon. Nope. Their plan was wait three years and think about it. Meanwhile, I’m stumbling along, clueless. Meanwhile, people are still coming to me with their problems and I still don’t really know what to do.

Part of the Process of discerning if you are called by God to be a deacon in that church, and it really is a Process with a capital P, is a series of assignments. You get an assignment once a month. You need a whole month to work on it. The last one that I was given before the Process was put on “pause” (read, thanks for playing, but you can stop now, you aren’t what we are looking for) was about my goals for life. It was to teach me that everything that I’ve already done in my life was training for what I’m going to do. I felt a bit cheated. If I already have all the training and experience, then what do I need this Process for? If I can figure out for myself what I’m being called to then why do I have to go to these meetings every month and bare my soul to these near strangers?

I’m a little bitter, still, about the whole experience. I try not to write about it much because it just opens fresh wounds that I’m trying to heal. But I’m learning that it is important to examine the source of pain in order to heal. This is a new part of my practice. I’m still learning how.

I said that I wanted to be a peacemaker. I said that I’d love to travel around the world and get people who have disagreed for years to actually listen to each other for a change and see things from each other’s perspectives. I thought that peace in the Middle East would be a big coup.

But then I thought I’d need to learn all those languages, because you always lose something in translation. And I thought that they certainly wouldn’t listen to a young American woman. That is three strikes right there.

Is that the yetzer hara speaking again? Is that the voice of the “evil inclination” that is trying to prevent me from doing what I’m called to do? Or is it the voice of reason that points out that is really not my calling?

Who am I kidding? Peacemaker?

I don’t even talk to my brother or my aunt. I don’t go to my previous church in part because of a huge falling out with the priest. And I’m spending Thanksgiving at home with just my husband because of a falling out with his family. My circles just keep getting smaller.

I don’t have a great track record with making peace.

My usual modus operandi is to avoid the problem. If you don’t talk about it, it will go away, right? Don’t talk about the elephant in the room. We herded elephants in my family home. Just thinking about that madness makes my stomach start to cramp up again. Who doesn’t want to avoid pain? Running away seems very healthy. Until it isn’t, and you realize that you’ve run away your whole life and there isn’t anywhere to run away to anymore.

I feel like I was cheating a bit when I said that I wanted to be a peacemaker. It sounds good. It is close to what I want, what I feel called to. I don’t really want what I’m being called to – but then I want nothing else. The idea of not doing what I’ve been put on this Earth for makes me sad. Nothing is more tragic than seeing someone waste her life thinking she has another day, another month, another year to start living it. I don’t want to be that person.

But then I don’t have a word for what I’m called to. That was why I consented to be part of the Process. I figured it would separate the wheat from the chaff. I figured out it would separate the signal from the noise and let me know what I was hearing. I figured if several of us listened together we’d hear better.

Turns out instead of boiling off the stuff that I don’t need, like skimming off the scum from chicken soup that you are reducing to juicy goodness, it just boiled everything over and spilled it on the floor. I didn’t know I had so much in me. I didn’t know that I can’t be contained to one denomination’s rules and rubrics. I didn’t know that one expression of faith wasn’t going to be enough for me. I didn’t know that this process would widen things up instead of narrowing them down.

I know God works through everything. I know that everything I go through is from a loving God who wants the best and is working with and through me to bring forth what is best. I also know it doesn’t feel very fun while it is happening.

Perhaps peacemaker is part of it. Perhaps I need to know what peace isn’t in order to understand what peace is. Recovering addicts make really good counselors. They’ve been there. They know. Perhaps I’ll know what my calling is when I get there. Perhaps God is treating me like I’m a secret agent. Not even I know my mission because that is for the best that way. Perhaps I just need to live my way into it and take one moment at a time, with trust.

Doors of Sewanee.

The University of the South, also known as Sewanee, is found on Monteagle Mountain, in Tennessee. It is glorious. It is beautiful. It is a regular university with regular classes, and it also is a university that trains Episcopal priests to be Episcopal priests. Walking on the campus makes me think that I’ve been transplanted to England, three hundred years ago.

There is a lot to this campus, and it is fun to prowl around it. There are many fun nooks and crannies, and most of the buildings are open for the casual wanderer. I’ve taken many pictures there over the years, but here what I’m going to share with you are some examples of doors from Sewanee.

I don’t think they know how to make normal sized doors here. This was found on the second floor of a building that has rooftop access. It is outside of a classroom. Perhaps it fits the fire code’s requirement to have two ways out of a room. Perhaps it is a joke. I’m not very wide anymore, and I think that even I would have to turn sideways to use this door.
25

This is a tiny bathroom. It is just big enough for one, barely. I think the door looks a bit like the TARDIS.

228453_3850036647804_1535274110_n

15

Here’s a classic door from Sewanee. Lots of stone and wood and iron fittings.

3

Here’s a detail shot of it.
2

This was on the door for the “Center for Religion and Environment.” In order to find this office you have to find the bell tower. And then you have to go up about five flights of steps. Maybe more. Only fit people can come up here. The room for the bell is just opposite this door. It was lovely to listen to the hiss and wheeze of the pneumatic valves that work the mechanism. It was a little overwhelming to listen to the bell ring that closely, however.

18

Here’s a tiny door underneath a flight of stairs. At the top of the stairs is the observatory. I have a fascination with tiny doors. I don’t know if I love tiny doors because of Alice in Wonderland, or the other way around.

29

And last, but not least, are some doors for professor’s offices. Perhaps the doors are adjusted to the height of the professor, in the same way that Frank Lloyd Wright adjusted the homes and the furniture he designed for the size of the client? Or perhaps they got a discount on mis-matched doors?

32

31

This is outside another office. The door is normal sized, but I really like the tiny clipboards so people can leave him notes.
47

Sure, I didn’t take any pictures of the usual doors you’d expect to see there. Anybody can take those pictures. I wanted to share with you some doors that the usual person wouldn’t see.

I leave you with these words from Jesus in Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”

Thanksgiving rose

Here is a Thanksgiving rose for you. Why, you may say, is this a Thanksgiving rose? This picture represents so much I have to be thankful for, and I almost overlooked it.

thanksgiving rose

The rose came from a bouquet of flowers I bought half a week ago to beautify my home. Sometimes you need to buy yourself flowers. My husband understands that I like flowers; he just doesn’t understand which flowers I like. Rather than feel like he should read my mind, I buy my own bouquets. I think that is very healthy. You have to show love to yourself first. I’m thankful for self-care.

There were two roses in the bouquet. One was drooping by the second day. His neck had gotten crimped somehow and he couldn’t stand up correctly. Rather than let him droop and wither sooner than the other flowers, I decided to save him. I’m thankful for being thrifty. I’m thankful for being able to adapt to new situations.

The rose is in a glass bottle that I realized a week earlier would be good for a bud vase. Instead of putting it in the recycle bin, I decided to save it. I’m thankful for the gift of being able to see alternate purposes for things.

The rose has been on that windowsill for a few days, but I’d never seen it in that light. Today, just now, I was fortunate to notice it, with just the right shadows and color. It was pretty before, but today it is beautiful. If it had been with the other flowers in the bouquet it would not have gotten this attention. So sometimes adversity is good for us. I’m thankful for new ways of thinking. I’m thankful that I saw this beauty this day.

And then there’s all the stuff in the picture that isn’t the rose. I’m thankful for a house to live in. I’m thankful for a yard to play in that keeps me a little insulated from my neighbors. I’m thankful for a central air unit that works well on this cold day. I’m thankful for good windows. I’m thankful for the cheery sunshine. And I’m thankful for a husband to share it all with.

I had none of these things a dozen years ago. It has been so long that I’ve had these blessings that I’ve almost started to take them for granted. I’m trying to remember that every day is a blessing, and every day is a gift. When we start taking blessings for granted is when we start to forget how blessed we are.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, no matter where you are.