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.
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