I hope that everyone reading this is dutifully listening to instrumental Christmas music, with a full stomach and a happy heart. I hope you got to spend today with those you know and love best, and that you felt surrounded by the warmth and security that comes with gathering as a family. I hope you ate amazing food and made amazing memories and watched/played some football and planned out your strategy for Black Friday. I hope you smile as you fall asleep tonight. But I know there are some of you readers who didn’t get that.
For some of us, this day was less than perfect.
Maybe your table had an extra place setting this year, maybe you didn’t even gather at a Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe you watched as someone drank too much and said something they’ll never get to take back, maybe no one said anything at all. Maybe you had so much family you felt overwhelmed and exhausted, but maybe you would’ve done anything for just a little more family.
For every Thanksgiving scene that looks like something from a Hallmark movie, there’s a gathering that couldn’t be farther from it.
When the holidays roll around, we find ourselves trying to look like a picture-perfect family. I’m so here for social media, but I will admit that this is an instance where it only adds to the pressure. Carve the turkey perfectly, match the rest of your fam, have a 6-course meal out of the oven and ready at the same time, relax to a holiday movie that doesn’t make you cringe, laugh at jokes and be proud of yourself and your home. But that’s not how today always looks, and it can be really hard to not try to disguise our imperfections.
And now, at the end of the day, reflecting on it, we can’t help but feel a little jealous of the perfect table settings on Insta, or the adorable fall-themed pictures someone posted of four generations of genial, happy, festive, family. “Thankful” isn’t something we really feel like being atm. Looking to national and global news doesn’t really help the situation—if anything, it makes our hearts hurt more.
Don’t worry, I’m not the person to say “well, someone has it worse than you, so cheer up”, because I’ve never been too fond of that sentiment. Hurting isn’t relative, nor does it need to be justified, and when has comparing yourself to others EVER helped a situation (trick question, fam)? So what do we do about it.
We think of the things that we are thankful for. It’s trite, and it feels forced, and it’s pretty awkward to have a conversation with yourself that you’re 98% certain you don’t want to have with anyways, but it’s good to do.
You start with the little things—you woke up today, everyone in America is taking a day to pause and say “thank you”, Talbots opens at 7am and is 50% off—and then you make yourself keep going. You say you’re thankful for your dog, or your dog you had when you were 6, and for the barista who winked at you and your confidence skyrocketed. You’re thankful for the first book you read that rocked your world and for passing your Drivers License test. And when you keep going, you might just find yourself thankful for things you resent.
Not in a magnanimous, I-have-conquered-anger-and-resentment-and-self kind of way, but in a perspective sort of way. You distance yourself enough from it that the filters fade and you see things in a different light. Was your day still rough? Yeah. Maybe your month hasn’t been the best either, or this year, really. Maybe even longer than that. But gratitude is a pretty amazing thing. You’ve started thinking of everything in your life as the things that have impacted you and sculpted you, not as some uncontrollable force that happened to you. You have emerged stronger, and you recognize the fingerprints of a million different moments in who you are today. And you aren’t overwhelmed by today, or by envy, or by that one Aunt who wants to know why you’re still not engaged. Instead, you’re okay, of you will be, and for that you are thankful.