Thanksgiving as a holiday disturbs me. On one hand as a child I was taught it was a time to be thankful for the blessings of family & food. “Thanks” is in the title after all. All this gratitude was of course in honor of how appreciative our ancestors were of the assistance they received from the people they found already living here when we “discovered America”. Seemed odd even as a child, how can one discover a place that previously existed and already had people living there. But questions like that were discouraged when I was growing up.
Anyhow, life goes on & I grew up celebrating this holiday and forming traditions along the way. Over the years a whole bunch of people (like she is here) started talking about that very issue and we all learned a lot. A lot about history & how it is told depending on who does the telling. I won’t speak for everyone here, just myself, but I learned to be ashamed of how my own ancestors have treated people & things they didn’t understand over the centuries. I learned that fear can be the root of horrible behavior. I learned that I cannot control the past but I do have power in the present and the present is the future’s past. So my behavior today does matter.
And yet this holiday every year. Trying to focus on gratitude & the things I’m thankful for and on family and forming traditions. More & more feeling like it is just a Thursday we all agree to take a break on. Only now both my fiancé and son-in-law work on that Thursday every year, so there isn’t even a break. The meal isn’t Thursday most of the time we get together with loved ones and if it is then it’s a crazy, cramped, busy day fitting things in instead of relaxing and enjoying each other.
The tradition of spending time with loved ones appreciating one another and the things we have in our lives is something I do enjoy. I used to roll my eyes at the idea of doing a pointed “gratitude working” but then I tried it. A classmate in a spiritual coaching class had mentioned someone asking her, “What if you wake up tomorrow with only the things that you say thank you for today?” That really got me thinking and I decided to make it a practice to think about that question every night much like the habit I am building to start each morning remembering that I am the youngest I’ll ever be and to take advantage of it. That “gratitude working” changed my life. Not the outside details much but the inner landscape tremendously. It was like a switch and I really began to appreciate the beauty of my life in a new and very active way. With any practice I do tend to fall out of habit occasionally and this year this strange holiday is helping to remind me to keep it up.
I’m a grandmother now & this is the first of Thanksgiving the “doodle bug” (my nickname for her) will experience. I think a lot about what traditions I want to pass on to her these days. She’s young and won’t remember this year but what am I going to say to her about this “holiday” in the years to come. I guess I’m going to tell her that as horrible as the history of it is, it was this holiday that helped me learn about that very history. That we cannot change our past and that how we live our lives in the present matters.