I always use the term ThanksLIVING to describe our upcoming holiday.
Just changing one letter makes all the difference! And it reminds me that this can describe a yearround state of mind, rather than the spirit of just one day.
Thinking about Thanksgiving 2020 brings up lots of different thoughts and feelings, though. It’s not the traditional scene with extended family gatherings, turkey, football and naps. With our continuing COVID-19 pandemic — and an increase in cases — it’s a whole new ball game.
We’re being cautioned about traveling and the size of groups with which we interact. Recent news about encouraging COVID-19 vaccination trials make us feel hopeful about the safety of future holiday gatherings, although that doesn’t help this year.
That’s not to say the spirit can’t be there. It’s just up to us to be more creative about how we observe the holiday. Fortunately (or, more appropriately, unfortunately) we’ve had a lot of practice with adapting to new life approaches this year.
Thanksgiving is my second favorite holiday — only to be surpassed by New Year’s Day, the ultimate new beginning (but that’s another column).
My family, friends and coworkers have been known to secretly (or not so secretly) groan when I’ve pulled out the traditional decorations and “The First Thanksgiving” story, encouraging everyone to read a stanza while passing around the pilgrim hat to wear. One can never get enough of Miles Standish, Priscilla Alden and Squanto — even if some revisions to the first gathering have cropped up over the years.
I’ve always taken it in stride, though. It’s like charades — everyone rolls their eyes when it’s mentioned, yet they really get into it once the clues are given and everyone starts acting out their parts.
In our family, a very small group is gathering “live,” while we’re looking at a potential Zoom connection with others. Not an ideal situation, although it serves a purpose. Of course, this means pilgrim hats and scripts will need to be dispatched ahead of time to multiple locations. More moving parts, for sure.
On a related “living” note, my license plate says LIVE. People ask me if it’s pronounced like the word “alive,” or whether it rhymes with the word “give.” My original concept was the latter, although they’re really interchangeable concepts.
Either way, the license plate is there to remind me to live fully now — that this is not a dress rehearsal. Sometimes I take notice of it during my daily rounds, and sometimes it just fades into the background. Its visibility helps me stay conscious of my intention to LIVE fully, though.
Going off autopilot
It’s so easy to take things for granted — and to sleepwalk through our lives. And then we get jolted by events like the ones that have unfolded in recent months. Or by a wake-up call from a medical report, illness, accident or job layoff.
To be sure, there have been a lot of tragedies this year. At the top of the list are those COVID-19 patients who have had to die alone. When 2020 started out, we couldn’t even have imagined this horror would be taking place in our country — and around the world.
Which makes it even more important to put things into perspective. We continue to have a lot of uncertainties in our lives, so it’s imperative that we have some rituals that ground us. With remote working and schooling situations — and other restrictions on activities — many of you have expressed a newfound appreciation for “the little things.”
I’m reminded of the stories of newly released hostages. They’re so grateful for the green grass and blue sky. It’s almost as if they see colors more vividly and smell things more intensely.
Maybe they’ve “come to their senses” through being deprived of these everyday wonders, whereas our senses have been dulled by the overabundance of such exposure. And then we catch ourselves complaining about trivial things like traffic delays and checkout lines.
Of course, it’s impractical (and inauthentic) to stay in a state of euphoria all the time. Life is full of contrasts, and we all have our ups and downs. Perhaps an ongoing consciousness of ThanksLIVING would help.
Practice makes perfect
That’s the thing with gratitude. It takes practice to keep this discipline front and center in our lives. And, while it may sound rather mechanical, establishing a framework of gratitude requires repetition — just like any other habit.
If you start to look for elements of gratitude in things that happen in your daily life, you may uncover some patterns. The theory is you’ll draw experiences into your life relative to your level of emphasis. If you’re continually in a downward spiral, you’re likely to attract more negative energy.
Not feeling the love?
You may be so overwhelmed by circumstances in your life — or the world at large — that you don’t feel like counting your blessings. And then you can end up feeling guilty about not being more grateful. Guilt is actually fear turned inward, though; and there’s enough fear going on in our outer world.
Go ahead and wallow in your pain. Once you’ve had your time in the valley, start crawling back up. Look at the things that ARE going right. You may not think you’re “wishing” when you continue to stay in the valleys of your life. However, your system picks up on these repetitive signals and interprets it this way.
If you’re not “feeling the love” this Thanksgiving season, remember you can go beyond this one day and change your perspective to ThanksLIVING: An Endless Season. And then watch what happens.
If I have one wish for you this Thanksgiving, it’s that you treat yourself with a little more kindness. Author Stephen Levine says to “treasure yourself.” In most cases, we’re all doing the best we can.