My day started with bursts of restless sleep, punctuated by a cat insistent that I get up. Truthfully, I lay there writing stories in my head and attempting to gather the threads of my own life together. After giving the cat his beloved morsels of treats, I made a staggeringly strong pot of coffee. My first cup was black as tar. The bitterness, as always, renewed me.
Writing these words, I fully realize that the pandemic has changed everything. It’s the new baseline. Whether it has emboldened you to waste no further energy on things which don’t bring you joy, or robbed you of the pieces of yourself that make your life meaningful, I hope you can find refuge in this day. Gratitude is a daily affirmation more than an occasion.
For years, I tried to get the tribe to accompany me to Clarion Inn, try a new tradition, and trust me enough to experience something that I once loved. They resisted until one day, the Clarion closed. I’m not bitter about it; disappointed, yes. (It was their loss more than mine. New experiences aren’t as common as we’d like to think.) Likewise, I hinted and asked if we might try another type of food, with anything on the literal table for options. Those who needed turkey and the fixings could still have those. I offered to ensure that they would if they would join me in something unexpected and non-traditional. It’s not the food that makes the day. The people around the table, the spirit of the day as originally intended – these combine to make the moments worth doing. With each hard pass, they’d futurize and point to a vague moment in our shared future in which we could be creative and spontaneous. Moments delayed often never materialize. The players find new games, and lives scatter. It’s the way life is.
If you are counting the wrinkles on participant’s faces to determine who might not be with us in the years to come, you are foolish. From experience, I can tell you that youth is no shield from loss. I call this tendency, “The Clarion Misconception.”
One of my favorite people in the world hates Thanksgiving. For her, the day was her mother embodied. She’s faced more loss since, and the holiday has yet to recover any joy for her. It’s hard to enjoy some of the day when someone you love is hurting. Ache and loneliness are holes that seldom fill. As for my loved one, she is at least opting to have an extraordinarily simple meal of her choice to celebrate the day. In that way, she is lucky beyond compare. It’s ironic that our simple choices are envied by others. Those with a full table often envy a small personally chosen meal, while those with simplicity often find themselves wondering what a full table might bring.
While I’m no fan of the holiday, I am a genuine fan of the opportunity that the day can bring. At its heart, it is a day of companionship and love. It is a gong being rung in our hearts to remind us that this day, like all others, is not a given. I wish people could stop looking toward the pomp and ceremony of the preparations and instead take the chance to use the day to sit and laugh. And eat, too, yes. Whatever suits them, no matter how ridiculous or unexpected. Even the first Thanksgiving, the one we supposedly observe, resulted from what was available rather than what people wanted. Traditions are meaningless to me if they cannot be bent or broken when people want them to be something else.
Things? I need none.
Food? I’m more full now than I ever was while eating unhealthily. By focusing on less, I have more and enjoy it more.
Love? No gauge can ever read full in this regard.
Whatever number of days you have, you now have one fewer to sit and laugh. Take the small moments and hold them close to your heart. As you do, the larger moments will take care of themselves. You can’t have an empty life if you fully appreciate who and what you love in the small moments. Most of your life is lived in the intervals.
After all, the day is about having a hungry heart. Mine is ravenous.
P.S. A couple of links below, if you’re interested…