I May Have Outgrown Thanksgiving This Year
3 meals. 2 days. 3 branches of family.
On Thanksgiving Day, we drove to my hometown to have lunch with my Mom's side of the family, then ventured one minute around the corner to my Nanny's to have dinner with my Dad's side of the family. On Friday, we spent the day with my girlfriend's family. Each passing year, I get a bit more agitated, restless and sad. Spending time with family at large feels just ... obligatory. They don't know me, not the real me, nor do they care about my life. Why should I even go? Why do we put ourselves through the discomfort and awkwardness? I'm not the only one that sat in a small cluster of seclusion and perceived comfort, but I can only speak for my own feelings. I know this happens across the map, for various reasons and varying degrees of strong feelings. Family is such a strange concept to me. I've always wanted to be part of a family I fit into, an accepting and worldly family full of love and meaningful conversation. You know, like the families portrayed in the movies.
Plans began a few weeks in advance with our respective family members involved in each meal session. We discussed who would make what dishes and what day each meal would happen and where, yada, yada, yada. To preface this holiday, I have strong underlying feelings and opinions about its history and how duped we are about the bullshit around it, highlighted more than ever by the recent presidential election results and what's happening on sacred Indian Reservations in North Dakota. Family we complain about, food we don't really like the taste of, traditions we aren't sure why we continue and Black Friday shopping that's planned out so strategically to execution. Do any of us truly feel thankful for any of these things?
Let's face it:
If we loved turkey, we'd make it year round. The same goes for dressing/stuffing. And casseroles. And fruit salad. And ham. And all of the other strange things we blend together to stuff down our gullets once a year. Does anyone enjoy the taste of turkey, truly? Please, raise your hand if you do.
The manner in which these birds are raised is horrifying, as is the amount of food that goes to waste on this single day ... the Pilgrims didn't have a kind and welcoming meal with the Indians, while we are on uncomfortable topics that the masses don't want to acknowledge. They murdered them in mass quantities, took their land and wiped out entire tribes. Genocide. Why do need to spend hundreds of dollars, countless hours and pour our hearts into this meal on this day, for the sake of tradition?
Are there not other traditions we could start, that have a positive impact on the world instead, like feeding the homeless, going to support events like the Standing Rock, ND shitshow, spending time with folks in hospitals and nursing homes, walking dogs at a local shelter, traveling, reading, cleaning? I've read hundreds of posts, tweets, blogs and articles about how so many dread going home to spend this holiday with their family members. Many are funny, some are sad, others are so painfully true and relatable. So why do we do it? Because we don't want to disappoint our family - the family that quite literally couldn't give two shits and a rat's ass about seeing us any other day of the year? Why, on this day, must we put on our smiles and pep-talk ourselves into being friendly and social for a few hours?
While my more raw feelings and opinions linger around holidays, it's because when I boil it all down, it's the time amidst the laughter and off-color jokes and shallow commentary of my family that I feel the most alone. The most isolated. I don't feel like I grew up there, in that small town, with them. I know I did because I have the memories and the photographs to prove it. But each time I go back, I feel increasingly more like an alien trying to blend in with the locals for a few hours until I can escape back to the reality of my world in the city, where no one knows or cares who I am or where I came from, except my girlfriend and our dogs. Though I feel comfortable everywhere, they are home to me. I wandered hard and fast, aimlessly, for about ten years without having a feeling of "home," and it's recently settled in my heart that my girlfriend and collectively provide that sense of belonging, safety, support and love.
Feeling isolated isn't a bad thing, it gives perspective that propels me through the other 363 days of my life each year. It harbors feelings of gratitude because I enabled myself to create a life I enjoy, thrive in, challenge myself with, help others in, grow and regrow in. It's easy, relaxed and happy, full of open minds and intelligence, ideas and abundance. Our families raise us and help shape us into who we are, but it's up to us as individuals that go out on our own to break the mold for the parts that don't serve us, that we don't like and that aren't joyful for us. Make new parts. Make new traditions. Do what makes you happy, from the small acts of choosing where you grocery shop to what you do on the holidays, where you live and work, the food you eat, the way you fold your laundry and everything in between.
I'm thankful that we have the tools at our fingertips to learn awareness, support who and what we want, support the companies that better the world, and educate ourselves on current events. I'm thankful for the Internet and the many ways it enables us to connect with one another. The power of Facebook is global and I'm grateful it's used by so many as a tool of good, such as the community that John Kim's first blog post has created for us to all share and grow together—to change the way that we change.
Use these last few weeks of 2016 to finish up what you need to leave behind, to tie up loose ends, to close this 9 year book and start a fresh new chapter when 2017 comes ringing in. Take responsibility for what is yours, make your lists and get on with it. Make your life what you want it to be, without the "shoulds," "coulds" and "woulds" of others. Do YOUR thing.
Live good, live well.
Work with Catalyst Leslie Wier to Live Boldly. Join the Ignite Your Purpose, Discover Your Calling Tribe, Starting December 1st!