It’s the season of thankfulness.
Have you seen the meme on social media that says something to the effect of, “We can always find something to be thankful for?” It’s probably true, but sometimes I think that memes likes this should be taken out back and shot. When you’ve just lost your child… when your spouse of 20 years has betrayed you… when your mother has turned her back on you… when the diagnosis is what you’ve been dreading… when you can’t provide for your children and have nowhere to turn… when you are spending the holiday ALL Alone…
It’s okay to grieve and not try to figure out what you have to be thankful for – for a minute.
I’m all about practicing thankfulness. I wake up most mornings and go straight to my journal to write my Father a letter and it almost always starts with appreciation for some of the amazing ways He has blessed me. Some mornings I start out with confession or a desperate plea for myself or someone I love. I show up and I invest in my relationship with Him. He’s okay that some days I’m wallowing in grief or anger and can’t get past it just yet. He knows we’re human – He made us that way.
I know there are people who live firmly planted in the grief, the drama, the self-pity of life. I know we can’t throw a blanket statement over people not living in “happy” and make it all go away. I know that in my experience, when grieving people feel heard and accepted, they tend to pick up and move forward in emotional health. I think it’s when people aren’t allowed to sit with their grief and work through their junk they end up in much worse shape later. I believe stuffing down grief and not dealing with pain is like slowly poisoning yourself.
I’ve known people who encourage others to move on because they think they’re being helpful. I’ve been the person who “helps” others move on before they’ve worked through things because I thought it was time or their stuff made me uncomfortable or I wanted to be the hero. I’ve done it to my children more than anyone – mostly because I thought I was making everything peaceful. It was part of my Stepford appearance routine. It blew up in all of our faces a few years ago and I stopped doing it… mostly.
It’s still my go-to when things get ugly and uncomfortable. It wraps it all up neatly and reasonably quickly and we can move on… except that there’s a bomb inside the box that was wrapped up neatly and quickly and what feels like peace now is actually buried resentment, hurt, anger, rejection, and a million other kinds of schrapnel that only grow with time and lack of attention.
I know we all want to have a Norman Rockwell kind of Thanksgiving. I know we get tired of the family members that show up and don’t always play nice and help us sweep the junk under the rug. I have mama-moments of just wishing everyone could get along and make it through the day with no arguing. I was raised in that life. We rarely made it through a gathering without someone being told off or told to “get out” by one parent and then we had to move on (other parent), so I long for a “perfect” holiday with smiles on everyone’s faces, delicious food, laughter and loving, thankful conversation, and a shiny clean house. – and while I’m at it, I wish that everyone had the day off and could come for the whole day and that the weather would be sunny and warm, but not too warm, and that we could do it at the “normal” day and time everyone else does.
But, most of that won’t happen just the way I’m picturing and yearning for right now. – and that’s just gotta be okay. I can find SO much to be thankful for even though I will be mourning things in my life come Thanksgiving morning – and the following day because that’s when we’ll be celebrating mostly, because of work schedules. Our gathering will probably be more peaceful than in years past because we allow each other to grieve and be angry now. When I tell my son my feelings are hurt, he asks me why and we talk about it. Somehow once he asks me sincerely why I’m hurt, I can see his heart in a much better, truer light and I know it isn’t as big a deal as my mind made it. It typically takes us all of less than 10 minutes to talk through what we both experienced before we step into peace with a hug and an “I love you.” Sometimes we have to tell each other that we want to talk about it, but one or both of us prefers to wait until the following day – and it’s okay when you have honor between you and a record of calling or showing up the next day to revisit the tabled issue. When my children point out something I’m doing that isn’t honoring or healthy, it takes me much less time to own it than it used to. I still don’t like it, but now I understand that it’s okay to not be a perfect mom (or perfect anything!), but it’s NOT okay to pretend that I am (because NO one is) and get angry like my world is crashing down all around me when my children hold me accountable for my junk.
I think this year I am most thankful for the laughter and love of my children and my husband, the faithfulness, mercy and grace of God, and the gift of family and friends – both of which we will have at our Thanksgiving gathering in our messy house, on dishes with chips, and food that is amazing. I will mourn some broken relationships and the building of walls. I will grieve for those who cannot find their way to thankfulness and pray they will in time. I will also give thanks that this is one of the years that I am able to rejoice and be thankful because I have known days when I could not find one thing to be thankful for because my heart was broken and my life was shattered. I am thankful for a God who wrapped His arms around me and let me grieve and work through
anger rage in His silence and love and continues to walk with me as I move on, striving to love like Him.