Does this scenario sound familiar to you? A family is gathered around a large table before a feast, and before digging into mashed potatoes and an oversized turkey, they each take turns saying what they're thankful for. It's cheesy, it's sentimental, it's often awkward, and for most Americans, it's a tradition. It's Thanksgiving. We get to eat as much as we want, drink during daylight hours, and spend a whole day and evening with family. Depending on who will be gathering around your table, this could be a blessing or a curse.
This year will be the first Thanksgiving I have celebrated in four years, and it will also be the first holiday without my ex. As I enter into the holiday season, I'm a bit on edge about what emotions all the festivities are going to trigger in me, especially as one who is naturally prone to depression. Life has taken some unexpected turns, and the holidays always remind me of time, and how it changes everything. Over the past ten years, my family grew much smaller, and my childhood memories of big family meals around my grandmother's farm table are just that - memories. Most of my family has divorced, died, or moved very far away. These are sad reflections, but I know that Thanksgiving is the time to give thanks, so with that in mind, I've come up with a few things we can all be thankful for, even after divorce.
Having Something To Look Forward To
This one is at the top of my list because what I remember most about childhood Thanksgiving is the excitement I felt about the approaching day. I couldn't wait to spend the afternoon at my grandmother's house, taking in the smell of a turkey roasting in the oven while I sifted soft flour as white as the snow outside. The sound of the television competed with my grandfather's roaring laughter in the living room, and I can still smell his bourbon and hear the tinkling of ice cubes against glass. Thanksgiving was wonderful because it was only the beginning of the holidays, and like an appetizer before the main course, it was an introduction to Christmas. I still had something even better to look forward to when it was over. As an adult, I no longer feel that same rush of excitement, but I still love having something to look forward to, no matter what it is. We all do. But unlike children, we have to create our own anticipation. We have to make things happen for ourselves. I no longer have the childhood joy of running through my grandparents house to be the first one on the tree swing, or helping place pecans one by one on top of a pie. But what I do have is a special bottle of wine to bring to my friend's house, and I certainly look forward to uncorking it.
Friends Who Are Family
There is probably someone, or several people, who were there for you during the darkest days of your divorce experience. Your family are people you didn't choose, but friends are another matter. If you chose wisely, you have good friends who support you and treat you like family. The kind of friends who stick up for you when you need them (even if they think you're wrong), who build a fire so you can pour out your heart and lament your mistakes by its warmth, and who let you cry all over their living room floor, even if it's 2 a.m. Friends to have fun with, who will dance with you when your favorite song comes on, and help plan the party of a lifetime. I have those friends, and for that I am truly thankful.
I know that one is broad, and at first, it sounds ridiculous. But sometimes, no matter how depressed I get or what I am going through, there are moments when being alive actually amazes me. The fact that we are all just tiny pieces that make up a much larger universe, but that we feel so intensely, is amazing. I haven't enjoyed all of my feelings or experiences, but I'm still thankful that I get to live this life, rather than not exist at all. I know going through a divorce is hard, and I could easily become weighed down by that pain. But there are still those brilliant, shining moments in life, and they are almost always the moments you don't realize are happening until they already have. For those, I am especially thankful. For the New Year's Eve my ex and I ran through the cold, damp Parisian air to the horse track at midnight, just for the childish fun of it, I am thankful. For the final moments I got to share with my late grandmother just before she died, I am eternally thankful. For that first moment I ever experienced being on stage, my nine year old heart beating fast inside my sparkling ballet uniform. For my best friend and I dancing in our underwear, and the time I saw a surprise meteor shower when I was watering the plants alone. For last night, when my friend Andy and I turned thirty-something problems into an impromptu wine party. For the people I love, and the fire we will sip that special wine in front of on Thanksgiving. My cup runneth over.
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