It never fails, each year around the holidays I feel a little sadness creep in. Maybe something about having really amazing family holidays as a kid and knowing that as an adult each season feels a bit more fractured and lonelier. Family moves all over the country, I move all over the country. This year was a mix of feelings - contentment for sitting in a quiet home with my husband and daughter watching a really awesome, really long Tom Petty documentary. A total laughing fit after my daughter slipped out the f-bomb while helping me make sweet potato pie. No extended family I don't really know mistaking my introversion and absolute fear for new social situations as rudeness. But also a lingering incompleteness for not being able to share the day with those I love who live so far away. Enjoying the calmness but wishing there were more seats filled around the table than the three of us (who am I kidding, we sat on the couch to eat). Not to mention the ongoing stresses in our life that don't take a day off just because it's a holiday. Realizing that nobody wants to be the downer during the holidays. Amidst the sincere outpourings of gratitude, the beautiful pictures of families together, you kind of feel like the grumpy jerk for being less than 100% happy on a day when so many others are partaking in so much joy. But I also don't think I'm alone on this.
Sometimes it's just enough to get through the day, let alone think of things to be thankful for. Forcing gratitude despite an overwhelming feeling of 'otherwise' is not gratitude. Knowing it's not just the feeling of sadness or incompleteness that is the worst part, but the sadness compounded with the shame of feeling selfish for being anything less than grateful for our lives. And sometimes being thankful is just not a realistic feeling for people who are struggling with tough things in their life. Kind of like someone telling you to "choose happiness" -- given the choice, I think most people would love the that option. But sometimes it's a really, really long, hard-fought process where just getting to the point of feeling 'okay' is a big damn accomplishment.
So for anyone who is a few (or many) seats less at the table this year, for anyone dealing with grief or loss. For anyone who had a Thanksgiving dinner much like any other dinner of the week, or had no Thanksgiving at all. For anyone who already has to count pennies for a normal grocery store run. For anyone with difficult family relationships, or none to speak of at all. For anyone struggling with personal issues that make you feel less than yourself. For anyone spending the day alone or without a home. It's okay to feel crappy. You are loved. If the only thing you do is get through the day and breathe, that is worth something.
Besides, sometimes gratitude slaps you in the face in the middle of March (or April, or May, or Monday, or Tuesday) when there is no family or table to gather around. And isn't that the best kind?