Giving Thanks Anyway

Patti here. I am finding it really easy to fall into feelings of sadness about all I am missing right now. I am missing hugs and cuddles from my still small granddaughter who lives down the road. Well, all my grandkids, but especially her because I see her so often. I am feeling anticipatory sadness for the people who won’t be at Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. I am feeling sad about the thought of eating this amazing meal outside on the porch with just one child instead of most of them. (It’s going to be cold. And probably rainy. The food will get cold. We will get cold. How will we have a slow leisurely meal and conversation if we are bordering on the edge of hypothermia?? It doesn’t sound very fun to me.) I am feeling sad about not being able to hop on a plane and see my far away kids and grandchildren. I am feeling sad about cooking without all the usual revelry. It makes me want to just not do Thanksgiving at all, but I know if I did that I would regret it in the end. And so, we plan a much smaller event. Just Aidan, Steve and I sitting on the front porch praying the rain doesn’t turn into the horizontal rain so common here in November. 


As an extra vulnerable person. I have been fine being home all these months. I’ve been doing projects and going on solo walks in the woods, or walking with my one friend who is as sequestered as I am. It’s all been fine. Good even. But now, with the holidays approaching, I feel so sad. My kids keep telling me “It’s just for one year, Mom. It will be ok. We will see you from afar.” But for me, it is not okay. It is what it will have to be; but, it is not okay.

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of my favorite time of year. I love every day between Thanksgiving and Epiphany (January 6...which is the end of Christmas to me.) I love making things for people. I love all the extra cooking. I love the joy of keeping good secrets. Celebrating Christmas in a big way has always been one of my antidotes to a sad and disturbing childhood. I love seeing the joy on my children and grandchildren's faces when they open presents handmade for them. It feeds a deep longing in me that was never filled as a child. The secrecy of Christmas transforms all the bad secrets I kept as a child into something better. This time of year with all it’s giving and taking feeds me deeply.


I know lots of people don’t feel that way about the holidays, but I do. I love cookie baking with children and tree decorating. I love running my sewing machine for hours nearly everyday for weeks. I love all the warm feelings that fill my heart during all my preparations. I love that Steve gets grumpy every single time we go out to get our tree, and then how much his face lights up every night when we turn on the lights. I love the vulnerability I feel when I make things for my kids hoping, but not knowing, if they will like my gifts or not. I love lighting candles and singing favorite old Christmas carols by the fire, even if we sing slightly out of tune because Heidi isn’t here to keep us on track. I love dreaming and plotting and imagining what will make this year special. 


2020 will be so different. No sitting around the living room with the fire blazing watching everyone open their presents. No sitting down to a big meal with my favorite people. I am still busy being a Christmas elf, and I am excited about the things I am making for the grandkids, but it feels so sad not to see them open them. I love our routines around Christmas. It feels so sad not to be able to have them. 


I know we would be even sadder if we weren’t careful and somebody became seriously ill with COVID. That’s a regret that wouldn’t ever go away. 


In the end, I am sure that our smaller festivities will work out okay. The joy will still be there, even with the loss. But right now, I feel sad.


Instead of trying to make that feeling go away, I am sitting with it. I am acknowledging it. I am having compassion for myself that this is the way things are and I don’t like it. The truth is I don’t have to like it to accept it. I don’t have to like it to do it, because it is the right thing to do in this situation. 


And, I can still feel sad. 


An interesting thing happens when I sit with this sadness, other feelings creep in. Feelings of gratitude for my family and friends, for the people I am missing I feel warmth in my chest for all the love and kindness that exists in my life. I feel a deep gratitude for the life I am living right now, even with all the hiccups. I feel love and gratitude for this moment. The moment where the sky is grey and the rain won’t stop raining, but I am warm and dry and have plenty to eat. I am so fortunate. 


When I let myself fully experience my feelings, they tell me what they came to say and move on. When I push them away, they keep coming back again and again until they take over my mind. This is what practicing The 7 Tools can teach you. Life is fluid. It’s full of feelings, both pleasant and unpleasant, but when I give space for all these feelings they don’t overwhelm my life. After a childhood where there was no room for any feelings except happy ones, even in a very unhappy situation, it was hard to learn to give my feelings all the space they need. Now that I do, life is so much better.


So as we approach the holidays in these uncertain times, I wish for you the time to feel the full range of your feelings. Let it all in, the good, the bad and the ugly. Let yourself feel. And then when you are done, let yourself find things to be grateful for anyways. Life is different right now, but it can still be good.

Christmas table

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