Giving Thanks

Saying this year has been strange and full of tough decisions is an understatement. Thanksgiving is no exception. The hubs and I decided to back out of our plans with his family. Between our two jobs, we’re exposed to thousands of people a week. We weren’t as worried about the other people at the gathering making us sick; we’re concerned about us bringing it to them. With us backing out, it brings the number down to the recommended levels. The discussion leading up to the decision was hard. The actual conversation my hubs had with his mom was worse.

A few weeks ago, it was easier to talk about getting together and sharing the day and a meal. We had a freakishly warm stretch of 70-degree temps for over a week. In November! It felt like summer and allowed for a wee bit of denial in thinking we could spread the celebration outdoors, and it’d be ok. But then it shifted to classic November. Rates started shooting up. Schools started going fully remote. Movie theaters that had just opened closed. Curfews went into effect. Reality slapped us in the face.

We’re not alone in making these choices and having these heartbreaking conversations right now. I have a friend in NJ whose mother is going through chemo, and during a time when she probably wants nothing more than to bring her family as close to her as possible, she canceled her gathering. She made the gut-wrenching decision to protect herself. Chemo and COVID is a terrible combo. I get what her heart wants. When I was ill for all those years, I wanted normality. I took the day before and the day after off to rest to make it through those gatherings. My husband drove because I’d be asleep in the car before we hit the highway. I wanted to appear as much like myself as I could while I was with my family. It was exhausting. I know what my friend’s mother wants in her heart, but I know what it took out of me, and I wasn’t going through a pandemic.

This friend pointed out to me that Thanksgiving can be done in pj’s this year. This thought made both of us smile. All I ever want to do on Thanksgiving is watch the Macy’s parade. This year, I’m going to watch the whole thing. I know it’s going to be different, but I don’t care. I’m usually traveling or helping in the kitchen while it’s on. I have a dream of someday being a balloon handler in the parade. I’ve been in a couple of parades in other capacities, but I want to hold onto the rope of a balloon. So FYI, if someone needs a balloon handler this year, I live in NY, let me know, and I’ll drive down to the city. I’ll even stay in my car. Just saying. Call me.

I probably won’t spend my day in pj’s. Most likely, I’ll do some yoga when I get up. And go for a walk or a small hike with the hubs. One of my favorite things to do is go for long walks and my favorite person to do it with is him. So, I hate missing an opportunity to do just that. It’s essential to appreciate the little things, like a walk with good company. I didn’t need COVID to remind me of that. I had plenty of years of being close to death to drill that lesson into my head. But still.

But I’m trying to remind myself to say thank you and be thankful in the middle of a lot of disappointments this year. I do an exercise with my students, who are adults in incarceration, where we write for five minutes, which includes listing three things we’re grateful for. I love it when they get comfortable enough to get a little silly or sweet. I do that activity five days a week, three times a day. Listing what you’re grateful for that many times while sitting across from people who’ll be returning to their cell after class will get you to realize you have a lot of good in your life.

I appreciate my in-laws for understanding our decision. They let us be the bad guys. Thank you for that. No one wanted to make this decision. We were so excited to spend it with them. Trust me, the hubs was heartbroken. He came home so sad the day he told his mom. It took him a while before he could talk about it. But as they say, making the right decision is often the hardest.

No matter what your Thanksgiving looks like this year, take care of yourself. Don’t get mad at people making the tough decision to opt-out for safety. Be sad. Tell them how much you’ll miss them, and you’re disappointed. They feel the same way. They don’t want to hurt your feelings. They’re trying to give all of us a chance to go on and celebrate more in the future. It’s an act of love. In this time of stress and unknowing, I hope you’re safe, find time to appreciate the little things, and feel the love of people saying no. And if you’re sad and feeling lonely, I’m sending you a hug.

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