Giving thanks through gritted teeth

This post is for those of you feeling like you might just be from the island of misfit toys this Thanksgiving. If you’ve never felt this way during the start of the holiday season, all the more reason to give thanks.

And if you’re feeling that way this holiday season, a friendly reminder from little ‘ole me that you are not alone.

I planned on Thanksgiving with my family, which is great. I’m still going to spend it with my family, which continues to be great. There is a slight change in plans, however, in that I’m no longer happily barefoot.

Considering I’ve spent other Thanksgivings alone or with my mother in the hospital as she began a short six weeks to dying, me having the other shoe drop in a relationship is not the end of the world. It is hard, but there are people in far worse straits.Fotolia_30628306_Subscription_Monthly_XXL.jpg

The real point is: many of us are spending the holiday in a way different than we might have imagined.

Take the year I spent Thanksgiving alone. I did not have my kids that day and my family was hundreds of miles away, too far to have visited just for the day. I did not feel up to spending the day with someone else’s happy family; it was too much of a contrast to what I was feeling that year. And yet, being alone that holiday was less than ideal. Oh, let’s just say it—it was lonely, despite being less lonely than pretending amongst others I was in a happy place.

I’m not alone in the solo holiday bit. I know divorced women who have done the same the year following their split. None crow about how relaxing the day was; most instead say it sucked. But it is sometimes part and parcel of a shift into a new kind of normal post-divorce. You just hope and pray it does not repeat itself and you don’t end up an 80-year-old woman with lots of cats.

A friend is spending Thanksgiving away from her family for the first time in a decade, after her mother’s death this past year. And you’ll never guess who she is spending it with—a Chinese family that has never celebrated Thanksgiving but is hosting it this year for many of their Chinese friends. My friend and her children will be the token Americans at this inaugural dinner. We laughed about it in a recent conversation because it’s a scene that could easily be part of a Woody Allen film. She is not sure this is her idea of an ideal holiday but it is what is presenting itself. She is going with it.

In the grocery store this evening, I heard one clerk ask another if she was working Thanksgiving (she was). This store is open despite the holiday. Probably not the way she wants to spend her evening but she said she needed the money.

This week, as I wrapped my head around my changed plans, I gave thanks. Through gritted teeth, but I gave thanks. I did so because I remembered a story Oprah told about advice Maya Angelou gave her. Something less than great had befallen her and she was crying to Maya about it on the phone. Maya asked her to stop crying and give thanks before anything else. Thanks for the good that would come out of the sadness, for the lessons learned, for whatever God’s plan was.

Tonight, driving home after a movie with a friend, down a quiet winding road, I saw the beauty of Chicago’s first snowfall this season. The trees looked as if touched with a paintbrush. And I was able to give real thanks to the Universe. For the good that will come out of my sadness, for the lessons learned, for whatever God’s plan is.Fotolia_28591927_Subscription_Monthly_M.jpg

That was tonight. Tomorrow, I may be back to gritted teeth. But tonight, victory lap.

Take yours this year, if it is offered to you. Victory laps beat the alternative. And if a victory lap is not in the cards, know you are not the only one trying to be thankful for what feels like a thankless situation. Think of those working, those with an extra seat at the table that may sadden them, those trying to teach their Chinese friends the art of oyster stuffing and mashed sweet potatoes (and hopefully, that last one will make you laugh).

I think the Universe gives extra credit for gritted teeth. And so many of us have had those years.

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29 Comments Add yours

  1. That is the thing: You take the best out of everything you can rather than whining about what you wanted.

    BTW: Is that you in the pic?

    1. candidkay says:

      lol. Not me in the pic! But I felt that way:)

  2. I love the Chinese people having Thanksgiving. That’s cool. As for gritted teeth, we all have them. Holidays are part work, part stress, with a tiny bit of magic thrown in. Sometimes that magic is hard to find, but in the smallest moments it can show itself.

    1. candidkay says:

      I can’t wait to hear my friend’s story about the Chinese Thanksgiving:). I’m sure it’ll be interesting!

  3. So sorry that you are no longer ‘happily barefoot’. The time will come.
    We do not have thanksgiving here, so maybe you could imagine you are in Australia and it is just another day 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      It was a lovely day with family. Truly! I hope you had the same, minus the copious calories, across the world:).

      1. We do not celebrate thanksgiving in Australia. However, I am looking forward to Christmas. 🙂

      2. candidkay says:

        I hear you, but I don’t think we need Thanksgiving to be thankful:). That’s the beauty of it!

  4. srbottch says:

    Meant ‘precooked’..,

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank goodness:). You had me worried with pre-oiled! I hope you’ve had a lovely Thanksgiving! I love your positive attitude. I have been surrounded by my large, noisy tribe and couldn’t ask for better place to be today:). So glad we’re blogger buds.

      1. srbottch says:

        Yeah, ‘pre oiled’. Should edit b4 sending. But the Freud in me is curious about what I was thinking. Glad you had a happy day. Happiness is reflected in your nice smile. We had a good day and I didn’t watch any football….(darn it).

  5. srbottch says:

    First, let me be the first guy to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. What? I’m not. Dammit, I set my reminder incorrectly. My wife and I are alone but we have each other and the dog replaces the kids this year. First time we bought a pre oiled (smoked) bird because my wife had surgery and can’t stand long. And I’m a disaster in the kitchen. (I’m a good painter, floor cleaner, vacuumed and commode scrubber, though). Bottom line, the telephone connects us to our kids this year, The fresh air and some exercise raises out mood to a feel good level and Starbucks is open for awhile. So, we have much for which to be thankful. And there’s no disappointment for giving the wrong gift. It’s a wonderful day…and there’s football. But, seriously, thanks for being a blogger friend. (Steve)

  6. Kat says:

    I agree, we should give thanks for the little things or gifts that come our way.
    P.S. I reckon that Thanksgiving dinner with the Chinese family would be the best Thanksgiving ever because it will be unconventional, hilarious and more fun! 😉

    1. candidkay says:

      I agree on the Chinese Thanksgiving! I can’t wait to hear how it goes:).

  7. Yeah, this one made me laugh and then cry and then laugh again. “Not ideal, but what is presenting itself”…that’s a life lesson for everyone right there. I love the sense of unfair and then the ability, even if only for a night, to find the joy.

    Life is less than ideal for most of us and while I’m happily attached, I’m a big believer that it is better to be alone than in something that doesn’t work. Maybe there’s gratitude in the peace, the deep breaths allowed, instead of that tight eggshell tip-toeing when something just not right.

    You’re fantastic. You noticed the winding road, those trees because you’re present. Sometimes that sucks, and it often hurts. You absolutely get extra credit for gritting those teeth. Wishing you a happy, joyful day even if your jaw hurts. 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you. Just thank you. Really kind, wise words. Happy Thanksgiving!

  8. Holidays can haunt for those alone, but solace can be found through solitude. I spent many holidays on my own. It was tough. When loneliness and depression tried to lock in, I focused on doing one thing to treat myself and one good deed for another. My advice: Find a place to be warm; close your eyes and dream.

    1. candidkay says:

      I agree that getting out there in the world with the right intentions can work miracles. Wishing you a blessed, peaceful Thanksgiving this year.

  9. Amy says:

    Through disappointment, pain, stress, loss, and life’s challenges, my friend, your heart has persevered. You are brave and beautiful. And now I have in mind’s eye an image of you gazing up into a snowy night and giving thanks. You are amazing.

    Thanksgiving blessings and love to you and yours. Thank you for sharing this heartfelt post. xo

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m so glad our paths have crossed, Amy. I’m blessed with you!

  10. Marie says:

    There are so many seasons in a single holiday. I remember a college Thanksgiving in a quiet dorm; the clumsy chaos of hosting my first holiday; the years I struggled against others’ expectations and the years I changed all the rules. In every experience there was a beautiful discovery that eased the tenderness of private disappointments.

    I wish you enough joy to uncover your own hidden blessing. I’m thankful, always, for your wisdom. Happy Thanksgiving, Kay.

    1. candidkay says:

      Happy Thanksgiving. And thank you for sharing. That in itself is a gift.

      1. Marie says:

        Also, unrelated, keep meaning to tell you I love the updated look of your site. Gorgeous.

      2. candidkay says:

        Thank you! It was time for a change:).

  11. I love this post and your honesty Kay. Maya Angelou was a wise beautiful woman, who reminds me as well, to see the good in every situation. Happy Thanksgiving and I hope you find gratefulness and fun on this day. You really deserve it. 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you so much. You’re very kind. Wishing you peace this week whether you are in the States or not. Everyone can use a little Thanksgiving this week :-).

  12. Judy says:

    My parents invited me to spend Thanksgiving with them. That’s like voluntarily stepping into a meat grinder. Fortunately, my sister had already invited me to Thanksgiving at her house, and I’d accepted, weeks before.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh boy. I know you’re not alone on that one. Why is the places where we are supposed to feel best loved are sometimes the loneliest? Glad your sister offers a welcome alternative. Wishing you a peaceful one!

      1. Judy says:

        Thank you! I’m looking forward to it. 🙂 Wishing you the gift of finding laughter in the mayhem. 😀

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