Happy Sad Thanksgiving


It’s Thanksgiving Day in the weirdest year I’ve ever lived through. As with most things in 2020, it doesn’t look like I wanted it to. You’d think by now we’d be used to it, but alas, it’s a gut punch not to be with our people, celebrating like usual.

It’s a weird feeling, to be thankful and sad. To hold both, side by side, and try to make sense of it. Am I really thankful if I’m crying at the drop of a hat (or more accurately, a Coke commercial)? Can I really mean it when I say I’m grateful for our health and safety if I’m simultaneously pouting because I don’t get to celebrate in the manner to which I am accustomed?? Because I feel really and truly thankful for many things, I do. And I also feel justly and fully petulant about many others. Can I really, truly, justly and fully be both things at once?

Well, of course I can. Of course we all can. If there’s anything I’ve learned in my years as a person, it’s that we can feel more than one thing at a time. We can hold two truths side by side and experience them both fully – one does not negate the other. We can feel grief and joy – both big, complicated emotions – and both can absolutely be true, sometimes even in the same moment. We contain multitudes. Life is complicated. 2020 sucks a LOT, and also really lovely things happened that I would never want to undo. All of it is true at the very same time. It’s no different today than any other day, but today stings a little sharper.

I’ve recently started offering therapy services on a virtual platform (if not now, when?) and it’s been such a gift to me, a return to a passion I had almost forgotten I had. But if there’s one thing I’ve said more than any other in the past couple months in sessions, it’s this: as trite and overstated as it is, this time (2020) is completely outside the realm of our experience. We’ve never done this before. It is uniquely difficult and fully outside of our control. Where normally we have choices and know that time will bring comfort, relief – we’re looking at a timeline we can’t see. It’s easy to be hard on ourselves (and each other), thinking we should know better or do better or be better – that we should use this time, make the most of it, don’t worry, lots of other people have it worse than I do. I shouldn’t complain.

The reality is, many of us are isolated, struggling, worried (even in positions of immense privilege, fully acknowledging that many do have it worse). I cannot think of an experience as universal; that every counselor and every person in counseling is experiencing some degree of the same struggle. And so – my ultimate point – there has never been a better time to be kind to ourselves, and each other. To adjust our expectations (not lower; the distinction is important) to whatever is manageable. To make whatever choice is kindest to ourselves, with what little is in our control. To allow for difficult days. To allow for your multitudes, feel them deeply. Instead of meeting unproductive or unshowered days with shame or guilt, counting however many days it’s been since we wore hard pants – to meet whatever our survival looks like with pride: we are making it through. Hallelujah.

I made it through another day. I didn’t learn a trade or get a six-pack but I made hard choices and showed strength in a new way. I went for a walk because I knew I needed it/I took a nap because I knew I needed it. I was alone on Thanksgiving this year and it sucked. Like, a LOT. I let myself cry for what I was missing and I let myself be thankful for what I have. Because I contain multitudes.

It’s always true what they say, that everyone is fighting great battles we know nothing about – it still is, and then some. Be kind to yourself, be kind to each other. Be thankful and be sad. Grieve and find joy. Reach out for help and reach out to help. Repeat forever.

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