It is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving where I live. I just came in from the rainy snow. Pulling wood from the woodpile in our yard to bring under our covered patio. The tarp had blown off of the wood and I had to dig down to get the drier logs.
This job that lay before me could have gone two ways.
It could have been a horrible experience: Me in my rain boots. Hair matted to my face covered in slush. My dog racing around and running into me with her exuberance. Knocking me over. The old water on the base of the tarp smelling like raw sewage. Cold hands. Muddy mittens with fragments of decaying wood and bark clinging to them. Trekking back and forth with weighted wood.
But it wasn’t horrible.
The rain had just turned to snow. It covered my face and made a light tapping sound as it landed on my coat while I worked to gather my wood. Thoughtfully choosing the pieces I hoped would burn best. Thinking of my kids’ delight when they come home later, seeing that I’ve prepped for our cozy togetherness; time we are all desperately craving. My dog, overjoyed that I was outside with her in this first snowfall, ran around like a maniac. Racing around and around like a Greyhound chasing it’s prize. Bumping into me because her legs were moving so fast she couldn’t stop in time and tripped over them. She looked so ridiculous. I had to laugh. It was lovely.
I worked for about 45 minutes hauling my pile of wood from the yard to it’s new dry home. I pulled it behind me in an old faded plastic sled. Working slowly and mindfully. Back and forth. Back and forth. Removing. Pulling. Piling. Seeing the pile grow made me smile — thinking of sitting by the fire later with my kids and my husband made my chest feel tight and my throat ache in that way that it does when you’re so happy you could cry. I thought about the day ahead. Playing games. Reading books. Trying out new recipes. Pulling out some old ones. I didn’t want to stop gathering the wood. The bigger my pile grew, the more possibilities it afforded.
Underneath the pieces of wood were all sorts of critters who had readied themselves for winter. Bees. Moths. Bugs I cannot name. I was disturbing their hibernation. I was interrupting the ecosystems they had established for themselves. I imagined them spending much of the fall (or longer) nesting and prepping for their winter. I felt bad being the disruptor. Messing up their comfort for my own.
Sometimes I think we forget why we do the things we do. While carrying my wood, I thought of my mother doing all of her holiday prep begrudgingly. Resenting the work that lay ahead as she readied for a Thanksgiving meal that brought her more stress than joy. Like a thunderstorm brewing in the kitchen. Getting angry at us and saying how ungrateful we all were. Expressing through unmasked rage that she was doing all of this for us. I always wondered, “Why?” I always thought, “I didn’t ask you to do this and in fact, I wish you wouldn’t because … well honestly, with all of that rage, it’s just not worth it.” Why do something if it makes you that unhappy? Hauling my wood in the rainy-snow with a light heart made me realize how sad this is — this doing with a weight on one’s heart and shoulders. This doing because, well, that’s just what you do. It’s what’s expected. So you do it.
I don’t think life has to be like that. I think we have the capacity to choose how we want to experience our lives. I think that if it’s not working well, we disrupt the ecosystem and create a new one. It’s not always fun to be the disruptor. You run the risk of wreaking havoc. But you also hold the power to control your own experience.
If you’re stressed because you’ve always made your great great grandmother’s pecan pie and you’re at your wits end, will it matter that much if you go and buy one? Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t. Maybe it’s actually worth it to you to have that homemade pie baking in the oven. Perhaps that aroma floods you with memories that truly make your Thanksgiving yours. If this is true, own it. Don’t bake the pie with a layer of stress. Bake it because you want to. Put on some music, have something festive to drink. Sit down for a moment first. Find the joy in it. Make it fun and be mindful that you’re baking it because you want to. Then bake it. Doing the things we do with mindful intention and honesty always feels better. Don’t you think?
Or, if hauling that pile of wood truly will break your back and make you boil with rage, then I’ll tell you what, give yourself a break. Go buy the Duraflame and call it a day. You really are worth it. Each day is first and fundamentally about you, for you. Make it one you feel good about. And by the way, if Old Uncle Fred gives hugs that squeeze the air out of your lungs and make you want to squirm away, you don’t have to give him a hug. If Cousin Marge’s perfume gives you a royal headache, choose a different seat. If you need a time out, take one. Unless you’re the mother of a young child, you can probably escape to the bathroom for a minute to catch your breath and center yourself. And, if you are the mother of that small child, ask for help so you can go unaccompanied. Make a point to take the time you need.
Be solid in yourself and feel empowered to find your own joy in this Thanksgiving Day — whatever that looks like to you. Everyone is responsible for their own happiness and well-being. Everyone can make choices. This day is your day of gratitude for all of your unique gifts. Hold on to them and make sure you know that whatever you’re doing, you have a choice. Do the things you’re doing with intention. If you approach the day like this, having taken care of yourself first, you’ll have more of an open heart when you’re celebrating. You’ll have more patience for the loud talker, the annoying chewer and just the trials and tribulations that inevitably come along when we mix family and friends together for one long day of togetherness. Choose wisely how you invest your time. Choose mindfully. Find the gratitude and the grace. And take good care of yourself first. You’re worth it.
Happy Thanksgiving. I am thankful for all of you — taking the time to read this and share my journey with me.