Happy Thanksgiving week to those celebrating! I’ve been writing fervently these past few weeks but I have nothing to show for it. I’ve been saying I am stuck. I’ve been thinking I’ve been frozen. However, just Wednesday night, while we were baking and cooking into the wee hours of the morning, Rob and I were deep in conversation and it occurred to me that these descriptions are inaccurate. I can see now, when I listen to myself talk and when I reread the words I’ve written — what I have been doing is growing. I’ve been growing. The growing pains have been close to unbearable. My heart ached so much I believed it would break and my shoulders began to hunch from the weight of it all. But now, now I feel like I can breathe.
I keep trying to write about these growing pains. I wanted to capture all of it for you — just in time for Thanksgiving. I’d hoped to offer you words to help mend your own personal heartache with my own story. But it’s hard and complicated and maybe more importantly, I’ve realized, that right now — this is not what we need. You don’t need me to talk about my grievances about Trump or how I’m expanding my mind and my heart. You need me to hold a space for you right now. This time of togetherness that can make us feel alone and can bring up so many feelings — happiness, sadness, fear, loneliness, grief, anger, rage, hate — to name a few. And I’m with you today, holding you in my heart with whatever you are feeling. You get to feel whatever you feel. You do. And guess what? We don’t have to agree about our experiences or feelings — or about anything. How about that? Your feelings are valid because they are yours and that’s enough.
A few years ago I wrote about Thanksgiving and I think it still applies today as people step out into a world that feels more unsafe in an attempt to be together. I also found Courtney Martin’s piece Wednesday night and I’m tagging it here. Maybe you’ll take a moment to sit with Courtney and her writing. I breathed a deep sigh of relief when I read it because I felt she captured my own personal process much more clearly than I had been able to do. So you have that too, if you need it.
Thanksgiving morning I woke up and my oven wouldn’t turn on. My first thought was, “Oh my god it’s broken. My oven is broken on Thanksgiving!” My second thought was, “I wonder if we can grill a turkey?” I pressed the buttons a few times and then I just stepped away. I planned in my mind how we would negotiate the day if our oven was broken and I decided that it was something we could do. With a little thought, planning and teamwork we could pull it off. After five minutes, I came back to my oven, pressed the button and for whatever reasons it fired up. I decided not to over think this. Nope. Instead I decided to just be thankful.
It’s a tradition in our house to have homemade pies for breakfast and then have more for dessert after dinner. Rob and I started this the first year we were married. We had moved from Massachusetts to California and I made four pies from scratch for the two of us. Being a wise man, Rob never asked why on earth I was making so many pies for two people. Instead he said, “Put them in the oven and let’s go for a run while they bake!” And we did. Exercise before pie is sometimes a tradition in our house. This year however, we took a pass.
Every year Rob asks, “Don’t you just want to buy the pies? It’s less work for you.” Nineteen year later, as I’ve gotten older and we’ve grown busier — I must admit that I entertain the idea of buying pies from a local bakery. But our kids will have none of this. So instead of disappointing, I’ve taught them to bake pies from scratch themselves. We stay up too late baking, which may be a good thing; we care less when we’re tired if the crust comes out messy or cracked. When they were younger I worried about keeping the recipe the same. I stressed about the mess they’d make too. But now … now, I don’t care. It doesn’t matter if there’s too much nutmeg and not enough cinnamon. We’ll add extra ice cream and we can always make another pie tomorrow if we want to. I don’t need everything to be perfect or the same. Different is a good thing. This year Brayden broke tradition and made apple crisp for Thanksgiving breakfast instead of pie; it was the best apple crisp I’ve ever had. How about that?
We also listen to Arlo Guthrie’s song/story, Alice’s Restaurant on full blast while we cook on Thanksgiving day. We laugh at ourselves laughing at Arlo’s same jokes every year and then we live with the ear worm for days after. So much so that we eventually have to play it again. My dad and his sister played this song every Thanksgiving and I love that. It makes my heart happy.
This year, Rob, the kids and I hosted our friends from California. We have seen them only once in twelve years and it was such a gift. They are the friends who are your family. The very best kind. When they left us I felt both filled up and sad. They have three kids too and I couldn’t help myself from calling out as they ascended the stairs to the train, “You’re doing such a great job!” “You are too!” They called back. All of us with our eyes teary. I feel lucky and blessed to have a Thanksgiving without fear and grief. I know some of you were not so fortunate. You’ll have to sit with your spine aching at a table or in a room with someone who doesn’t share your political views, your world views, your values or your moral compass. This hurts. It’s awful. I’ve been grappling with the world for weeks now and I can’t lie, it’s painful. And I’m sorry.
What I want to say to you today and this week of being with others is, you matter. You’re important and you’re cared about. If you have a moment when you feel this isn’t true, take a deep breath and know that I’m breathing with you. Others, having their own experiences in this moment, are doing the same. The air we share in our collective breaths bind us just as our DNA bind us. We are connected to each other; we need each other no matter what someone might tell you. We do.
This time of year, when we may feel the most isolated or frightened, we need to surround ourselves with those who love and support us. If there are moments when you can’t find a friendly face, please know that there are people who feel the same and they are breathing too. With you. We do not have to agree with those we love and we may never change their minds but we don’t have to. I’m learning that we can maintain our heart connections with most people even when we disagree. We can do both.
Yes, there are moments when we need to wrap the heavy-duty yellow caution tape around ourselves. Creating a circular boundary — declaring to those unsafe for us to be around: “Warning! Caution! Do not cross!” And this too is okay. It’s more than okay to establish boundaries for ourselves. We can love people and still place healthy boundaries. It’s possible to do both. That’s part of self care — self care and self love are our biggest allies right now and always. When the world feels inhospitable we must choose to take extra good care of ourselves. We shower ourselves with compassion and more love than we can possibly imagine. We fill our protective bubble within our caution tape until it’s overflowing. We don’t waver from that ever. No matter what is thrown at us. We keep that bubble brimming and we don’t question if we’re worthy or good enough. We trust that we are and then we safely step out into the world breathing. Protecting our hearts and knowing we have our own backs and each other’s. Take good care. I’m with you. Sending love.