In just a few short weeks, we’ll be sitting in the car for 13 hours--just like many of you, I suppose--in order to sit with family at tables in Wisconsin and Illinois to give thanks.
But already I’m teetering between excitement and anxiety. Why does the holiday designed to feed thankfulness seem to leave me starving for peace?
We make it “home” once or twice a year. Yes, in between those times we Georgians talk on the phone and email and text with the northerners, but that just doesn’t substitute for face time and “breathing the same air,” to quote a dear friend. Because I'm a planner, I begin to anticipate the time long before it’s on anyone else’s radar: reservations need to be made, schedules coordinated. And, consequently, happy hope quarrels with disquieting self-talk as I play out possible anticipated scenarios of time together in my head.
The difficulty with anticipation is that it can morph into expectation when you’re not looking. When families don’t see each other often, there’s an unsaid but very real desire for everything to be GOOD. I so want to find everyone doing well. I hope for meaningful conversations because I want to come away from the time knowing more about those I love. That puts a lot of pressure on the limited hours.
But I know the truth. No one’s life is all well and good! Everyone struggles on some level. So let me tell you what GOOD looks like to me: cutting the crap and just telling it like it is. If we could, I believe we’d discover a sympathetic ear or a shoulder to lean on, and a moment of shared strength to help us know we’re not as far apart as the distance makes us think we are.
Yet who wants to go first? No one. So the opportunity is lost, the time hasn’t lived up to what I’ve anticipated or expected, and I’m faced with how to deal with what is.
Soren Kierkegaard said, “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.”
This year I’m going to try to anticipate Thanksgiving realistically. I want to embrace the anticipation, reject the anxiety, and release myself of the burden that any of it is my problem to solve. I want to wait for the moment and, in that moment, risk being authentic, even if it’s awkward. I want to experience the day--the good, the bad, and the possible ugly--because in everything there is something to be thankful for.
I’m willing to go first.
What do you want your Thanksgiving to be this year?