What would you MISS if you didn’t have Thanksgiving this year? I don’t mean that you wouldn’t miss holding your breath for the inappropriate comment from Uncle Joe, or waiting for cousin Ellie to drink a little too much or waiting for the fight to erupt between your sister and her husband. Let’s forget about those for a moment.
What would you miss most that’s the essence of the holiday for you?
For me, the essence is: talking around the table and being in the same place — whoever is there, family, extended family, friends, out of town friends. Just being. No phones, email, schedules. Just being and talking. I also love the day before, when we’re cooking together, waiting for the next round of family to arrive for a fun weekend of family pajama parties. For me, this is a time to slow down and appreciate those I consider part of my extended family, my community, my village.
When I was growing up, one place we always visited was to the home of my aunt, uncle and cousin’s, about 5 hours away. My grandparents would be there, too, in from several hours away themselves. The cats, the retired seeing eye dog, and always always some of my Aunt and Uncle’s extended family. I suppose they were the ones who taught me that “family” doesn’t just mean the people you’re related to.
One year it was friends my cousin brought home from college, friends who had no family in the area. Another year it was her friends from the world of theater in the New York area (always exciting, for this Boston area “suburban brat”). Another year, it was the family down the road who considered my elderly grandmother as their own. They spent precious time with her throughout the year, when we lived so much further away.
The turkey was always late. I think one year my aunt forgot to turn on the oven, which was a story repeated every year, to this day. Family lore. The dining room never quite fit all the folks but we made it work. The house always smelled of cigars, as my father and my uncle enjoyed their time telling their stories, smoking their sometimes expensive and sometimes cheap and smelly cigars, mostly out on the patio. But we could always look out that living room door and watch them, laughing so hard they were crying.
That’s the essence for me, and so that’s what I try to recreate each year. I ignore other aspects or downplay them. I went to a very useful talk at our local library recently about destressing the holiday season. Our group leader was Roberta K. Taylor, of PathMaking for Life. I’ll list here a few new ideas and suggestions I took away. By the way, she specializes in coaching to help you create a “retirement age” chapter that works for you.
Give up the notion of the perfect family. Nobody is perfect. Relax and enjoy our imperfections.
The perfect holiday: What would the best holiday look or feel like to you? Focus on creating those one or two aspects, not creating the perfect holiday, with everything you read and hear about. Less is more.
Self-care: Take care of yourself, the several weeks before the holiday as well as after. Sleep more. Take naps. Water, vitamins, yoga, walking — whatever your normal routine is, now is the most important time to make SURE you keep to it. This IS a time of more goings-on, on top of your already full weeks, so respect yourself and stick with it.
What help do you need– physical or emotional — Physical help with things to get ready for the holiday or on the day of the holiday? Emotional — You have ADD or other brain-based challenge and you’re going to want extra support at the holidays. Or your husband passed away only a month ago. How to handle this with grandchildren? Think about what you need before the holidays arrive and start sharing to ask for help. We’re all more vulnerable than you might think, and we love to help others when we slow down enough.
Enjoy a safe, relaxing and imperfect holiday.