An Honest Thanksgiving

Tender, juicy roast turkey - the main attracti...

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It will be Thanksgiving in just a few days. While we all are looking forward to moist turkey and my husband’s famous stuffing made with mushrooms and apples, raisins and water chestnuts, I have a small request. Please be kind and sensitive to one another. I don’t worry about what things will taste like; I know they will all be delicious. The only thing I worry about, quite honestly, is drama. Holidays can bring up all sorts of feelings: loss, bereavement, jealousy, resentment, sadness, and despair. Old wounds start to feel new, grievances and perceived injustices start to bubble to the surface. Before we dig in to the mashed potatoes my mother made (cough, cough, bought from a restaurant), and cranberry sauce let us think about each other first. During dessert let us try to rejoice in each others’ company instead of waiting for the air to get thick with tension as dense as brown gravy.

This year, for the first year I have actually mentioned to several members of the family that I am asking for a “drama-free” Thanksgiving. I have chronic pain, my husband has been feeling sad because of  lack of work, please try to remember this.  Work  alongside us, tell us things will be alright eventually. Life is not perfect but Thanksgiving should be about what we are grateful for, not what we lack.

I don’t want to hear sullen complaints about the food or the appetizers and I’m happy to cook and clean, taste, stir, serve and clean-up. I will not be happy with arguments, whispered secrets said too loudly and explosive outbursts. Please just leave your coats and any agendas at the door and please, please think before you speak. Be courteous to everyone else. Don’t brag, insult, or be insensitive to other people’s needs.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my family and friends. May it be peaceful, filled with great warmth, love, gratitude and great food. I am thankful for all of you.  Now, let us eat.

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“Because I Am”

Black balloons

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Tonight I am having a pity party for one; I am the guest of honor. You are welcome to join me but motivational speeches and happy clichés are not allowed. I’ve learned that the sun will probably not come out tomorrow, it will be cold, dark and windy just like the last few weeks. Some of my friends with chronic illnesses seem to be feeling the same way: Is it the weather?  Seasonal Affective Disorder? Pain and unhappiness? Other friends that don’t have chronic illnesses are also fed up and feeling down. I’m wallowing in self-pity and I am allowing myself to do so. Wallowing and venting are the main attractions in my self-imposed symposium.

1) Both my husband and I have been very discouraged because of the job market; he has been unemployed for a long time. He is always the best candidate, the one they love, the one they want. We get excited, euphoric even, and then the final news hits us like a tsunami: “We would love to have him but there is no funding approved for this job now” or “There’s a hiring freeze that just  started.” We plummet, like rapidly deflating black balloons.

2) I need to protect myself from future painful disappointments. While, in the past, I have tried to feel positive and hopeful,  I am now keeping my defenses up because it is too damn painful to feel excited and then let down over and over again.I am tired of feeling bad and blue and not having anything to look forward to. Yes, I have tried to be positive, I count my blessings and I list the things that I am grateful for: nothing works. A good friend of mine told me she was depressed last week and I asked her “why?”  “Because I am” she said. I now understand that completely.

4) Physically, I have no energy. I’ve been over-eating and sleeping way too much these past two weeks. I’m trying to sleep straight through to May but the chances of that are pretty slim. I stopped taking the autoimmune drug that was helping my energy level because it made my legs ache continuously and I wanted to rid myself of extra pain. This is what happens when I try to rid myself of drugs and toxins in my body. I end up asleep. I made the wrong decision.

5) The holiday season is not joyful for me. After my father died, the holiday spirit died with him. We go through the motions for the children. I’ve accepted this but each year after his birthday in November things start to go downhill fast, straight through to New Year’s Eve, the night he passed away. Why can’t I prepare myself? Why is it only familiar when it is happening again? Think of it as a long, a really long extended period of situational depression.

6) I’m having a default Thanksgiving in my house this year. My mom broke her wrist and I just couldn’t let her have it in her house. She is also depressed because of her broken bone and pain and having to be dependent on others, this affects me too. I feel bad for her. I can’t begin to talk about my self-involved sister, there is too much to say and at the same time, nothing to say. Thanksgiving is in one week, I have nothing prepared and I am both overwhelmed and underwhelmed.  I will rally for the holidays because I have to; it’s a necessity not a choice.

Let me tell you directly what I want:  Accept how I feel and allow me to have the emotions I do have. Don’t analyze, debate or criticize me. Try active listening. Help out during Thanksgiving and be kind to one another. I would truly be grateful if you could do just that.