©11-23-2010 by Donna Cunningham, MSW
It’s 3:00 and 4:00 AM, two days before Thanksgiving. Last night, I decided to do something to make Thanksgiving a better place for my neighbor/friend Martha and I. Neither of us have family to be with on the day.
What scraggly little bit of family I have is more than a thousand miles away in physical distance and 50 years away in emotional distance. Recently, on a day dedicated to forgiving oneself (Global Forgiveness Day, some of you may remember), I came to the painful epiphany that all that holds my only sister and I together is my survivor guilt.
Neighbor Martha has just emailed her sister to say she won’t come for the holidays anymore because the sister has grown increasingly irascible and abusive with age. Oddly enough, both Martha’s sister and mine are named for Diana, goddess of the Moon.
And it’s the Moon that seems to be setting me off tonight. I stare out my 8th floor picture window in the 3:00 AM stillness at an ivory moon that’s still quite full and seems close enough to touch. I’ve been weeping for the best part—no the worst part—of an hour with a sense of being quite alone in the world.
No, please, this is not some riff about how much life sucks for poor old me. I would never do that to you. I happen to LOVE my life much of the time. I could not be more grateful for all of the blessings and gifts God has given me. I frequently make a heart-felt gratitude list as a spiritual practice.
Just not tonight.
Tonight is one of those dark holes of grieving for the lack of family. And the lack of a partner to share all that bounty of blessings. Grieving honestly for What Is Not.
And I know that, as alone as I feel, I am certainly not alone in feeling alone. You’re out there, I know. If public officials were being REAL, they would declare this Thursday a national day of mourning for all we’ve collectively lost in this devastating year of 2010.
The question I am wrestling with, as I stare at the big, ivory Moon is this. How do we celebrate Thanksgiving this year with integrity?
Do we give thanks with our fingers crossed? Do we fake gratitude when it really is not in us to do anything but mourn for the things that no longer are? Do we B.S. our Creator while in our heart of hearts we wonder whether the Old Dude has forsaken us?
I don’t know about your Old Dude, but mine doesn’t care for hypocrites. Mine likes it better when I’m real about being sad or angry. Or when I’m in grief, which so many, many people are. Real grief tops fake thankfulness any time, because that’s when the real communication with the Divine begins. The real dialogue. And the real solace.
Anyway, before you go feeling all sorry for me, let me just tell you my Thanksgiving plans. Martha and I decided not to go traditional with the meal—no turkey, no stuffing, no nasty-tasting cranberry mold that you have to choke down a spoonful of so not to insult your hostess.
(Vegans and PITA members, skip this part.) Martha and I live in subsidized senior housing, and neither of us is what anyone would call upscale. But we’re going to the most upscale butcher in this upscale neighborhood and pick out the best, most upscale steak in the place. Martha will cook it instead of me—nobody with an Aries Moon ought to be trusted with a piece of meat that good.
And we’ll have baked potato with sour cream and chives, and everything else that goes with a top-notch steak dinner. Wine—Pinot Grigio would suit both of us just fine. And something truly reprehensible for dessert—cake at $5 a slice, maybe.
And we’ll probably watch a great movie on Pay Per View. (Julie/Julia tops my list, just to carry on with the gourmet theme.) And sure, by that time, we’ll probably find a few blessings to count, but it’s optional.
Later in the weekend, I’ve been invited to a Thanksgiving dinner by a group of wonderful young people. (Well, you know you’re getting older when your idea of a group of young people doesn’t include anyone under 28.)
They’re all enthusiastic students of a variety of metaphysical subjects, in that heady phase of just discovering and loving it all. They put me back in touch with how very fortunate we are to have encountered Spirit in this way.
They all have food stipulations, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out to be a vegan to raw menu complete with tofurky, but the companionship is a delight.
And by the time we go around the table for that traditional round of telling what we’re grateful for, I’ll probably be back on good enough terms with the Old Dude to have a list of my own to share.
What about you, Readers? How are you dealing with Thanksgiving? If you feel like it, share your thoughts—or laments–in the comment section.