A Different kind of Thankful Holiday Feeling

This Thanksgiving week feels VERY different than any other year, that’s clear.

Maybe you can’t celebrate like you normally do because you’re choosing to avoid travel and social distance to help keep your family members safe. Maybe there are loved ones missing from your dinner table this year. Maybe you just don’t feel much like celebrating. Maybe it’s some kind of combination of every messy, hard, big-feeling thing. This holiday is still for you.

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article sharing about how I do my own “Thankful Week. I’d spend the whole week of Thanksgiving being intentionally thankful, and acting on it. I gushed about the holiday, and how happy it makes me. Friends, family, and readers shared that they would join me on this “Thankful Week” endeavor. It was very warm and fuzzy and everything it feels like this year isn’t.

Truthfully, I don’t experience too much resounding thankfulness these days. This year has been incredibly hard for all of us. We’ve probably all struggled personally, relationally, financially. For me particularly, I have experienced disappointment and heartbreak countless times over. There’s been tragedy, uncertainty, and just downright bad luck. Upon hearing bad news lately my family has frequently made the joke that at this point, we wouldn’t be surprised if a live buffalo came busting through the front door. Then boom, there’s another buffalo. And he’s invited his friends, they’ll be over later. Just when you start to catch your breath from cleaning up the mess.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful for the good things I experience, the people who have shown up, the moments of bliss, and the many privileges I have. There is always, undoubtedly so much good. Just to be alive is to be living a miracle. Perspective is everything, it’s important to remember that. But one thing I’m practicing this year? It’s okay to let yourself grieve your losses, it’s okay to be disappointed, it’s okay to not be okay. To be fully human means to feel fully, to ignore the depths of hurt is to avoid the heights of joy.

You can recognize your blessings and still mourn the losses. The heaviness of this year might weigh extra heavy on you, the “What If’s” or “Should’ve Been’s” still matter. The eternal optimist in me will keep repeating the positive affirmations until I believe it, but it’s okay if she’s a little quieter than normal. We all need rest.

I’m learning to give myself the grace needed to grieve, and I hope you are too.

So, how do we celebrate this year? 3 seconds, 3 minutes, 3 hours at a time. Breathe, take it easy, ride the waves as they come.

I’m working on noticing and writing down the things that bring glimpses of light when the darkness seems thick. Just as the holidays will look different this year, our gratitude can look different, too. I’m focusing on the things that snap me out of my funk, the glimmers of comfort and hope.

I am grateful for my weighted blanket and the borderline obnoxious amount of natural light in my house and the way it makes me feel the sunlight even when it’s too early and I don’t want to get out of bed.

For When Harry Met Sally re-watches and FRIENDS re-runs. That my cool younger cousin included me on her “close friends” on Instagram. For poetry that I understand on the first read.

For the way my fiancé asks “do you need anything?” every 3 minutes when he can tell I’m getting anxious. I’ll always say no, but he’ll always keep asking.

For the grace my friends give me when I’m bad at texting them back in a timely manner.

For those moments my heart doesn’t feel like it’s beating too fast for the rest of my body. Sunsets that bring wonder. Videos of my nephew dancing to the Jonas Brothers.

For the way a certain voice in a certain song can hit that humming part of your soul that makes it seem like it’s just for you. Playlists that make you revisit a specific memory. Loud music on long drives.

For good hair days, even if no one will see it. The first smooth scoop from a fresh pint of ice cream. Joyful touchdown dances.

And for each person reading this, I’m grateful for you. You, whether I know you personally or not. In all of your authentic, complicated glory.

I’m thankful for all of the ways this year will have inevitably worked to grow me, in ways beyond what I can currently imagine. I’m thankful for the people who have helped clean up after another buffalo busts through my front door. Just as the buffalo will keep showing up, so will I.

You may not feel as hopeful as usual, but cling to the times you have felt hopeful in the past. Just the mere acknowledgment of those times proves that hope still exists – no matter how far you may feel from it. Feel your feelings, embrace your emotions, give yourself grace.

This “Thankful Week” and holiday season may be different, but remember that you’re not alone. I’m rooting for you.

Photos by Molly Slicker

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2020-11-25