There’s no doubt that this is a Thanksgiving like no other. Many will spend Thanksgiving, if it is being spent at all, without loved ones. In a large number of cases, it will be the first holiday without someone because they died, either of Covid-19 or from other causes. It’s hard to feel thankful for these facts. We can embody gratitude for what we’ve had in the past. Or we may feel grateful for not having to be social when we’re not up to seeing anyone. However, that’s a far cry from the delight of festivities of past years.
Gratitude and its cousin, appreciation, can feel like a burden in times of fear, sadness and loss. I am all for gratitude journals, and gratitude as a tenet of living a deeply satisfying life. But we must come to this on our own terms. When Thanksgiving comes around, I find there’s a collective social desire to manufacture gratitude on top of hardship. A kind of “fake it ‘til you make it” premise. I propose that we are tender with the losses and disappointments of 2020. In telling the truth of what we have and what we don’t have any more, or what we never had, we can find compassion for ourselves in these times. And if we can be grateful for anything it is for our capacity to heal.
- Enjoy laughs. David Sedaris’s new book The Best of Me is just what we need in these times. Hearing him read it in the Audible version adds to the pleasure.
- Consider the Buddhist tenet “we are not our thoughts.” When you are having thoughts that you don’t like, or are uncomfortable, do a mental separation. Touch your hand and say, “The is me. That was a thought.” You may have to repeat it a few times.
- Listen to jazz standards or other soothing music. I can recommend Natalie Douglas, Diana Krall, or Nancy Lamott.
- Hydrate. We tend to forget to drink water in the colder weather.
- Purposefully take a day off. If you can’t do that, take short breaks, even if it means going to the bathroom alone and taking a couple of breaths before resuming your responsibilities.