I’ve been thinking a lot about Thanksgiving. It’s one of my favorite holidays, with all the comfort food and none of the stress of buying gifts. That said, this year is different. I won’t have a full table of kids and significant others. I won’t have to bring the extra chairs up from the basement. Whatever I cook will likely be overkill, leftovers for a week. Like many other Americans I will be zooming with family members, instead of hugging them.
Don’t get me wrong – there are things I’m grateful for, even though this is the worst year ever. I’m thankful that my dad, who has wonky lungs, has managed to keep them clear – and that my mom is also healthy. I’m thankful that my own wonky lungs (thanks Dad) haven’t been overburdened by catching COVID. I’m thankful that my kids, ¾ of whom caught the virus in March, had mild cases. I’m thankful for my husband, who gives me something and someone to look forward to daily when every day feels like Groundhog Day. I’m thankful for publishing a book in 2020 that hit #1 on the NYT list; for the agent and publishing team that worked like crazy to get it there; for the readers who have shared with me how special my words made them feel in a time when they needed to hear them most. I’m thankful for everyone who came out to vote, and for the outcome of the election. I’m thankful for first responders and medical professionals. I’m thankful for my home and my job and the simple fact that I don’t have to worry daily about losing either one. I’m thankful that I have dogs; that I live in the country where I can (and do) walk miles and miles every day. I’m thankful for wine and for chocolate chip cookies and cinnamon tea. I’m thankful for friends that check in on me daily, weekly, monthly, even when we have very little news to report, because that’s what friends do. I’m thankful for artists and writers and filmmakers and actors who have provided me with means of escape for the past nine months; and who have continued to think outside the box to create entertainment in spite of the pandemic.
That said, there are things I am not thankful for. This weekend, my husband and I drove to an outdoor farmer’s market (one that requires masks and social distancing) and promptly turned around and drove home without ever getting out of the car, because it was so crowded it felt unsafe. I find that I’m angry a lot, and when I’m not angry I feel hopeless or sad (and I am a generally cheerful person, so this is A LOT for me). I am furious about rising numbers of cases and how selfish some Americans seems to be, prioritizing their “personal right” to not wear a mask over keeping other people healthy. (DO not get me started on “Do unto others as you’d have others do unto you.”) I am angry about a president who will not concede an election that all evidence, recounts, and judges admit he lost – which means the new administration cannot hit the ground running (and if you do not feel this way, do not bother to respond to this and tell me I’m wrong, or that you are no longer reading my books, because frankly I have no more f***s to give). I am not looking forward to the moment I take out my Christmas decorations and have a good cry because my son and son-in-law’s stockings will not be hung on my mantle this year; my other kids will only be joining us because they live on the same coast and can quarantine themselves for two weeks out of safety for my wonky lungs. I am devastated by the decay of theater, which – without a governmental bailout – will likely mean that many venues will close by the time we are ready to use them again. I miss hearing Broadway singers sing live. I miss – GOD, how I miss – travel. I even miss the grocery store. I’ve watched the landscape in my small town change – stores going out of business, restaurants shuttering – and know the same is happening in communities around the globe. I hate that there are friends and family I will not have hugged in over a year by the time it’s safe enough to do so.
The thing is this, when I sit down to my Thanksgiving dinner this year, all of these emotions are going to be inside me. There will be moments I am grateful for and moments I am angry about sitting side by side, bleeding into each other like the proverbial gravy and cranberry sauce.
And that’s okay.
This year isn’t like any other; it’s a hot mess. It stands to reason our emotions shouldn’t be neatly compartmentalized either. Grieving and gratitude can co-exist. If you are sitting alone at your table this year, pinning a bright smile on your face and pretending EVERYTHING IS FINE EVERYTHING IS OK you’re probably lying to yourself. If you’re sobbing into your mashed potatoes, that might feel more honest. But most likely, your holiday (and mine) will be a combination of both.
I’m going to try to balance them out. When I’m feeling like I’m about to break down, I’m going to take a breath and try to remember something that, in the moment, is making me happy. (Stuffing. Stuffing makes EVERYONE happy.) And when I am enjoying myself I’m going to take a breath and remember the people I can’t be with this year.
Maybe this year isn’t just about giving thanks. Maybe it’s also about giving ourselves a break, because we could all use one.
I wish all of you a Thanksgiving that is safe, healthy, and whatever else you need it to be in the moment.
PS: Black Friday sales pitch for those of you thinking ahead for holiday shopping: I signed copies of The Book of Two Ways for Barnes & Noble’s Black Friday in-store promotion. Whether you’re looking for a unique gift for that special reader in your life or just want to treat yourself, you can find my book and more at your local B&N. B&N offers curbside pickup that is free, fast and stress-free! Oh, and B&N has a limited quantity of signed editions of The Book of Two Ways available online right now
. Happy shopping!