Thanksgiving and the act of giving thanks, the acknowledgement that there is something to be grateful for, is something I think we could all do more often. Many Americans put forth great effort to make elaborate, or in the very least home-cooked, meals on Thanksgiving. This annual effort gives me faith in people and in love.
By nature, I think we know how to take care of each other, but somehow along the way we forget. Thanksgiving, I think, is our muscle memory of caring for each other in action. Even when it’s drenched in a gravy of guilt and obligation, most of us comply. When we don’t, it’s often because we are seriously disconnected from others, sometimes by choice.
My love language, of course, is food. Despite my hatred (yes, hatred) for roasted turkey, I partake in the annual feast time and time again with the same desire that most people have, for the connection. It hasn’t been the easiest holiday for me throughout my life. I was often one of those disconnected people, choosing to disconnect subconsciously by building up my walls of protection. Luckily for me, I’ve been trying to scale my own walls in an attempt to break out of my personal isolation. Mostly I’ve continued to grow in my ability to connect through my love of my family, friends and community. Since I was young, I knew that meant I had to show up at the table and beyond.
How we show up for others is one of the truest testaments to love. In the last 5 years I have spent a great deal of time thinking about and feeling love. I not only had to reconcile the many aspects of love after losing it, both with my father’s passing and my partner walking out. By examining it more closely I learned a lot about how to get more of it, how to grow it, and how to show up for it so I could get and give more of it. I now recognize it as something I want front-and-center in my life. Part of understanding what it’s really like to lose love is what creates the potential to notice its existence and be better at nourishing it.
I have a great deal of genuine love in my life these days. Like most love, it’s complex but it’s real and it’s mine because of my efforts and the efforts of those who choose to love me.
Making the effort to love is where we find connectedness, strength, and safety. Through this connectedness love circulates. All good things like love, peace, joy, good food and happyNiss start with making the effort, something I believe most Americans can relate to today as most embark on making their Thanksgiving meal to share with others.
Family and interpersonal drama, the kind that often goes hand-in-hand with Thanksgiving, seems to simply be part of the spectrum of personalities and energies bumping against each other as they move on their paths. Although it can feel deeply uncomfortable and anxiety-riddled, maybe bumping up against others, right there in that collision, is where we make the most progress in our personal and collective growth. Maybe that moment is where we need to pause and take a breath, observe, feel and listen. No matter how gigantic or tiny each of these collisions are, I think they can be an opportunity to grow more open and create more room for love instead of shutting off from it. Showing up for each other makes the world a better place. It’s true on Thanksgiving or just any old Wednesday.
I used to think my family was so simple. None of us stressed out about the holidays much. You came here, went there, or you didn’t. There wasn’t much drama or pressure around it. I should have questioned the ease of it or maybe understood that families are made of waves, much like the ocean. Today I think my family was just taught to avoid things that required too much vulnerability. We didn’t like taking the risk of knocking up against each other understanding that, despite our bond in our bizarre childhood story, we were all drastically different people. Did we really want to know that? Especially the opinionated bunch we are.
Avoiders by nature avoid taking a clear look at themselves. They look around instead. Our lack of a solid effort to do holidays together didn’t serve us as we grew into our adult selves and our own families. We didn’t get closer like we could have. Like we should have.
Don’t get me wrong; we are a tight knit group that will protect each other ‘til the bitter end. But our mostly masculine roots closed us off from our sensitive soft sides. I think each one of us wishes we were more connected to this. I know I could have had deeper, more meaningful connections sooner in life without those walls I built to protect myself.
The truth is, I don’t know what to do about it except that I know an effort must be made if I want more closeness, with my brothers and beyond. Sometimes the effort is not received well by the other party which makes it hard and scary. Maybe the other party is not ready; maybe their perception is different. I don’t think it matters. I think the effort, like love, doesn’t need to be reciprocal for it to be effective. But that’s hard, too. We humans are often a selfish bunch.
I am mindful of how hard making the effort can be, but I really try anyway these days. I’m equally cognizant that we make the effort with greater ease for some than others. In-between those two lines exist the complexities that make each of us who we are. The hard and soft spots that can confuse and deter others. There are plenty of variables like trust, familiarity, and values that make the process easier or harder. But, like the gravy I have finally perfected this Thanksgiving, enough failures and eventually you may just get it right.
I’ve always been pretty good about showing up for others. I’m not bragging. I feel partly it’s just the luck of my astrological chart and that I landed the role as the only girl in a family of all brothers in a society that makes anyone with a vagina the one who should be nurturing.
Some would call me the matriarch of my family; I haven’t accepted that label. I’ve done my part and I think we all have. Mostly I feel like I did what I had to do when the occasion called for it. I think I learned to understand the needs of others as a young girl, caring for the many animals I had that loved me unconditionally. I saw how much showing up for them benefitted them, and I always did for my brothers as well. I have a keen attention to the details of what’s needed for survival and thriving, on a micro and macro level.
Balance is key. I still feel like I’m standing alone in my efforts to show up for those I love, often wondering where the obvious people in my life are when I need them. I’m trying harder these days to shift my attention to those that show up for me and let go of expectations for those that don’t. I’m not perfect by any means. I just want to be better at showing up for others with a truly open heart of non-judgment.
I show up a lot for others with my food leading the way. One might argue I hide behind my food. Another might argue the food is the superhero costume that gives me the strength to be vulnerable with others. It’s probably both. We humans are highly complex creatures.
Being generous with our natural talents is showing up for others. It is an incredible method of sharing our authentic love. Whatever we can we give of ourselves… our time, skills, listening, a text, an email, a hug… is showing up, and we all need to do more of it. We all have the time.
This Blue Eye, MO, Thanksgiving is a bittersweet one for me. Bitter in that my brother won’t be at my table for reasons that are confusing to me. Sweet in that four of my fourteen nieces and nephews will be at my table, as will Jenny, the mother of three of them. Each one of us is acutely aware of the healing power showing up for each other has, despite the complexities within and outside us.
I think we will be a grateful bunch, indeed.
This year’s Thanksgiving menu is rather simple. I know that sounds like an oxymoron for me, but truly it is. I typically use lots of herbs and spices and ingredients in my food, but I like things that don’t require much work that have great reward. Don’t let the cookery world fool you into thinking lots of ingredients mean complex. That’s just a spacing issue on their pages.
This year I opted to do even less work so I can spend more time with Kianna, who is flying all the way from California to spend time with me.
Here is a taste of how I’m showing up.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all, may your table be filled with good ORGANIC food and may you be surrounded by people who you feel love for as complex as that may be.