22 November 2018

Thanksgiving ramblings

This isn't your usual post about travels and hikes and pups.  This is just Jen rambling.  Skip it if its not your cup o' tea.

I despise Thanksgiving.  (Blasphemy!!!)  Oh, I'm totally all about expressing everything for which I'm thankful, but not on a timeline dictated by "the man", in a way encouraged by corporate America.

Before you accuse me of being a pious libtard, let me tell you a story.

Right after my cancer diagnosis, I received a package from a professional acquaintance.  In it was a "Gratitude Journal" and a note explaining that she had been through her share of medical issues and she found that just a little bit of gratitude every day helped her heal.  To be honest, my first thought was "OK, crazy court reporter lady - the doctors are cutting off my boobs next week, then they are going to poison me with chemo, and after all that, I still might die.  WTF do you expect me to write in some dumb gratitude journal?"  But, I respect the hell out of this crazy court reporter lady, so I tried it. 

At first, I filled up an entire page each day.  Then treatment got harder and there were days I struggled with finding just one thing for which I was grateful.  One day I actually wrote "Doug ordered more dog poop bags from Amazon".  (Because, when a dog poops at 5 am, you are really grateful when the poop bag dispenser isn't empty.)

Over time, this simple little task transformed from annoying chore to daily meditation.  I admit I don't write it down anymore, but every single day I take time to think about some of the things for which I am grateful.  More importantly, I now go one step further and tell people (especially Doug) when I'm thankful for something they've done. 

So that's why this whole forced Thanksgiving thing just irks the shit out of me.  My Facebook feed today is filled with people declaring all of the things for which they are thankful.  That's great - but why just once a year on a made-up holiday?  Were you not thankful for those things two months ago?  Then why did it take a corporate-America holiday to make you express your gratitude? 

Lest you think I'm just a crotchety old woman yelling "get off my lawn!!", let me tell you a story.

Last summer, I went to a yoga festival in Canada, where I attended a life-changing meditation seminar with Gina Caputo, a/k/a Yogi on the Loose.  Gina talked in depth about the Buddhist principles of attachment and reaction.  I won't bore you with an entire lecture, but the brief idea here is that living in the moment (and being grateful for every moment) requires us to acknowledge those things to which we have an attachment, and also to our reaction when that attachment is either realized or not.  Gina's example was that when she arrived in Canada the day before, she was starving, so she set out for some lunch.  She saw a crepe shop and she desired crepes more than anything she had ever desired before, because, you know, hangry.  She was attached to the idea of the perfect crepe, ending her hunger, fluffy and dripping with yummy fillings.  But the line was really long, and after waiting 20 minutes, when it was her turn to order, the server told her it would be another 20 minutes before she had her crepes.  Her reaction was to be angry at the crepe shop for not hiring more people, be pissed off about all the people in line ahead of her ordering all the crepes, etc. etc.  The idea of living in the moment means you stop and figure out what it was to which you were attached, which causes a reaction when you either get it or you don't.  By letting go of her attachment to the perfect crepe, served immediately, she could choose to either live in the moment of waiting for the crepe, or finding something else to satisfy her hunger. 

But this isn't about crepes, is it?  Nope, its about Thanksgiving (and other holidays, but that's for another post).  In that seminar, what immediately came to my mind was the whole holiday thing.  Haven't we all been conditioned to have an attachment to the perfect holiday?  There's the "perfect" turkey/ham/stuffing/pie.  There's the "perfect" tree, wreath, little white lights.  The "perfect" bottle of wine, gifts, and family gathering (where everyone is nice to each other and there is no crazy racist uncle).  We become attached to those images, those standards, and when reality doesn't live up to that image, we react.  That reaction may manifest as disappointment, or anger, or blame.  So why even have that attachment to begin with?  From where does it come?  What purpose does it serve?  Why not cook a big turkey some other day?  Why not express your love and gratitude on a random Tuesday in March (or every day, for that matter)?  Why not get together with family on January 8th .... just because?

Don't get me wrong - I'm not dissing anyone who cooked a turkey today.  I'm just telling you why I didn't.  Maybe I'll cook one next week; maybe I won't.  The idea is that I am grateful for so many things and so many people, that I will not wait 364 days to express it. 

Anyway, back to crazy court reporter lady and her gratitude journal.  Turns out we became more than professional acquaintances after that, and I now count her as one of my few trusted friends - one of those people I know I could turn to in any situation.  She was spot-on with her nudge to me to identify something EVERY SINGLE DAY about which I am grateful.  And for that, I am grateful.