I don’t know about you, but when it comes to Thanksgiving it’s incredibly difficult to know what to do with “what was” and “what will be” when betrayal is dangling in the mix. Forcing a smile with Conner’s family was really tough. Pretending with my own family killed me. I felt miserable and scared inside so no matter what I did or said, I felt fake. How do you make it through a holiday with extended family that you don’t necessarily want to share the painful details of your relationship with, but also don’t want to walk around with a mask on all day?
As I looked around, it seemed like everyone else was celebrating. I saw smiles, hugs, warm wishes, new babies, and of course a family member or two that I struggled to give extra grace to. In the thick of it all, I ended up feeling numb. I didn’t know how to bring my heart and honesty to a table, full of sweet potatoes, turkey, cranberries, and stuffing.
I was the one that was stuffing. But can you blame me?
I give myself a lot of grace for back then as it was truly the best I could do to make it through that day. So how did I do it?
- I focused on kids under ten and adults over 70
- I got busy in the kitchen
- I threw a ball and wrestled with the dog
- I helped set the table
- I conveniently took the kids and furry animals on a walk around the block
- I played Yahtzee, Bingo, or cards
- I went outside, got some fresh air and took deep breaths
- I called my best friend, wished her a happy Thanksgiving, and felt some relief knowing she knew
I focused on things that I loved to do. I did whatever I needed to pace myself throughout the day. I gave myself permission to unplug from the pain. I didn’t need to change or explain. I didn’t need to fake it or be “nice” to Conner. I wasn’t mean, but I didn’t need to guilt myself into being different with him just because it was a holiday. Being authentic and honest with myself was far from a consolation prize. It was my way of being what I learned to value deeply.
It’s okay to be right where you are. You don’t have to pretend, but you don’t have to spill your guts either. Maybe, just like me, you’ll make a plan before you go and have a list of things you can do to take care of yourself throughout the day. You might even try to focus on the things you’re grateful for. Things that momentarily lighten your load, make you smile, or distract you. Give yourself permission to pause for those tiny moments of gratitude throughout the day.
I see you. I understand. I’ve walked a similar path and I’m grateful to walk this road with you.