It’s Monday of Thanksgiving week. We’re in town, so I went about my usual Monday errands.
But the world is in a different space than I. The grocery store was full of people, their shopping baskets brimming with pre-Thanksgiving staples, those non-perishables that you buy a few days before the big Whole Foods shopping trip.
We are not celebrating this year. Rick died eight months ago, and Megan is off in Europe traveling for the year. I’m trying to ignore the festivities. But the world does go on, doesn’t it?
My favorite once-a-year Thanksgiving first course is shrimp cocktail. Those big fat shrimp in a very spicy cocktail sauce always said “Thanksgiving” to me. So when a woman asked the butcher at Safeway, “May I have some shrimp, please?” my stomach clenched and I felt one of those waves of tears and anguish surge from deep within. I couldn’t get out of that store fast enough.
I came home, unpacked my enchilada ingredients and sat down to do a meditation. I wanted to clear out the grief and loss energy that I had accumulated while walking the aisles of Safeway.
I guess I didn’t dig deep enough because, that afternoon in the dentist’s chair, I almost came apart again. Of course, it’s natural to ask people what they are doing for the holiday – I always did it myself.
It never occurred to me that someone wouldn’t be celebrating Thanksgiving. I’m pretty sensitive in the weeks leading up to Christmas because I know lots of people don’t “do” that day. But Thanksgiving? I didn’t prepare myself for the impact of being asked what I had planned for the week. The hygienist, the dentist, the cashier, a second dentist who just stopped in to say hi, and, as I was walking (running?) out the door, the receptionist called out after me, “Have a great holiday.” All well-intentioned, sensitive people. But wow – it devastated me. I went home, grabbed the dog, and went for a walk around the lake to clear my head. I cried as I walked. I went down into the depths of “poor me” and wallowed as I walked.
I’m one that always wanted to host the big family gathering of 20. I dreamed that someday, between children and grandchildren and friends of children and grandchildren, I’d have enough family to do that. Even in the years that there were only four of us around the table, my story was that this was temporary and soon our ranks would swell. But the family has dwindled, and I need to put that dream aside. I cried and grieved not only the loss of Rick, but the loss of the story around the big multi-generational family gathering. Next year, when Megan is home, it will be only three around the table. Not exactly 20.
Grieving takes many shapes. And it has many layers. Today I cried about me and all my stories that are untrue. I have to let them go and accept what is. As Byron Katie says, “Who would you be without the story?”
Who would I be without the story that Thanksgiving is about a large family gathering? Who would I be without the story that it isn’t Thanksgiving if one of us is permanently missing? Who would I be without the story of turkey and stuffing and pies?
I thought about gratitude. Could I find at least some little thing to be grateful for? It took longer than I ever would have imagined getting to the place of saying, “Yes, I have room in my heart today for more than just grief.”
I have a daughter to love. I have a husband who adores me. I have friends to have a cup of tea with and pottery to keep my hands occupied. I have a home. I have a dog. I have freedom. I have food. I have love. I have so very much to be grateful for.
And who would I be without the story?
I’d be peaceful and grateful and in love with those people and things that love me.
Yes, I am truly blessed.