Monday, November 25, 2019

Thanksgiving, 2019

“Well my life is filled with songs, but I just could not get along without my friends”
-Larry Norman, “Song for a Small Circle of Friends”

    We had dinner with a couple of our best friends on Saturday; it had been too long since we’d seen them. The four of us have been under some great stresses lately; some unexpected, some inevitable yet magnified by their timing. We gradually unwound our stories, some hurts and joys and concerns with each other as only one can with someone you’ve got ‘history’ with. Who loves you, anyways and always.
     I’ve had some pretty great friend times, lately. I cannot express how much these friendships bring me peace. I am thankful.
     I love my family. We are quite a unit, redefining ‘normal’ on a daily basis. The courage, resilience, and strength of those closest to me bring me peace. I am thankful.
     I enjoy a secure workplace, a great home, working transportation, comfort, and freedom from want. I am thankful.

    As it was when President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, there are too many things clamoring to divide us - even the nature of the origin of the holiday itself - to rend the sentiment and meaning of setting aside this day to reflect. Lincoln realized (or I’m saying it?) that the nation needed to change, if only for a day, to widen the focus to gratitude, even in the midst of war.
     Others have said that Life is about loss, and that certainly becomes an inevitable aspect of growing older. One can’t help but realize and come to terms with it. It also means that a present and shrinking personal future make events, seeing friends and family, more important, more eventful. Warren Zevon’s advice about moving forward with a terminal diagnosis was “Enjoy every sandwich.” He was not kidding.

     My hope for this Thanksgiving is that we can, perhaps, be mindful of not only those immediately around us, but to seek to make better connections with our wider circles. I often sit in a cafeteria or break room with several people, all silently staring at their phones rather than connecting over a meal. My workplace offers ‘mindfulness sessions’; while appreciated, it feels awkward enough that I have not attended. I’ve tried to be more mindful, lately, to see and encourage others informally, rather than just be silent except to be critical. I see it as one of the values I can bring to my younger (and they are all younger now) co-workers, rather than just talk about how much better it used to be.  I can’t solve the breakdown of our social discourse and current rancor, but I can do better in my day to day.

    I saw a sweatshirt recently that said “I don’t talk to strangers – so introduce yourself!” I don’t know if I could wear it, but I’d like to think that I could; maybe not every day. We need more safe spaces beyond our growing isolation to be together; to demonstrate our better selves to each other.

    I may have said this before, but I think that Thanksgiving should preclude Christmas. Be grateful, then giving. That this could perhaps even be woven into daily practice. Imagine.