Every Thanksgiving that I can remember from birth-17 years old were spent in York Harbor, ME at my grandmother’s house with various family members in attendance, learning how to make gravy from the Turkey juice, sitting at the kid’s table, feeding the food I didn’t want to the giant goldfish in my grandmother’s winter fish tank. My first Thanksgiving not in this familiar setting was just after I turned 18, I sat on a beach on the coast of Kenya, 8 hours into my 24-hour solo experience, slicing into a fresh Mango at sunset. And in the years to come, after that deeply reflective, profoundly different holiday experience, I have found myself at tables with strangers, foreign tongues, new holiday traditions, old familiar family, newly created family, lovers, loneliness, warmth, abundance, non-tradition, and constant evolution. In the past 12 years, I have actually spent this holiday differently each year. As a lover of tradition and a creature of habit, this is kind of bizarre.
There’s a feeling of melancholy that this time of year holds for me. And despite my greatest efforts to the contrary, I find that it has arrived again this year. But, this year, unlike in the past where I’ve either resisted or swam in the melancholy, I am just watching it. I am seeing that in many ways this feeling is a pattern. It’s a place that’s familiar for me to go. It is the cliff outside my grandmother’s old home on the coast of Maine. It’s that perch that I know every crevasse of and can sit and listen to the ocean and it’s like I’ve never left.
But, the thing is, I have left. I have learned. I have uncovered the ability within myself to be with something without identifying with it. Without being it. And in that, I am beginning to shed the ties that those patterns have kept me tethered with.
There’s always been a strong sense of loneliness, of displacement, entangled with this melancholy. And frankly, some years that has been totally justified. There were a few rough years there with my ex, full of loneliness and bracing for her drunken outrages. And there was sometimes the sense of being an orphan, feeling disconnected from my family and without a safe, loving community. But in the past few years, a shift has taken place. And I’ve been participating in it without fully opening my awareness and consciousness to it, to the ways it is different and nourishing. So, here in this coffee shop, miles away from friends and family, immersing myself in a new family, exploring traditions crafted by others, I am beginning to let sink in a new way of being with patterns. And in that, I’m allowing for gratitude for what is, in this moment. And so in the tradition of Thanksgiving, I offer up a pie slice of what I am grateful for today, that I can actually allow sink and that I know is there beneath whatever emotions are churning on the surface.
My family. I am grateful that even though I am not with them right now, I want to be. My friends, for the years that we spent together (and probably will continue to in different manifestations) crafting a version of this holiday that finally made it resonate with my soul. My lover’s family who have opened their doors to me, welcoming me into their traditions. My love, herself, for sharing in this adventure of opening and deepening and revealing and loving in a way that feels nurturing and unconditional to a degree I never believed possible. Solitude. I am grateful that I can take this time for myself, to be tender with myself, to reflect and release and honor all that arises for me at this time, and move through it into something new. The tenderness to allow for old patterns and beliefs to die away, making room for something new. To take the cynicism I have long held around this holiday and transmute it into gratitude for what is in this moment. I am grateful for family, those we’re born into and those we create and the sometimes-vast differences between them.
Gratitude for what we’re all learning here, the processes we are engaged in, the healing and growth we are moving through together, the tender places in our hearts we are learning to let others see, the opening that we are allowing for and the practice of remaining in that openness for a split second beyond what feels comfortable, to allow a little more light into the darkness, a little more compassion for the raw places in all of us.
And today in particular, I am grateful for my grandmother, for the family and traditions that she created. I am grateful that even though I wandered some years, I always knew that there was a place for me at her Thanksgiving table, a glass of ginger ale by my plate.