Thanksgiving ̶ such a wonderful word that we’ve filled with dread.
Anxiety over food and house preparation, travel and awkward conversations have crowded out the intention of sharing bounty and company. As the holidays approach, many of us wince at the prospect of a few months of planning, traveling, overspending, overeating, overdrinking, oversharing and regretting it all in the frosty, bright light of Jan. 1.
Many of our stories about Thanksgiving involve turkey disasters, family eruptions and travel nightmares. We don’t seem to enjoy the holiday, but survive it.
For some it is painful enough to wish we could all just get more work done rather than enduring Thanksgiving and all the rest.
But here is something to consider as we scan back over the reels of our Thanksgivings past. Look beyond the drunken uncle and obnoxious cousin for that aunt in the corner who was always there with a smile and just wanted to know how you were. See our kids young and barely in control around the table. Watch your spouse or significant other pull together something special for the family.
Whatever special moments that got buried under all the anxiety and dread, wouldn’t you want them back? We can look to these holidays for the things that we will wish for later and really treasure them now.
Perhaps it’s the offhand nature of “thanks” that we struggle with. We say “thanks” all day without thinking about it. A better word might be gratitude.
In fact, a whole field of science has grown around the benefits of gratitude. According to the Greater Good Science Center at University of California, Berkeley, gratitude leads to these benefits:
Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure.
Higher levels of positive emotions.
More joy, optimism, and happiness.
Acting with more generosity and compassion.
Feeling less lonely and isolated.
All good things, obviously. But even better is less regret. Everything passes ̶ people, places and things. If we don’t enjoy them while they are here, that is truly our loss.
So, as we face snowstorms, flight delays and canned cranberry sauce, we can see even those as part of a greater thing. Almost everybody you see is hurrying to be in special places. We as a nation chose to pause and be with people we love. For no other reason than that.
Bring it on. Bring it all on.