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Gratitude and Pain: There is Room for Both

I had the most relaxed Thanksgiving I think I've experienced.

It was so lovely. The plan all along for us had been no agenda for either holiday. We made the decision fairly early on in the year (pre-pandemic) that this year.... we weren't going to travel. And it worked out. While the rest of the world seemed to be fretting about disrupted plans, Tim and I carried on.

Having no agenda on Thanksgiving was a huge gift. Thursday is typically my day off from teaching anyway, so it felt a lot like a normal day off. I usually munch all day, bake bread, get creative in the kitchen, and allow myself to just go with the flow. The bonus was, this Thursday I actually did get to teach. It ended up being my mom and bonus dad and my brother and his fiancee. and it was perfect. I laughed and cried and felt so happy and honored that they would let me share what I love with them and choose to spend part of their day with me.

I always get sentimental during the holidays (who am I kidding, when am I NOT sentimental?) It's a time of great sorrow and loss for many, many people, myself included. My parents told us (many years ago now) on Thanksgiving weekend that they were getting divorced. I remember that year Christmas Eve feeling very strange. A friend we know had to kick his wife out of the house this weekend for 6 months because she's an alcoholic and not managing it well. Lots of people I know have had family members die around the holidays. Car accidents seem to be more frequent.

This time of year is such a beautiful juxtaposition of sorrow and sadness and also moments of joy and life and love. Maybe that's why I love it so much. It's so much like... life! It's easy in our day to day doings to forget all the shit we've been through. To forget the pain we've experienced, the depth of the heartache, the challenge of living and navigating through divorces and breakups and bankruptcy and fights and alcoholism and whatever else life throws our way. It's easy, too, to forget how resilient we are, to be standing here. To forget that the beauty of being human is moving through pain and coming out on the other side a changed being. This time of year, that pain and the moving through it is super amplified, at least for me. Many of you know I am a person, in general, who tends to look for the positive and the good in most things. I've had a gratitude practice for over a year now, where I write down at least 5 things I am grateful for, no matter what. In some ways, this can make Thanksgiving like any other day... it is also a day that can amplify gratitude x10 for me. To find gratefulness in the midst of challenge, in the midst of heartache, in the midst of failure... is one of the best gifts I have given myself. The holiday season, we typically come together with family and bring all our old triggers and memories and trauma and to find gratitude in all of that, in spite of that... what a gift. This year, many of us got to do that solo or with a very small, select group of people. I don't know about you all, but, for me, being able to sit with my emotions without a lot of people around gave me the space and time to process what I needed to and also to fully enjoy myself. I love being with family, 1,000%. And- space was what was needed this year. Maybe space, in general, is what the world is asking of us this year. The world, the earth, is asking us to create space in our lives for all the things we haven't made space for, which includes our trauma, our grief... our pain. That also means the pain of what it meant for some of us to NOT be with family. Space can be scary and unknown and foreign. It can feel like we're stepping into a pool of dark water not knowing where the bottom may lie. It asks us to trust. Trust that we are capable, and also to trust that space is actually what is needed. I don't know about you, but I've spent a good majority of the last few years with little thought to how to create space for my pain. This year, the space presented itself. And it's allowed me to see myself in all the good, bad, ugly, wild wonderfulness that I am. It's given me a deeper trust in myself and that I know what is best for me. It's been a year of deep, deep healing. And I know not just for me... for many of us. It took a pandemic to make that happen, and despite all the other challenges that brought to me, and to our world, right now in this moment, I'm so utterly grateful. I'm grateful I keep getting pushed to make space. I'm grateful I keep getting pushed towards healing. Because right now in our world, that is what is so, so needed. So, my friends, I'd encourage you to ask yourself this question: What have you done or not done with the space given to you/forced up on you this year (or even just this holiday season)? And, bonus question: If you haven't done anything or don't like what you've done... what would you like to do with it? What could you do with the space in front of you that could lead to deep gratitude? Sit with that question this week. Leaning into space and gratitude with you all,


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