“Living Thanksgiving”
Written by
Kathryne Arnold
November 2012
Written by
Kathryne Arnold
November 2012

I’m conflicted every year when this holiday season rolls around. The holidays are predictable, as sure as my next breath, something solid you can count on. Both Thanksgiving and Christmas/Hanukkah help to break up our routinized lives, yet they are annual routines themselves. Opposing emotions begin to well up as I look forward to times full of cheer, yet also feel a sort of dread. The financial strain can be palpable, our limited time and energy becoming even more heavily taxed. Everyone always seems flabbergasted that time has gone by so quickly, a “here we go again” feeling. You start seeing the decorations in the stores and restaurants way before you feel they should be displayed. Each year I say “Can’t they at least wait until after Thanksgiving until they put out the Christmas stuff? For Pete’s sake … talk about commercialism.” My cynicism can be right out there in the forefront, no bones about it. And everyone agrees with me, even if they are all about the holidays.

Yet I look forward every year to the buzz in the air, starting in early Fall when I can feel Thanksgiving on the horizon. We get excited about celebrating with family and friends, are afforded a change from our normal practices, a sense of upcoming excitement and lightheartedness permeates our surroundings. It is a welcome relief from work as well. Things don’t seem so stressful or serious, like we can actually take a break to dress up the office, sensing the anticipation of extra days off, the baked goodies we share with coworkers. Even if we are running around with our heads chopped off hitting the department stores, decorating the house, sending out greeting cards, at least we may get some sort of break from constantly being shacked up at work or school, or caught up in the same weekly obligations, whatever they may be.

Everyone gets it; we are all in the same boat. Even if you like your career/life work, we get a collective kind of hall pass to not be so vigilant, to pause from our nose-to-the grindstone mentality for a few days during the blessed several weeks somewhere between Thanksgiving to after New Year’s. Heck, even the boss disappears more often than usual and is preoccupied. At times I’m actually seen skipping around the office, my feet a tad lighter with expectancy. 

I’m missing the whole point of the holidays as I rush about trying to accomplish my regular daily tasks, now with seasonal obligations piled on. Then suddenly, every year like clockwork, I come to the realization that I’m not really living Thanksgiving. As sure as the smell of pumpkin pie and apple cider wafts through the air, I am inundated with the remembrance of times past, and all that I am grateful for, or should be, but somehow at times too easily forget. 

I am so thankful to have had wonderful, loving parents who provided for us four kids, that I had a loving family at all. I look back to the times when I was a child, and as an adult, when my parents were still alive, and can still feel their arms wrapped around me, the rooms alive with laughter, my mother teaching me how to bake cookies that I still treasure. This is what I have to be thankful for, each and every day of my life. I have a sturdy roof over my head, my body is still functioning pretty well; my belly is full, often too much. Not to mention that I am able to live in a country where my personal beliefs do not threaten my very existence. I am thankful that I may express my faith in a church that is allowed to stand filled with reverence, without fearing dangerous repercussions. That I can go to any store and select from a myriad of gifts to give loved ones, that weeven have choices that overwhelm us. That I have legs to walk into the stores, the strength to carry my purchases to my car, that I even have a car so I can drive in luxury to my cherished home. These are the things we take for granted, yet so many people live without.

I work with clients from all walks of life, a startling number having suffered the same heartrending tribulations and losses. It is sad and overwhelming at times to see, but a constant reminder to be grateful for all that I hold dear, for those things that have graced my life, and still do today. I can probably go on forever with my list of gratitude, each of us can, for those things big and small, as I am reminded of these simple gifts I have been given or earned. That I personally, for whatever reason, possess the traits, possibilities, blessings, etc. to lead a successful life fills me with pure appreciation and astonishment. 

So I must remember to take off the blinders when I get caught up in all the trivialities and superficiality of everyday life, that those things don’t really count, and they don’t define us as individuals or a nation. We are beyond fortunate to reside in a country where we are allowed, with a bounty of resources all around, to carve out a life we envision for ourselves. This is the season to remind myself of all that I have, not what I lack. And that is what living Thanksgiving is all about. 

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