Something weird happened around Thanksgiving.
I didn’t go home—Thanksgiving has never really been a star holiday in our house seeing as none of the people in our household get particularly amped about traditional thanksgiving food—so celebrating with family was never considered mandatory.
In fact, celebration at all was not considered mandatory, because I just don’t really ever recall that happening.
I don’t ever really recall spending time with family around the holidays and having my insides fill up with the sentiment that strip-mall radio tunes advertise as not only free, but as our right to feel around this time.
Thanksgiving is a day sanctioned for thanks. Granted, we can argue about the historical implementation of the holiday and we can discuss the current cultural atmosphere surrounding this day and time of year in general and we can come up with one thousand intended purposes of the holiday season.
But let’s just say—for the sake of simplicity—that the day of Thanksgiving is a day about feeling thanks. And I’m not talking about the act of reciting, “I am thankful,” for that is not the same thing.
I would say the majority of times I have said, “Thank you,” so something, I haven’t actually meant it. I don’t mean that I haven’t been grateful, but those words did not stem from the actual feeling of thankfulness inside of me—they stemmed from a culturally programmed place inside of me that poked at me and let me know: Hey, it’s time to mention the thank you words now, because otherwise people will think you are rude.
I remember sitting around the Thanksgiving table growing up, with a plate half loaded with green bean salad, and feeling intense anxiety listening to the rounds of thanks going around the table. I felt anxiety because I knew when the time got to me, I would say a bunch of things that I was grateful for, but it would all be a lie.
And it’s not necessarily that I disagreed with what I was saying—it’s not like I didn’t love my parents and my friends and my house and the ability to feed myself—it’s that my words were not springing forth from my heart, they were springing forth from the expectation that I say them.
So I found myself this Thanksgiving with friends. I found myself with company who I experience the feeling of thankfulness for 60 times a day (and then some). There was no expectation that I perform the feeling of thankfulness for people, so I didn’t. I simply felt what I felt on that day, and acknowledged when gratitude entered my system.
But that doesn’t shake the absolutely just…weird feeling I get around the holidays.
It’s the pictures of the couples nook-ing together around fireplaces surprising each other with engagement rings, and full families sitting around an enchanted dinner table, and people in turtlenecks somehow managing to enjoy a 28 degree snowfall.
I’ve just never felt any of that.
I’ve always felt like the holidays were a time where cheese-ball sentimentality has been shoved down my throat and the throats of people around me, because let me tell you—I went to Whole Foods yesterday, and it felt like holiday. There was a giddy-up to the place that left me kind of just feeling like I was in the way of the scurry.
I saw a lot of people gathering groceries, gathering tempers, gathering people, gathering composure, but I didn’t see a lot of love. I didn’t see a lot of thanks. I didn’t see a lot of joy.
I saw…stress. To me, stress feels quick moving. It feels very fast-paced. It feels hurried–it feels hurried in the time of year when it’s time to just slow down.
The days are slowing down, the night is slowing down, the bears are slowing down, the trees are slowing down. Everything is slowing down.
Except for us.
So I’m thinking that maybe other people feel a little alienated as well.
I do not want to perform my holidays. I do not want to show up places and put on the niceties for so-and-so, and stay away from this topic with whats-her-face, and make sure to ask bladibla about his trip to Guam.
I want to give myself time to connect with my own feelings of love and thanks and joy and let myself express them however they feel expressive.
I’m sure some people approach their holidays with only those things running through their systems. That is not something I aim to emulate or learn from, I only want to be myself, I just want to stay present and vigilant in my self-observation.
Because I have a feeling that this time of year is ripe with possibility for growth and expansion and renewal. I have a feeling that these are potent times and that I am the one who will find thanks and love and joy, and not because America wants me to find that and not because other people around me want me to find that—I will connect with this because that is how I want to spend my time here in this body: feeling love and thanks and joy.
And if there is one time of year that can really make me reevaluate my relationship with those things inside of me and create a mirror so that I may hold myself accountable for where I am and am not giving thanks, connecting with love and feeling joy, then I have nothing bad to say, because that opportunity sounds like the gift.
And if you really came up to me and asked, What do you want for Christmas this year, Brentan? I would have to say, I want to have a good relationship with myself.
So ultimately, the way I experience the holidays is the gift I was asking for, and the opportunity is currently upon me to accept it.
This is truly one of those, Everything is exactly right exactly the way it is, moments, and so I will leave it at that.
When we went back out to the parking lot of the Whole Foods, we saw three custom license plates. They read: hurt, nrvous 1, elte grp.
Somehow this seemed fitting.
Want 15 free additional reads weekly, just our best?
Editor: Bryonie Wise