What was missing from this year’s Thanksgiving at your place?
I’m sure some of us missed people who weren’t with us this year. Maybe a pet that had passed away. Or a certain routine or recipe that’s long been a part of your traditions that didn’t quite happen the same way it did in year’s past.
I thought of a few things: having all the family gathered in one place at one time, chocolate pie (I let my daughter take the last piece– yes, there is such a thing as a father martyr), watching a full day of football, nap on the couch, hanging out in a bar on Wednesday and seeing old friends, playing touch football and the much-celebrated turkey trot. Didn’t get any of those in this year? Did you?
I can live with those misses more easily than these: missing out on what was actually there the whole time. I missed having more engaged interactions with my mom and dad (both 92 and slowing down). It’s more difficult now to communicate with them, but when I talked to some friends who no longer had their parents with them this year, I realized difficult does not mean impossible. Same with the rest of my family– they were all there at some point, but did I have a connected, present and personal moment with each of them? I’d say I missed as many as I made.
So much of being with family is like the dinner feast at Thanksgiving. So much food, so little time.
We enjoy the splurge but it becomes overwhelming and we lose some of the flavor of it all. And it’s not just about being grateful for what we have– too often we never even get to the point of knowing what we have. Being present for what we have. Understanding what we have. It’s like putting the leftovers away after dinner and realzing the cranberry relish got lost behind the green bean casserole and never got touched.
And when we forget that it’s the same way with family, we really miss out. We lose what we have by freely giving away the time we spend with them. We get caught up in the logistics of family (who’s gotta be where, who’s gotta behave in a certain way, who’s gotta make sure they say or don’t say something) that even being with our most beloved can’t satiate our need for companionship. We gossip without empathy, we sit with them without enjoying the comfort of their company, we relive the traumas of the past and anticipate the cringes of the future. We swing– and miss– at the sweet spot of just being and appreciating. And by we, I mean me.
That’s the beauty of living the mulligan though. There’s always today to try again. In fact, there’s only today.