I love Thanksgiving!
The crisp air and brilliant autumn colors. The savory turkey smells tinged with the sweetness of pumpkin and spice. The excitement of having a day with space to reflect on our blessings.
On a typical Thanksgiving at our house, we’d chat about current events, talk about what the kids are up to, and how Aunt Sandy’s doing. Between sips of hot cider and setting the table, we’d all jot-down a few things we’re thankful for to be shared after dinner.
Then, we’d continue to chat some more about politics, how skeet shooting went that morning, and everyone’s health – all between bites of turkey, talk of football, and second helpings.
In many homes, Thanksgiving isn’t the same these days.
Divisiveness in our politics and individual perspectives has shifted how many of us now view this holiday, our time with loved ones. We often find ourselves around a table – once steeped in gratitude – now stewing in disbelief, tension, even contempt.
We are all feeling on edge, and it’s no surprise why.
With the violent shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, pipe bombs mailed to former U.S. Presidents and other leaders, the continued maligning of journalists for speaking up, the anger spewing at us from all angles – it’s easy to assume the worst in others, to blame someone, to avoid the tender conversations that connect us.
Yes, even with friends and family. Especially during the holidays.
We need Thanksgiving more now than ever, so can remember who we really are.
Because we’re feeling people, we’re wired to care for one another. We don’t like to cause suffering, and we don’t like to suffer. Choose care.
Because we’re feeling people we can’t ignore the rise of trash talk and uncivil behavior across our nation. The resulting confusion and vitriol makes us tentative about having real conversations with one another.
It’s easy to slip into polarized positions that only serve to reinforce our points of view vs. reinforcing our common humanity, the love and care we hold for one another.
Because we’re feeling people our emotional experiences have run the gamut: frustration, fear, sadness, outrage, hopelessness. We can allow for them within ourselves and others with compassion.
When we’re not sure what to do with all our emotions, we can numb out, actively avoid, slip into despair, and go on the defense. This further contributes to disconnection and separation.
It’s the skill of lingering at the edges of difficult feelings and conversations that we discover what matters most to us. It’s where our resilience grows.
We celebrate Thanksgiving to remember who we are. A few things will help you this year:
First, reflect on what you care about in life. Feel it in your bones.
Second, remember who you care about – family, friends, neighbors. Bring them to mind, see their faces, and smile.
Third, assume good intent. When we openly assume good intent, we create the space to explore what we truly feel and believe – together.
Fourth, step out of the “agreement trap.” In your next conversation avoid saying either, “I agree with you” or “I disagree with you.” Let go of any notion of agreement. It’s not about agreeing or not. Simply listen. It’s about being with another human being, period.
Fifth, risk stepping into tender conversations (ones you anticipate might not go so well). Focus on what matters most: your love and care for one another. You might learn something.
Lastly, practice gratitude. Write out your list of the three things you’re most grateful for and share it with family, friends, and on social media.
Gratitude shifts our hormonal balance, creating generous space for each of us and our perspectives.