It’s okay to have felt big things this past week. Thanksgiving is complex. Or not. How complex is it really? It depends upon who you ask. The history of the day seems straightforward. Perhaps it’s the emotional piece that feels so complex. Gratitude is big. And we often assign it an expectation that no emotion can meet. To exist in the singular. Detached from any other feeling. Yet this is not how emotion manifests. No feeling exists in a vacuum.
To my daughter Thanksgiving lacks complexity. She has never been exposed to the very much inflated Pilgrim story of Thanksgiving and wonders exactly what there is to celebrate about a group of White European Puritans claiming to discover a land that was already inhabited. By celebrating we continue to reinforce not only a lie, but a lie that does great harm. For her, Thanksgiving in and of itself is not really anything to celebrate.
Yet also, alongside this horrific truth lives the memory of what many have built upon Thanksgiving that seems hard to let go. The emotional piece. My kid insists that’s too bad. Let it go. These memories can be built upon something entirely new that doesn’t celebrate the harming of an entire people. And I see her point. I honor her point. Hopefully as we take in new information, we grow and change. It is impossible to grow without change. And I consistently side with growth. Yet, I still wonder why this breaking from tradition can be so hard? Memories and sentiment are emotional and can be difficult to reconsider when presented with new information. Even when that new information is truly horrific.
Thanksgiving growing up was for family and food and witnessing the magic of my Italian grandmother, her sisters and my mom create a 5 course Italian dinner for around 40 people. I still do not know how my Grammy pulled it off fully dressed, dripping in jewels and twirling around the kitchen in high heels and an apron. The food was always perfect. Turkey with all the trimmings, green beans, homemade gravy, the largest spread of anti pasta one could imagine. All highlighted by handmade manicotti and espresso with Sambuca after dinner.
And then there was the drama! Forty loud Italians all talking with their hands interrupting each other in conversation and song. Glasses clinking and lots of laughter. And of course a heavy dose of drama led by an Uncle. There was not a Thanksgiving dinner I can remember where he wasn’t late, always bringing my grandfather to a boil. Every single year. I always wondered why he couldn’t be on time once. Even if by accident. An art really.
My cousin Marc and I would hang out in the den taking breaks from the joy and anguish of the 40 plus to watch whatever Star Wars movie happened to be on TV following the Macy's parade. For years I thought this collision between the expectations of the day and reality was just my family. My big Italian, everyone talking at once and yelling but also loving, New York Italian family. But as I grew older I had friends and friends of friends who shared stories of Uncles, larger than life celebrations and family drama over turkey. Thanksgiving in terms of emotions seems to be complex for many of us.
Emotion aside, I truly believe in being flexible, and allowing ourselves to change our minds. That's growth and that’s looking to the future and asking what those growing up with a different story of Thanksgiving from the one I grew up with want. And my kid, she does not want this same story and she has advocated for a different one. So as the years have passed we have slowly done away with the big emotional expectations of the day. We no longer cook all day, have a seated dinner or get together with a ton of family. We make a giant sandwich board with more olives than we can eat. A mighty selection of home baked desserts, a freezer full of vegan ice cream and 3 new puzzles to last through the weekend. My parents dip in and out between football games and we take the dogs for an extra long walk. It is simple.
Thursday we woke up, smiled at the warm sun and met a small group of friends to skateboard. On a sunny morning at a county park we were met by a broad mix of people doing things they love. A pickleball tourney on the tennis courts, a weekly men’s walking group sharing bloody marys and bagels under a gazebo. Families walking their dogs through the hills, couples taking a hike to the lake with their fishing poles. And then us, a sweaty and foul mouthed crew lovingly trying to outrun the aging process at a skatepark. Together.
We discussed our different plans for the day. Who was visiting with whom, cooking what, baking what. Which relative they really didn’t want to talk to. What family pet always seems to save everyone’s sanity. A prediction of what family drama would play out and which cousin everyone really wanted to see. Time was given to contemplate our presence on stolen land and respect given to the care and love the Coastal Miwok continue to give their land and the generosity with which they share their knowledge of stewardship so freely. My daughter took to the concrete stage reminiscent of Linus in a Charlie Brown Christmas - with thoughts on the patriarchy, stolen land, white supremacy and colonialism. And was heard and held so beautifully by the group. The moment was very much a reflection of all things happening all at once. Like life had condensed into a few minutes and all the good and all the bad was squished up together.
The more I thought about the closeness of these complexities the more I contemplated gratitude itself and just how messy it can be. Or how messy we make it. Mostly because we’ve tried to make it so simple. And it’s not. We often feel the need to find the gift or lesson in all things. Find gratitude in all things and sometimes shit is just shit. And there doesn’t have to be a gift. There doesn’t have to be a gift. Cancer can just fucking suck. Sick dogs can just be heart wrenching. Abuse, hatred, illness, violence can just fucking suck. Being angry is appropriate right about now. And there are many things that are simply bad. I don’t spend much of my time trying to solve for the good in these circumstances anymore. I look elsewhere altogether.
The things that I am grateful for bring me to my knees. They are too big to be unearthed in a single day. They are ever present. Being a mom. My partner, my family - not all, my friends, the dogs and the ever evolving beauty of the wild place I call home. For me to sit in true gratitude for these things is a storm. In size and power. It’s big and mighty. If I really think about it I cannot reach its depth to fully feel it. I can come into contact, but fully feeling it all? I’m not sure that is possible - my body seems too small for something so massive.
So the gratitude I can touch and welcome into my life every single day is small, but feels so big. It’s the little things. The smell of a mandarin, the color blue of the California sky in November. Being able to hear the sound of my best friend’s laugh inside my head whenever I want. And at the same time, I hold space for the complexities of gratitude. The maple tree in our neighbor's yard that is always the last to turn color. Its bright leaves creating a burst of orange among the deep green pines. The fact that this tree sits on the property of a neighbor who is filled with anger and great sadness that sometimes seems to cast a shadow over the street. Yet there is this gift to all of us who pass by. This beautiful tree that lights up the sky every single year. How I can be grateful for that single part of them and hold that alongside the rest. Pushed up very closely this time of year when the tree sings its song. This gratitude doesn’t exist alone. It collides with many other feelings. It is complex. Uncomfortable. But also there.
And maybe that’s what makes the tree so beautiful.
To change. To growth. To the season. To the beauty that comes from holding it all at once.
I love you.
In the past, I have written about Human Design and the fresh perspective it can offer parents and children. It can be an incredible tool specifically during infancy and with children of all ages who have communication challenges. Those of us raising the beauty and wonder of out of the box kids know how powerful it can be to have even a single sign post illuminating a path or an idea. And Human Design has a lot to offer, explore, and experiment with to help us better understand our kids and also offer them agency and tools to experiment with themselves.
As I continue to offer readings to more and more clients, I would like a part of my weekly practice to be dedicated to working with families and children. I miss that part of my professional life! I spent many years working with kids, advocating on their behalf as a psychotherapist and helping support families by being a really great listener to their kids. While I no longer want to work with kids and families in that same role, I am truly excited every time I offer a Human Design reading of a newborn or a child. And to be honest, I'd love to do more of them! So, I am offering a special discounted reading rate to those of you interested in a reading for your child. This is not a continuing offer and there is a limit to the number of readings that will be offered at this special price. If you are interested, please respond by hitting the button below. I'm excited to talk with you!
Off the bat, I'll say I understand I am in perilous waters by suggesting that the Indigo Girls version of Romeo and Juliet is better than the original. And I get it. The Dire Straits version is solid, beautiful and unexpected. And I listened to them both back to back just to make sure. And yeah, this version just embodies me in ways the other does not. This is the version I want to scream at the top of my lungs. I hope you enjoy it too. Hit listen to get a taste.
ROMEO + JULIET
The Indigo Girls
A love struck romeo
Sings the streets a serenade
Now he's laying everybody low
He's got a love song that he made
He finds a streetlight
And he steps out of the shade
And says something like
"you and me, babe, how about it?"
Juliet says "hey, it's romeo!"
"you nearly give me a heart attack!"
Yeah well, he's underneath the window
Now she's singing "hey-la, my boyfriend's back"
"you shouldn't come around here
Singing up at people like that
Ah anyway, whatcha gonna do about it?"
The dice were loaded from the start
And I bet and you exploded into my heart
And I forget, I forget the movie song
When you gonna realize
It was just that the time was wrong