Every Thanksgiving we get together with both my family and my husband’s family. In fact, it basically feels like one big family at this point. And that’s great.
Many years ago I started a tradition of working our way around the table (or tables, as we’ve grown), with each person sharing what they’re thankful for. I’ve always hated the idea of Thanksgiving being only about the food, as much as I love food, and loved the idea of acknowledging what I’m thankful for. I do that on a daily – and sometimes hourly – basis. So it made sense to me to impose my values – and strongly suggest that everyone gathered do the same.
This year my brother-in-law started the process, only he ended his list of thanks by suggesting a new method. Rather than each person taking his or her turn in order, everyone would speak (or not) as they felt called.
I watched as a few people jumped right in. And watched as many people did not. I found myself wondering why they didn’t – did they not feel thankful? Did they not like the tradition? Did they feel pressured to come up with a list of what they were thankful for on the spot?
I realized that it was none of my business that they didn’t share. Or why they didn’t share. That I was imposing my mindset on people who may not want it – even if research has shown that gratitude is good for our mental state, our physical wellbeing, and our life outlook and overall experience. It was their choice to do as they wished. And that’s fine. Besides, I’m not sure the research states that our gratitude has to be out loud.
I didn’t share either. That was a very active choice. My omission was noticed by a few people – my kids, my brother. This round-robin of sharing was and is my tradition after all, even if not everyone remembers that.
I didn’t share because I’ve often wondered if it was unfair for me to make everyone share. I didn’t share because somehow my sharing seemed to imply that I still thought that everyone should. I still do think that everyone should. I still believe that conscious thankfulness is an amazing goal and stellar approach to living life. But it’s not mine to enforce anymore.
I do love that the tradition continues, however it continues. I love when someone other than me starts it. I love listening to people’s lists, long and short. And I love thinking through what I have to be thankful for. I love being thankful.
What have I got to be thankful for? Tons. In many ways it’s been a tough year for sure – for myself, for my family and friends. But it’s also been an amazing year, and the silver linings within the hardships I’ve experienced and witnessed are what have carried me through…and what continue to carry me through. In each day I have the mundane that is actually beautiful – the sky, the trees, the weather. I have the things I take for granted that are absolute blessings – my husband and children, my friends and extended family, my work, my writing, and again, the sky, the trees, the weather. I have the opportunity to revel and relish.
I have so much to be thankful for, whether or not I took my turn at the Thanksgiving table.
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