The second to last picture we took together as a family was on Thanksgiving. We stood in the doorway of our dining room surrounded by our three children and relatives smiling from ear to ear. We looked happy. I’d venture to say that at the moment, we were happy, the operative word here being “moment.”
What the picture didn’t reveal was the fighting my husband and I had been doing all afternoon, cut short only by the ringing of the doorbell when the first of our guests arrived. I cannot recall the subject of the arguments, just how I felt, which was general frustration and dissatisfaction with our marriage. What the picture also didn’t show, and what I wasn’t yet aware of, was that my husband had already begun “dating” his current wife. I guess he was feeling the same way. Following that revelation, the holiday left a bad taste in my mouth. Here’s how I’ve since overcome the negative association I once felt at Thanksgiving and enjoy the holiday today, now divorced.
For years, up until last year, I celebrated Thanksgiving outside of my house. I either accepted an invitation somewhere else, or we went out. At the time, I believed this plan to be the path of least resistance to me. If I was in a “neutral” place, I thought it less likely I would feel bad. This method wasn’t as effective as I thought it would be. Yes, not hosting was less physical work for me, but that’s not always a good thing. Being busy is sometimes better.
After a breakup, you may think it’s advantageous for your healing to avoid activities and places you frequented with your ex. That’s not always true. By engaging in avoidance, you’re potentially depriving yourself of experiences that can bring you happiness. Although you may feel apprehensive about creating new memories in a situation similar to the one you shared with your ex, doing so can also propel you forward in your life. The hardest part about this option is getting started.
If you’re not ready to engage yet or need a change of scenery altogether, there’s nothing wrong with getting away for a few days. Sometimes a little reprieve from memories and triggers can do wonders for your state of mind and spirit. I’ve traveled numerous times alone and with my children during holidays in the past, though not over Thanksgiving specifically. What I did learn, however, especially after going on a cruise with my three young children at Christmas, was how painful it could be when surrounded by mostly “complete” families at holiday time. Pick your destination wisely. It should be a place where you (and your children if applicable) will feel comfortable given your current family dynamic and reactions to it.
One of the most meaningful gifts we can give others is our time and attention, and offering them to those in need can be a worthwhile and gratifying way to spend Thanksgiving. Within each of our communities there exist individuals who are struggling in one way or another. If you’re unaware of who needs assistance and what kind, which can include anything from a friendly visit to food, call your local food bank, community center, town hall, or house of worship for guidance. The smallest of gestures can impact the life of another, and yours, too.
If you make a big deal out of every holiday, you’re going to find yourself anxious and unhappy more times during the year than you will like. Though it’s hard to avoid Thanksgiving completely when you’re being bombarded by images of it daily on TV, in print, and on the Internet for months before its arrival, do your best not to ascribe any more meaning to it than it deserves. Thanksgiving may be a national holiday, but it’s also just another day of the year like any other. The sun will rise again regardless of whether you celebrate by eating turkey or sitting on a white sandy beach. How much significance the holiday holds, and what that significance is, lies with you and you alone.
Wherever you wind up on Thanksgiving, remind yourself what you have to be thankful for in your life because we all have reason to give thanks, even if it isn’t always apparent to us. Staying positive in the most difficult of circumstances is no easy feat but can be learned and accomplished like any other skill. Much as we must break ourselves of old memories which no longer serve us, we must likewise remind ourselves how those same memories, both good and bad, have laid the foundation for the ones we are creating today and, because of that, are equally deserving of our thanks.
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