Sunday, December 06, 2009

Thanksgiving Grinch Ungrinched

I am not a Christmas Grinch (though it would be easy to be one). Long ago I learned how to deal with the pressures of Yule, which I should write about it another blog entry. But I did not realize how many negative feelings I had about Thanksgiving until this year when it burst out of me in a rant.

I was grateful to learn that others felt the same way, and have developed their own methods of coping. Havi, for instance, replaces the gratitude list with a lentil list of things that don’t stuck, and I was delighted to appear on this year’s list. Other folks, like Cairene, have now adopted this tradition (and I made her list too!).

Several people wrote to tell me how much they do enjoy Thanksgiving, for instance, because it’s the least commercial of all American holidays (so true!) or because they are grateful to be with family and friends. But this only made me feel more Grinchy. Then, this week, I got some insights that helped my Grinchy heart grow several sizes.

It started with a good session with my counselor, in which I clarified my longings around Thanksgiving, and followed up with the serendipitous arrival of a newsletter about NVC (Non-Violent Communication). In the newsletter, Evan Gorsline wrote about his negative reaction to the word “happy.” He experienced it as a judgment, a way that he was expected to feel; it was often used to describe a false optimism that repressed other more complex feelings. What Evan longed for in relationship with others was authenticity and honesty and the felt demand to be “happy” often prevented that. (You should read the whole article here, as I can’t really do it justice in a few sentences.)

What I long for at Thanksgiving (or any dinner party) is meaningful, challenging and playful conversation (something sorely lacking at my family’s Thanksgiving feasts where we were expected to focus on “happy” topics, like being grateful) and delicious food (and I really don’t like turkey). No wonder I had trouble with Thanksgiving.

Having identified what I do want, I can set up about getting it next Thanksgiving. Just like when I took charge of my birthday parties, after years of being disappointed, and they suddenly became fabulous, because, after all, I know what I like. But the good news is that good conversation and good food can be enjoyed all year around.

This post appeared first at my blog at Living in Season.