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The Trouble with Thanks Giving

The Trouble with Thanks Giving

“This Thanksgiving cherish the time spent with your family as a reminder
of why you moved very,very far away from your family.”

- Unknown

It isn't that I don't like the Thanksgiving holiday.

It seems to me that we goal oriented Americans  get caught up in social materialistic perfection and presentation to the point that we often lose touch with the main theme which is all about - giving thanks.

Oh, the tension and stress I felt when as a young bride, I offered to prepare The Thanksgiving Turkey for my new husband and his family... I had never even purchased let alone cooked something so huge before.

At that time, me in the kitchen was a Lucille Ball episode.

I'll never forget the nervous anticipation and my need to impress the in laws.

My wonderful black cat - with the wacky sense of humor- who decided to jump  from the floor to the table in a single graceful leap landing right in front of the turkey!  (He never did like my mother in law, who was  horrified by even a few pet hairs on the sofa, let alone a cat helping himself to table food.) He never bothered the table food before or after that Thanksgiving. I still see it as a private joke between us. Wink.

Now I really enjoy holiday cooking, even add a few fall leaves and candles as decorations... but I always keep it simple.

We dream of and hope for thoughtful family holidays, the kind you see in movies, or at least it starts out that way.

Holiday stress can sneak up on you. So can life long family issues. That frown of a critical relative that sets your teeth on edge. The boozy uncle that gets louder and more obnoxious with each drink, a mother smoking in the kitchen, and competitive,  siblings bragging about their accomplishments, who make it a point to inquire:  “So, are you still single?” “Have you found a job yet?”

Even loving healthy families might hit a few communication bumps when sitting around a formal dinner table with a massive turkey platter center stage.

Funny example:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ey-4VHJghas

The holiday is about giving of thanks, the expression of gratitude. I've often wondered why things like sincere prayers before eating, gratitude journals and affirmations, somehow do not quite ring true. Our words come out sounding hollow, or maybe we cannot find the right words to express the feeling of genuine gratitude.

We excel in material celebratory excess.  So why do we struggle in finding heartfelt words, or meaningful practices that say “Thank You.”

Others must wonder about it since there has been quite a bit of research over the years about the effect of gratitude on our health and well being. Gratitude is simply good for us. It can be healing, stabilizing, and opens up an energy vortex for  good things to enter your life.

Children are naturals at giving thanks because they wonder, appreciate and notice things we take for granted.

When I was a small child,standing alone in my grandmother's backyard on a warm summer day listening to birds, watching beetles crawling, feeling grass on my feet, and the blue sky above. I felt included in nature itself. The pulse of  life surrounded me.

From deep in my heart I felt an overwhelming sense of appreciation for the quiet mystery of that ordinary backyard.

I raised my arms looking up to the sky (where I assumed God was) and said “ Dear God, I love the way you made the earth!” I totally meant every word. A loving warmth flooded over me and I knew for sure - a benevolent and protective force  had heard me. Nature opened the door to spiritual awareness.

Most amazing was the fact that my mother had died that summer, the summer of my fifth year.  Yet I still felt grateful for life itself, and a larger picture, which I now realize was a great gift.

Gratitude matters. It is considered a personality strength.

When life gets you down or times are hard, giving thanks can seem impossible.  So we go through the motions, trying to muster up a sense of thanks or to say the right things like “it could be worse”.

We begin a gratitude journal and wind up staring at a blank page considering giving it up, or faking it, wondering why you even decided to try it. It seems like a chain letter mentality: Express gratitude for 5 things for 7 days and you will receive “something” good as a return!

Maybe we could learn a thing or two about the subject?

Gratitude is a learned skill and practice helps to develop it.

We learn that giving thanks, appreciating  life's ordinary smaller blessings produces just as much benefit as the big time monumental moments. Wild, huh?

To begin find these ordinary moments, try looking for what is right in the middle of what is wrong: the service is lousy in fancy eatery, but you are lucky to afford going out to the fancy place.

Perspective and contrast - a way to start to notice the good while balancing out the not so good. Builds up awareness. As awareness becomes natural, your appreciation will become deeper and more real.

At family dinners, before prayers, or when you are driving the kids carpool, ask everyone to name what was the best and worst moment in their day. Listen to what comes up in the conversation.

Adults have an unfortunate disconnect between our words and our feelings. Kind of like saying “I'm so happy you got the job” when someone gets the job you wanted. You know, socially correct and all that.

Social correctness may seem polite, but is not so good for the spirit.

My hubby and I decided to practice daily gratitude a few years ago and he actually came up with 'gratitude' for a “really nice lunch!!!” We always start out with the obvious things (spouse, children, home, friends) then all too quickly the well of gratitude runs dry!

My journal was just as awful. After we got over laughing at how bad we were at doing this; we began finding ways to build up the skill. It was and is worth it.

You can learn this skill and so can your children. You can teach and learn from them at the same time.

Just for something different try placing a small candle at each place for holiday gatherings, and perhaps two tall candles in the center of the table. Turn down the lights.  Ask each person to express in what ways life is deeply and sincerely appreciated.

After each person speaks the candle is blown out, sending love and thanks out to the Universe, finally leaving just the tall candles glowing. Pause briefly and just see if the atmosphere isn't different...calmer, more loving, peaceful. Look at the faces around you.

Small rituals like this really add up when it comes to connecting with what matters.

The beauty of journals and candles or any other practice is this: we gain the ability to create something out of nothing. Life begins to rearrange all around you in unexpected surprising and magical ways.

We found that giving thanks is not about what has already happened, recalling the good stuff from the past. It is about creating something wonderful in your future.

We also create a healthy emotional system - we know there will be good things tomorrow and the next day and the next.

Studies and experiments show that when people are about to lose all hope and help shows up at the last minute, there is overwhelming gratitude to the giver, but that isn't all.

The person who has experienced help when all seemed lost – is  more willing and involved in looking for opportunities to help someone else and  they put much more energy and effort into doing it.

What could benefit individuals, society, or the planet more than this?!

So what are you grateful for this holiday season?

Share the love. Give thanks right now, right here by leaving your comment below!   

Then enjoy this hilarious Thanksgiving parody by the Holderness family of Raleigh, NC:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWe4GpTaO8I
Categories: Spirituality, Inner Guidance, Motivational, Self-Improvement, Tallkat, Holidays, Love
Copyright 2013 by Karen "Tallkat" Conley