Thanksgiving is a sort of strange holiday. It has to do with Native Americans, Pilgrims, Turkeys, and Parades. Or something. Right? I mean the parades for sure, everybody knows all about Thanksgiving Day parades, they happen all over the country. I love me a good Pikachu balloon, and so did the Native Americans, who accepted them as peace offerings from the Pilgrims. Right?
Wait, no, because it’s about football, too. Football, of course! If it weren’t for that first scrimmage game between the Plymouth settlers and the Wampanoag Indians, we wouldn’t have this time-honored American tradition. It’s said that the Wampanoag won decisively, but there’s conspicuously no footage of the game, and (not to be conspiratorial) the camera operator was from Plymouth. So, Thanksgiving is about football and parades, right?
It’s not about any of that. Like every other tradition and holiday, Thanksgiving has a unique place in our society. It’s the symbolic beginning of the holiday season and a sign that this year has run out of comfortable weather. Winter coats and scarves are almost here. But before we cross that threshold, we have to actually celebrate the darn day. So, how do we do that?
You do it by being thankful. And what does it mean to be thankful? It doesn’t mean you should think of a list of things to say before you eat Thanksgiving dinner. It doesn’t mean just mouthing the words “I am thankful for blah.” Remember, it’s not about expecting a “you’re welcome” back at you. It’s about being appreciative. Appreciate the life that you have, and the relationships you have, and all the little in-between parts of life that you have, and that includes your lost stuff.
Sometimes we buy things and forget we buy them. Like a speaker system, or a smartwatch, or maybe a guitar in the garage. Why do we forget about these things we thought we needed? Because we stopped appreciating what they did for us. Use this Thanksgiving as a way to start appreciating those little things again—you don’t need to wait for New Year’s to have a resolution. Listen to more music, strum that guitar, and wear your watch (because you’re a professional, dammit). Stop looking for the next thing you need and go back to those things you already have. It feels good to try again.
Appreciate the spilled milk, too, though. Appreciativeness isn’t about being perfect, it’s about rolling with the punches. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Everybody knows that, but hardly anyone ever does it. Trust me, it works. So, when your dog, or child, or roommate, or whoever accidentally breaks your favorite coffee mug, don’t have a conniption. Just remember that you now have a pretty good excuse to go out and get a new coffee mug. Better yet, appreciate you have a dog, or child, or roommate who can break your mug in the first place. They aren’t happy about breaking it either, you know? Don’t make a sour face, just add some sugar and water. Make lemonade.
But you need to have somewhere to be on Thanksgiving. People spend time with family, but not everyone has that luxury. If you can’t be with your family, see if any of your friends are also free. One of my favorite Thanksgivings was in college; I couldn’t go home, and neither could my girlfriend or her roommate. We had a spectacular ‘Friendsgiving,’ complete with the amateur dishes we prepared ourselves. Cranberry sauce, turkey breast, green beans, and pumpkin pie. I encourage anyone who’s away from home to try and arrange something with friends. Don’t pretend Thanksgiving doesn’t exist, that’s the opposite of being appreciative. Love it for what it is.
And if you can be with family, that’s wonderful, be with them. Appreciate your uncle, even if you disagree with his politics. Appreciate your siblings, even if you aren’t always on the same page. Find ways to connect that you wouldn’t typically. Play that board game that’s been sitting in your closet–now’s a good time. Or maybe watch the football game with your dad or your brother, even if you don’t fully understand what’s going on.
The main thing is to be appreciative or thankful. Be happy for the world you do have right now because you do have things to be thankful for. I never liked the saying, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” I like to know what I’ve got, you should too. Be a little more mindful, a tad more open. Try to be optimistic, even if you naturally aren’t. It takes a little practice, but use this Thanksgiving as a way to connect with yourself, and once you do that you’ll start connecting with everything around you.