It’s Wednesday, Nov. 21 and typically on this day I would be making my venture to South Georgia for political avoidance banter, awkward hiding of my life and fried turkey.
A combo for the ages; my lives work
This year is different. I’m riding the wave of seven months into trauma, not going home since birth and creating new rituals with my partner. That’s a load of variety: LGBTQ abandonment, trauma work and partner positive work. And, I know that I am not the only one – I’m simply at a place where I can say it out-loud (and type it).
So, here’s a new conversation I’m having around the table I’m building for this holiday season:
What does it look like to practice gratitude amongst grief?
What has the practice of gathering been in history and what will it be for me?
How do I honor the earth, its people (those hurt by such a practice of American Thanksgiving & hidden from the story) and the rituals around nourishment?
That’s a lot fucking questions. But, it’s how I want to spend my Thanksgiving this year inside the joy, blues of grief and gratitude of existing amongst people.
What even the fuck is Thanksgiving? Well, that depends on where you go looking for the answer:
Thanksgiving universally brings up a ritual around food, blessing for nourishment and celebration within community.
Every autumn, the ancient Greeks enjoyed a three-day festival to honor Demeter, the goddess of corn and grains. The Romans had a similar celebration in which they honored Ceres, the goddess of corn.
The ancient Chinese held a harvest festival called Chung Ch’ui to celebrate the harvest moon.
In the Jewish culture, families also celebrate a harvest festival, Sukkot. This festival has been celebrated for 3,000 years by building a hut of branches called a Sukkot. Jewish families then eat their meals beneath the Sukkot under the night sky for eight days. The ancient Egyptians participated in a harvest festival in honor of Min, the god of vegetation and fertility. Parades, music and sports were a part of the festivities.
These festivals meanings, dates and customs may vary, but they all revolve around the concept of gratitude.
Now, whether or not that gratitude is built by power, force and privilege is a case-by-case research. And, is worth evaluating when leaning into our American tradition of “Thanksgiving” tomorrow. Much of our holiday was brought forth by power, force and privilege over indigenous people.
What has the practice of gathering been in history & what will it be for me?
History tells us that this “tradition” of ritual around gathering has been for several reasons, but is joined around the idea of thankfulness and gratitude for people, material possessions provided and religion.
My practice will look like this:
Honoring the people of which our traditional Thanksgiving displaced, harmed & murdered by reflecting on the land of which I now live on. It belongs to the Muscogee/Creek people. If you’d like to reflect and become educated about the land you live on visit https://native-land.ca.
How do I honor the earth, its people & the rituals around nourishment?
I will also plant seeds into the ritual of spending tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day, with my partner in reflection on the gift to be alive, to be present and rotating throughout the day reading poems, discussing our gratitude and writing letters to those I love & cherish.
We will also go into nature, hike and spend moments in silence hopeful of being able to hold our bodies & minds in joy of where our feet have taken us & that our feet can still take us places. We will honor the earth by leaving it how we found it and cherishing its gifts of being restorative.
What does it look like to practice gratitude amongst grief?
No one prepares you for abandonments, indifference and the inability for family/friend figures to be unable to meet you where your deepest desires will for them to be present. And, let’s name that – it’s grief. The holidays bring joy and grief. It’s a perfect storm for facing what our culture often downplays with instant gratification & distraction – that grief is an ever-flowing undertone running parallel in our daily lives.
Instead of downplaying my grief, I’m claiming it. And, it has been the most liberating thing to stand in the center of warm tones and blues to say “Here I am doing the best I fucking can with what I have…” I am blessed to see the important relationship with recognizing joy & grief. This was no overnight turn of events – therapy, growth, pain, love have shown me here. Because of this continued journey, resurrection has happened here.
It never occurred to me to think of the Lord’s supper and the art of communion during Thanksgiving, but here I am thinking very hard about the implications of how Jesus felt during that meal.
Was he joyful for the task at hand? Was he full of doubt, grief about leaving his friends & family? Did he eat the bread he broke tasting ever morsel of grain? Was the wine the sweetest it had ever tasted before? How much gratitude was in the room as his disciples – rejected and tired – partook in a meal with one another?
That’s how I want to approach my meal tomorrow – like it is communion. I want to acknowledge how joyful it is to love a God who adores me, grieves with me and that humanity is still at its core capable of good. I want to acknowledge that I’m grieving that I’m absent from the table of my family and the load of continued trauma. I will embrace the doubts of my direction and seek comfort in the food I will fill my body with for nourishment. Is this what we mean in prayer – bless this food for our nourishment?
What if every meal I practiced such a ritual?
“33 when you come together to eat, wait for one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let them eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.
– 1 Corinthians 11:33-34
This Thanksgiving, I want to examine myself, honor those around me (harm & unharmed) & seek new ways to rest in the uncomfortable space of warm hues and blues.
May your table be full of love, grace, joy and acknowledgement of sadness. May your table be open to all and protective of your body & mind. May your table be a blessing to you and others.