Couplespeak™ Blog

Thanksgiving 2020 and Permission Not to Be So Thankful This Year

I read this CNN article and thought it was very timely and right on, I couldn’t have made this point any more clearly, so I’ve re-printed it.

I hope you relate to it, and I’d say “Happy Thanksgiving!” but that kind of goes against the whole point here!

Enjoy your meal, whatever company you can safely have, and hopefully, the day off……

Susan

You have permission to not be thankful this Thanksgiving

By Allison Hope, CNN

Updated November 23, 2020

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Author Allison Hope intends to focus on eating her feelings about 2020 with extra helpings of sweet potato pie this Thanksgiving.

(CNN)The gratitude is being dished out in platitudes this Thanksgiving.

“This Thanksgiving’s a bust, but try to focus on gratitude,” advised one health site, a precursor to a warning to avoid gathering outside our immediate households for the holidays.

“Share gratitude, not COVID this Thanksgiving,” another warned.

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You can serve up a portion of gratitude for your Thanksgiving this year, but don’t expect me to join you. I am going to focus on eating my feelings with extra helpings of sweet potato pie that I don’t have to share with anyone — because no one else is coming to Thanksgiving.

In a year when a once-in-a-century pandemic collided with social and political unrest, an unhinging economy and job market, and increasingly severe weather events, I vacillate between feeling something more akin to sheer terror. That’s on the opposite end of the spectrum from gratitude. My cornucopia is impacted by supply chain shortages, global trade wars and an impending dark winter that is coming more quickly than I’d like.

I have plenty to be grateful for, I know. I remain gainfully employed and am privileged enough to get to work from home. As of this writing, I still have my health, not having yet caught the virus (knock on everything) that has killed more than 1.3 million people around the world. While I know people who have died from Covid-19, including those my age in my extended networks, my immediate circle remains, for the most part, well.

And yet. I am incapable of feeling the joy that has, for every Thanksgiving prior to 2020, accompanied me to the homes of friends and family. There will be no road trips, no extended family hugs, no old friends in town visiting and reminiscing over a tall cold one, no spontaneous moments featuring new characters. This year is all plot twists without the comic relief.

I have landed in a new place this year, one where it’s perfectly acceptable to want people to take their gratitude and shove it up this year’s pathetically small turkey cavity.

Yes, I retain the right to feel full-on Scrooge this year, and I invite you to join me.

After all, forcing yourself to feel happy or gracious — when you simply don’t — isn’t a helpful thing to do. Forced positive thinking, in fact, does not make you happier, according to experts.

“The practice of gratitude has become popular in recent years, and it can be valuable, but not as a forced one,” said Thandiwe Dee Watts-Jones, a clinical psychologist and faculty member at the Ackerman Institute, a family therapy institute in New York City.

Forced gratitude is not constructive

We’ve all heard from any number of self-help research and books and podcasts and gurus that gratitude is a necessary embodiment to help us live fulfilling lives. But the truth is, sometimes gratitude just isn’t possible.

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Still, we might try in small ways to attach to some hope before diving back into that apple pie.

“As we approach the holidays dominated by losses, uncertainty, and human depravity, we can still be open, in a gentle way, to noticing what is good in our lives, what or who is holding us, a child’s smile, a poem, someone’s love, perhaps spirit,” Watts-Jones said. “We can allow appreciation for whatever beauty we may still see, even in the face of suffering, and if not, accept that at this moment, it is enough to be where you are.”

After our brief interlude with gratitude, feel free to snuggle back up to your inner bah humbug.

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If we’re getting real, Thanksgiving is also a uniquely American tradition (sorry, Canada, I am not counting you) whose origins are murky at best. In true fake news fashion, the original Thanksgiving story reeks of propaganda, a tale we take at face value to feel good about American history and to stuff our faces.

In reality, the story of Thanksgiving does nothing more than paint American lipstick on the proverbial colonial pig, hiding the true barbarism of a time when White men first set foot on the land that they would go on to claim, along with the lives of the vast majority of people already living there, whether by force or happenstance via smallpox.

There was no turkey, no ubiquitous kumbaya. In fact, the only thing that was widespread between America’s earliest settlers and the Native Americans was a deadly contagion that disproportionately took out people of color. Sound familiar? Maybe the first Thanksgiving has more in common with this year than ever before. Many emotions rise to the surface, but gratitude is not one of them.

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In the spirit of Festivus for the rest of us, and celebrating the anti-holiday to air grievances rather than pleasantries, I hereby rename Thanksgiving 2020 “Grumpstaking,” whereby we allow ourselves to feel whatever range of negative emotions we damn well feel like feeling without the pressure to proclaim all that we’re grateful for.

Don’t worry, you can eat all the pie.

Allison Hope is a writer and native New Yorker who favors humor over sadness, travel over television, and coffee over sleep.



Don’t miss my 10/29/20 BlogTalk Radio 25 minute podcast for more insights about staying afloat emotionally amidst the pandemic

In a previous BlogTalkRadio podcast I delved into some strategies for living more fully amidst the Covid 19 pandemic. I  discussed the physical and emotional challenges everyone faces, as well as the symptoms people were experiencing only a few months into the crisis.

In this subsequent episode I’ll go deeper with my ideas for how to be more intentional with effective attitudes and behaviors which I’ve observed are helping my friends, family, clients, and myself to stay afloat emotionally, even feel happy and connected amidst this pandemic.

Tune in at 7 PM EST on Thursday, October 29th live at www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager to hear about 7 key tools to help you and those you love thrive, even with all the uncertainty and loss associated with Covid 19. Feel free to join in live by phone toll-free at 1(800)-497-9046 with questions or concerns. If you can’t make the live podcast you can stream it anytime on BlogTalk Radio. One way or another, I hope you’ll tune in!

 

Not Just Surviving, But Thriving Amidst Covid 19

Most people find it surreal that we’re living in a pandemic. Every day we hear the bleak statistics about where the diagnosed “positive” cases as well as the deaths are ramping up, especially as we face a Fall surge in contagion.

Things we’ve previously taken for granted, like stress-free grocery shopping, visiting friends and family, getting a haircut, going to the movies, boarding a plane for a far away trip, working at our offices, having our children safely at school, etc. are now all matters of life and death. Making these decisions is now more like playing Russian Roulette with our survival.

Many of the couples I see in my practice are driving each other crazy with the lack of personal space, the intrusions into personal time, the increased dependency on each other’s judgment, and the loss of their usual distractions and pleasures, like going out to eat, attending concerts, or going to the gym. My caseload is exploding, even with the uncertainty so many people face about the sustainability of their incomes. Many people are now, eight months into the pandemic, experiencing “Covid Fatigue” and getting riskier with their choices, loosening their vigilance about contagion danger, thinking “What the hell, we’ve gotta live!” Apparently, as people experience these losses the rates of depression and anxiety are up. As many people experience a frightening lack of leadership or governmental truth related to the pandemic, feelings of helplessness, rage  and nihilism are prevalent.

So, how can one not only stay alive until hopefully there’s a vaccine widely available, but actually thrive in this dystopian environment? Here are some strategies I’d recommend, finding them personally useful, and observing how my family, friends and clients also benefit from them:

  1. Pick your battles. Be conscious and selective about where you direct your outrage and frustration. Early on, I found myself confronting mask-less shoppers about their socially irresponsible behavior. I soon realized I was not only fighting a useless fight which might end in injury, but also inviting a full scale stress response in myself. Eventually, before the masks were mandated, I’d contact store managers with either praise for their policies about social distancing and masks, or complaints for their lack of diligence and courage. Also, good or bad reviews on store websites are more powerful than confronting individuals. So, be intentional about where and how you express your frustrations, being mindful about how it might backfire.
  2. Respect other people’s choices about “safety.” Try to take a more empathic, non judgmental stance about the way others manage their lives amidst Covid. Most people take some calculated risks, like seeing their grandchildren in person rather than via Zoom for possibly years. Other people choose to expand their “pods” to include close friends and extended family. Parents of young children are now generally sending them back to pre-schools. More often now, people are traveling, using AirB&B or even select hotels, knowing there is risk associated with that choice, but finding confinement at home worse. There are many daily decisions we all face about staying alive and managing, so recognize that these choices are personal and not for you to judge. Criticism, voiced or silent, only divides and alienates people.
  3. Limit your exposure to the news, especially on TV where the visual content can be particularly triggering. If you want to know what’s going on in the world be selective about which programs might be more or less sensationalized, or more focused on solutions. Do not watch the news at night before bedtime. Not only does the blue TV light inhibit melatonin production, which is required for ample sleep, but details about the horrors of the pandemic won’t benefit the purpose of relaxation and calm needed for a restful night. Instead, read a non-arousing book on a device with a “night shade” adjustment, or listen to soothing music, or listen to some guided imagery, like the ones on free apps like “Calm” or “Headspace.” You need proper sleep to face this new Normal with resilience.
  4. Lean into the pleasures and joys of your relationships. Even if right now you can’t see some of your loved ones in person, stay connected with Zoom, FaceTime, phone calls, photos, texts, and emails. Even snail mail right now is better than losing touch. Avoid isolation as the solution to the constraints of Covid. Explore new things with a partner or spouse. Make it an antidote to the temptation to target them with your Covid issues. Go for walks together, learn a new way of cooking. Be conscious and intentional about expanding your relationship with each other. Remember, your closest connections are your lifeline, especially now, so lean in.
  5. Do some service for those in need or for some meaningful cause. Go shopping or do errands for an elderly shut-in neighbor. Walk a dog for friends who are overwhelmed with young kids at home. Volunteer at an animal shelter. Mow your neighbor’s lawn. Offer emotional support to someone you know who has lost a loved one to Covid. Get involved with some political action you feel strongly about so you become part of the solution. Get outside your own experience, participate and help others. It will soothe your heart at a time of such uncertainty and loss. You will also experience a sense of “agency” so needed now, making a difference with your effective actions.
  6. Take up a new hobby. Expand yourself with creativity, especially as you experience so many shrinking options now in Covid life. Learn a new instrument with online lessons. (I’m currently taking guitar lessons, and online ukulele and harmonica lessons!) It will fill your brain with new challenges and pleasures. Take up knitting or woodworking or painting, things that usually require you to be more still at home. Try to create a dedicated space to this new hobby and make it your sanctuary. Create a psychological and physical space for positivity and growth.
  7. Spend some time each day focusing on what Covid has ironically given you – more time with your kids? More appreciation for those you love? Appreciation for your health or your life? Gratitude for your job? Appreciation for the safety and solace of your home? Less mindless spending? As we now all face death in such a direct and immediate way  it can be transformational to be more present in our lives while we have them.

As Mike, a beloved carpenter we’ve recently re-hired says, “I’m just really happy to be on the right side of the grass at this point!”

Listen to my 6/17/20 BTR podcast “Strategies for Living More Fully Amidst the Covid 19 Pandemic”

If you missed the live podcast, you can listen to it at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager.

I’ve shared 16 key attitudes and behaviors for not only surviving, but thriving during this pandemic. I’ll think you’ll find them so helpful that you may want a copy of the printed list! If so, call me at The Couples Center voicemail 603-431-7131, and simply leave a message asking for The List. Several listeners have already requested it so they can have it on hand as a reminder for how to stay sane through this crisis.

Stay well,

Susan

Life Is Not on Hold!

Here is a post I just received and got permission to reprint from Cindy Giovagnoli, a wise old soul, world traveller, photographer, artist and writer. See what you think:

Our lives are not “on hold”

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Oooooh, do I have a doozy of a conversation to have with you today! 

Not everyone’s going to like this, but I think you’ll get it.

Sooooo…

There is a single phrase that keeps popping up in conversations with friends and clients, and I keep seeing it written as part of social media posts and in emails from people and companies I follow. 

And it’s a big fat ugly lie that I want to address head on.

The phrase?

That our lives are “on hold” during this pandemic.

Which, of course, they absolutely are not.

I know what you’re going to say, and yes, a lot of plans and projects and ideas are indeed on hold.

But plans and projects and ideas are not our lives.

They are part of our story, of course, but not its entirety.

Not even a little bit.

Every day the minutes and hours continue to tick away.

There is no “pause” button happening right now. No one yelled “freeze!” and the world stopped on its axis.

Ask any human who has suffered the unthinkable and they will tell you that there is no such thing.

The world marches on. The seasons change. The days pass whether we agree that that is the fair thing or not.

Our lives are never, ever “on hold” no matter how much we might beg for a time-out to catch our breaths.

But here’s the thing.

That is okay.

I’m not saying that it always feels okay, because it sure as shit doesn’t.

But it IS okay.

On a long enough timeline, everything is okay one way or another.

And here’s another thing. It’s the thing I really want you to take away from what I’m saying today.

You still have agency in your life unless you choose to relinquish it.

You have choices about how you spend each one of those minutes, hours, days- they are not “on hold.”

You always have and it’s as true now as it ever was.

Some choices have been taken off the table without our consent and we don’t like that.

Nobody does. 

Of course we don’t like that. 

But there are still plenty of choices left there for us. 

Feel whatever you feel— don’t shove your feelings away or pretend they don’t exist.

AND ALSO make conscious choices about what you do.

Those things are not mutually exclusive.

We can take ownership of our actions.

We can take ownership of our choices.

We do not have to relinquish the agency we have over our lives.

There is a lot in this world I cannot control. 

The truth is that there always has been. ALWAYS.

I choose to stay empowered.

I choose to decide how I want to spend my minutes and my hours and my days.

Sometimes those choices will look “productive” and sometimes they won’t.

Sometimes those choices will be to engage with people or tasks that “distract” me from other things I want.

But the choices are mine to make and I will strive to make ones that best serve the life I want for myself.

I wish the same empowerment and agency for you.

Stay curious out there.

Cindy

Blog Talk Radio Host

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Susan Lager

I am a licensed, board certified pyschotherapist and relationship coach in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Through my psychotherapy or coaching services, I can provide you with skills and tools to transform your life.

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