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.



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

Some insight about managing your anxiety amidst Covid-19

(Here’s an article my cousin sent me I’m reprinting so all of you can benefit from the honesty and wisdom in it):

I have clinical anxiety. If the coronavirus scares you, this might help

I’m not a doctor, but what I’ve come to learn over 20 years is that you really can master your anxiety.

By Kara Baskin Globe Correspondent,Updated March 25, 2020, 2:08 p.m.
 
ADOBE STOCK IMAGE; GLOBE STAFF ILLUSTRATION

Editor’s Note: This story is part of a Globe Magazine special report, appearing in print on Sunday, March 29.

You might think that this is a terrible moment for someone with a clinical anxiety disorder. But here’s the thing: It’s like the rest of you have finally caught up with me. Hyper-vigilance? Insomnia? Catastrophizing? Extreme fear of uncertainty? Welcome to my Isle of Dread. Care for a cocktail?

I’m kidding, sort of. Panic disorder and extreme health anxiety have alternatively propelled and paralyzed me for two decades. For the most part, I exist as a fully functional human being thanks to 10 milligrams of Lexapro, an insightful therapist (now available on video chat), and long-practiced behaviors that keep me even-keeled.


But many friends, thankfully never touched by the cold paws of anxiety, are now asking me how to deal. They don’t know what it’s like to awaken each morning wondering what kind of mood they’ll be in, or to contemplate whether today will be the day that mortality — in the form of a rash, a lump, a tremor — descends. They have never gasped for breath, ridden the acidic wave of heart palpitations and clammy sweats, and clawed for reassurance like a feral cat only to retreat into a mind that offers no solace, only more questions.

Most people move through the world assuming it has a veneer of predictability, or what psychologist Luana Marques calls a “thin veil of certainty.” We are not wired to deal with open-endedness; under normal circumstances, for example, we can feel fairly certain when we go to the grocery store that we’re not going to contract a virus. That has changed.

“But uncertainty is there all the time, and we just don’t feel it,” says Marques, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and president of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Anxiety sufferers know this intimately. You might be realizing it for the first time.


Please know that it will be OK. What I’ve come to learn over the course of 20 years is that you really can master your anxiety. I’m not a New Age guru or a doctor; I’m just a person who’s ridden it out. Here’s the trick: Don’t deny it. Accept that you are absolutely, 100 percent going to feel awful sometimes. I know, I know — the world is rife with mindfulness apps, breathing strategies, glamping retreats, and drugs aplenty to keep your unease at bay. These have their place. We cannot live in a state of heightened vigilance at all times.

But engaging with discomfort is its own therapy, too. It’s the most un-American thing ever, yet: You must sometimes feel bad. So accept the anxiety. Don’t blunt it; summon it. This sounds counterintuitive, I know, but anxiety isn’t a mark of shame to hide from people whom you assume are far more resilient than you. (They’re not.) It will continue to bounce on your shoulders like a thorny goblin until you grab it, stare it in the face, and have a firm chat.

“The first thing I’ve been making people understand is that anxiety is a normal response to a threat,” Marques says. “We want to run away from discomfort, but pushing anxiety away makes it worse. We’re living in times when most of us are comfortably uncomfortable at a minimum. Understand that by embracing our emotions and labeling them, we can ride the wave a little more smoothly.” It’s like surfing. You’ll be jostled by the ocean, tossed around, and eventually tumbled back onto the shore.


Of course, this is all academic until you’re hiding under a weighted blanket scrolling Twitter, wondering about that tickle in your throat. A behavioral way to cope is by doing something action-oriented, Marques says: cooking dinner with your kids, going for a walk. You’re forcing your brain to deal with what’s right in front of you.

Yet those of us with anxiety disorders also know that the only way out is by sitting with the discomfort until it dissipates. It’s like stepping into a hot tub and staying there until the water grows lukewarm. Acknowledge that you’re scared, and then tell yourself that you’ll sit, and you’ll breathe, and you’ll exist — yes, you will exist, minute by minute — until the feeling goes away. And, of course, reach out for professional help if you feel you need it.

Frame it as what we’re being asked to do in quarantine, on a smaller scale. Your mind is your own private bunker. You can’t just get up to leave, but when the door finally opens, think how much stronger you’ll be.

The Challenge of Staying Present

 

This guy, Tucker, is one of the 4-legged loves of my life. In previous posts I’ve written about how through our daily romps in the woods around my land and walks around the neighborhood he reminds me about what’s most important in life, especially as I veer off into thoughts about my unanswered emails, calls, bills needing attention, etc. (Refer to “Its’ All About the Ball!”)

I share him with our next door neighbors Peggy and Dave who inherited him, not having had an agenda or a wish for such a demanding, messy creature. They love Tucker but Dave isn’t a dog guy. So our arrangement works. I don’t have a dog of my own, so Tucker is it. He lives at Peggy and Dave’s, but his heart lives with me.

 

Here’s the thing: Tucker at 7 years old has terminal cancer. Six months after surgery to remove a huge malignant mass on his thyroid the cancer is back. After a subsequent evaluation, the vet gave him about 7 months to live. My challenge is how to manage the pain of witnessing his imminent suffering and probably losing him not long from now, without wasting precious time we have together today – time for joy and much fun. It’s a mind screw and a heartbreak – right now he has minor symptoms – some weakness in his legs and some coughing, but other than that he still acts like an exuberant toddler, full of sweetness, innocence and life. 

“Staying present” means being in the moment without preoccupation about the past or the future. Some Eastern spiritual practices say that when you’re anxious you’re not here now, but in some possible or anticipated future, and when you’re sad you’re living in the past, grieving some loss or disappointment. So, the challenge is to be here for the present moment, savoring and amplifying it. The present moment is usually just fine if we don’t mess it up with our thoughts. For me with Tucker the present moment is about enjoying his current vitality and playfulness, savoring the shared sights and smells of Autumn without obsessing about it probably being his last one. (And by the way, research has indicated that people who practice savoring and amplifying positive experiences have more happy neural pathways which show up on brain scans)!

 

If you are in a situation like this with a similar challenge, make room for your sadness and honor it when it visits you. But, so your sadness doesn’t drown out all else, when you’ve given your sadness its’ due, change the channel in your brain through the practice of noticing the specialness of this present moment, take a mental snapshot, then save it as a treasure to place in your treasure box of memories for the future. Pay attention to what is right in front of you and appreciate its meaning to you. You will be present for your life which will feel much fuller, and in the future you’ll be thankful for that!

 

 

“Being a Grownup When You Must: 6 Practical Tools” BTR Podcast Wed. 4/3 8:30 PM EST

Who wants to get up at the crack of dawn, leave a cozy, warm bed, get into a workout outfit and head to the gym for an hour of exertion and sweating?
Who wants to spend a Saturday doing the books and paperwork for their self-owned business, instead of listening to music, romping in the woods, or hanging out, eating and drinking with the people you enjoy?
Who wants to come home after eight grueling hours at the office to walk the lonely dog, answer twenty overdue emails, and cook dinner on demand?
Who wants to spend a whole beautiful Sunday afternoon in July visiting a sick friend who’s in the hospital an hour away?
Unless you’re an obsessed athlete, a compulsive accountant, a precise rule follower, or an unconscious co-dependent, you’ll probably be thinking “NOT ME!”

So, the big question becomes: how do you get yourself to honor your “Shoulds”? How do you motivate yourself to do the right thing, taking care of the not-so-fun parts of your life which require attention? How do you attend to your connections and responsibilities to your friends and family when doing so may be tiring, and not very glamorous or convenient?

Here are two of the six useful tips I’ve learned and shared with clients which I’ll be discussing in the 20 minute podcast on Wednesday 4/3/19 at 8:30 PM EST:
1. Connect with your deeper, less momentary motivation. Think about the big picture and why doing this thing is nagging at you? Will you be creating a big mess by avoiding it? Will someone else get hurt or offended if you blow this thing off? Is there a health issue which needs to be addressed in some regular way? Or, is this “Should” an unnecessary, illogical, guilt-driven piece of head noise?
2. Try to automate this activity if you can, as with exercising daily.Build it in and make it part of your schedule. By doing this you reduce conflict by pre-empting some bargaining on your part. When you automate things you spend less time thinking about how boring or annoying they may seem, (like brushing your teeth). The Nike company made multiple millions with their “Just Do It” slogan for good reason!

So, if you relate to this issue and want the other four tips about pushing yourself when it’s the grown up thing to do, tune into this brief podcast at BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager

*If you’d like to join me live on the air with questions or comments call into the studio at 877-497-9046.
 

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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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