To Those I Love, for Thanksgiving

We’ve all known for decades that the season that’s upon is one of VERY mixed blessings. On the one hand, we renew relationships with old friends and family, and even stores hit their first point of profitability. But on the darker side, we’ve also known that the suicide rate sky-rockets at this time. And with a deep sense of poignancy, I’m moved to ask: WHY should it be so?
There can be great pleasure in seeing those people we haven’t for so long. This opens our hearts, but for open, for a lot of us, you can substitute: vulnerable. I’m sure that many can identify with my own experience of being “home”, among parents and relatives, how no matter how much time has passed, we can almost immediately return to our childhood. I’m 54, but a lot of times among relatives, I feel no older than 13, perhaps the most vulnerable, unstable, and self-doubting time of my life.
And if alcohol should be involved, while perhaps intended to “take the edge off”, it also tends to disable our defense mechanisms. With whatever joy we experience getting to know again our friends and family, our insecurities and self-doubt now lie much closer to the surface. Our feelings are intensified, and we read stronger and deeper meanings to all the passing remarks, gestures and body language. Catching up with each other, we inevitably begin to compare, and compare, and compare. And from comparing, we move to taking stock.
Times are hard right now; there’s a lot going on in all of our lives and the world around us, and we bring all that with us to these gatherings. All the while, the media pounds us over the head with “feel good” scenarios, upping our expectations of happiness.
That’s a heck of a lot of pressure to put on anyone, especially yourself. As we look forward to Thursday, I sincerely urge we all gird ourselves psychologically, and consider preparing ourselves. Maybe take it easy on the drinking, maybe give ourselves a mantra to repeat sotto voce: “It’s only a dinner. Nobody’s perfect. Everyone’s journey is different. It’s YOUR life, and YOU’RE the one that has to live it.” My best advice for those of us who are sensitive and maybe even troubled: Prepare yourselves. Adapt that mantra to whatever suits YOU best, and just get through it!