Thanksgiving. Let’s break down that word for a moment. Should we rearrange it: Givingthanks. Rewrite it: Givingthanksforwhat. Invent a new word? Hmmm. Why? Well, it is 2020!
Nothing is normal. And perhaps it will never be again. Let that marinate for a minute.
Grief Or Gratitude?
I live with and in gratitude. I’ve survived sicknesses and grieved loved ones who did not. COVID-19 cases are surpassing nearly 250,000. How can one be thankful in the midst of this pandemic and polarized political climate?
This question has been basting in my brain. It’s waking me from a deep sleep. It’s sometimes making me question how I’ve always lived. And I grapple with guilt for feeling happy when so many people are suffering.
If I only wrote about the gifts of gratitude, you may roll your eyes and snicker. And this year, I just may join you! Certainly, living a life with gratitude presents the greatest challenge during tough times. That’s the point, at least for me, of gleaning the good in situations. I truly try to find silver linings.
But it feels incomplete and inauthentic for me to only write about all of which I am grateful. Why? It minimizes and invalidates how much has truly sucked this year.
Two special souls that I knew recently went to sleep and never woke up. No, they did not die from COVID. I’ve attended more Zoom funerals in the past six months than I care to share. The searing sadness of loss mixed with isolation are new ingredients for grief. It’s added another layer to losing a loved one.
I have a few friends who, despite being young and fit, are experiencing unexpected and serious health issues. We just dodged a hurricane in Florida. And should I even broach the topic of the longest Tuesday we collectively experienced as a nation? Pass that platter; I’m relieved that course is over!
An Untraditional Thanksgiving
Clearly this year’s celebration will look and feel differently. I typically bake enough treats for my entire neighborhood. Though I have the urge to do so, I may lessen the quantity.
Ancestors also grace my autumn-inspired tables. I intentionally use platters and decor from grandmothers and others to honor them. I will probably use paper versus porcelain. It’s practical and portable but still festive. And there certainly will be pumpkin and pecan pies. I started a tradition in our family of an annual gratitude project, which will definitely continue this year.
Our New York family won’t be with us, either. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, and I already feel their absence. I look forward to the infusion of energy my brother and sister-in-law and four feisty, loving children bring when they flock to Florida.
We typically take a local family trip as well. There’s that word again: Typical. I am considering permanently deleting it from my vocabulary. The only trip I think we’ll all take is to the bathroom. That really stinks.
Tables will be separated, and we’ll sit at least six feet apart. We will eat outside, even if the humidity is unbearable or the temperatures are steamy. I’m thinking positive because this is usually the beginning of our cooler weather.
But some of us will be together. We will do so safely, albeit bordering on neurotically, because I host my favorite holiday. I refuse to allow this virus to infect my spirit.
So now that I’ve shared about the strife, let’s shift to the sunshine.
Slivers and Silver Linings
1. Moments. I’m thankful for the memories created during quarantine. I’m grateful for the unexpected lessons that will linger long after this virus is gone. The littlest moments mean the most. They always have but now more than ever.
2. Connection. I am excited that our family of four is reunited. Alec is home from college, and I’m thankful that he’ll be with us for several weeks. Normally, his break would be brief. There’s another word I need to delete: Normal. Yet another unexpected gift for which I am grateful is time.
3. Time. Time with my husband and thankful he’s able to work from home. Time to have lunch every day with my teenage daughter. Time to reach out to old friends and foster new relationships. Time to pause.
4. Technology. I am deeply thankful for it. There’s yet another atypical statement, at least for me! I’m old-fashioned and not exactly tech-savvy. During the quarantine, I finally launched a podcast. With the guidance of my teenage kids, I’ve learned more than I thought possible. We will Zoom with those who cannot join us as we did for other milestones and holidays this year.
5. Creativity. I marvel at innovative businesses emerging while others are closing. It’s as if we’re experiencing a collective cleanse. I do believe, and though it feels like forever, this season we are in is temporary.
We will eventually experience rebirth. We’re being forced to reevaluate what truly matters. We will reinvent how we work and live.
Grief and Gratitude Coexist
And I’m grateful that despite and in spite of all the chaos, I continue to choose kindness and empathy. I deeply appreciate each breath. And I know that grief and gratitude can and do coexist. I realize for most of us 2020 has been tragic and troublesome.
As we process the losses, I hope you join me and celebrate the gains. I am thankful for time. Time to have deep conversations and connections. Time to recreate and reinvent. And celebrating the “a” in atypical and “new” in new normal. During this holiday, I encourage you to reconnect with yourself and find the silver linings in the untraditional.
Dara Levan is a writer and the Founder of Every Soul Has A Story. She writes blogs, hosts the Every Soul Has A Story podcast, and is a contributor to various publications. Dara lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with her husband, two teenagers, and three dogs. She loves to laugh, devour chocolate, spend time in nature, travel with family, and connect with others. Her greatest sources of inspiration spark from her travels, adventures, and unexpected moments. Connect with Dara at https://daralevan.com/