We all have visions of what Thanksgiving is supposed to look like. There are supposed to be loving and supportive friends and family gathered around the table. And, that table is supposed to be filled with plentiful food. Everyone is supposed to get along, and cancer and other illnesses don’t exist at the perfect Thanksgiving. So, what happens when those visions don’t come true? What happens when you’re disappointed in every possible way?
Often, we feel that holidays are meant to magically make up for all the things that are wrong in our lives. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a day. And so, we spend weeks planning and preparing, only to be hugely disappointed by the outcome. The relatives who treat you poorly will still treat you poorly even though you’ve set the perfect table and cooked the perfect turkey. A marriage in distress will still need help at the end of the day. Children will misbehave and cancer will still exist in the body of a loved one.
We have bad days all the time, but somehow when we have a bad holiday the resulting sadness and anger are magnified by a thousand.
Life is such an out-of-control experience and holidays give us a false sense that we can control the destiny of at least a single day. If we really prepare and clean and cook and decorate, then we can create a perfect day that will somehow magically change the course of our lives. Sadly, this is not true (no matter what mushy Christmas movies will tell you). And, when that reality sets in, it can be pretty devastating.
I am guilty of all of this and it has taken me this long to realize what I was doing and why I was doing it. I’m one of those people who literally aches for people to get along and be happy and feel loved. So, every holiday I would run myself ragged trying to achieve that. And, every holiday I would be hugely disappointed.
But, then a funny thing happened when I asked people what their favorite Thanksgiving memories were. Not a single person mentioned a perfectly set table or a perfectly cooked meal. It was the imperfect they cherished. They remembered eating at a fast food restaurant, or the year they made their favorite snack foods instead of a turkey dinner. They laughed about the time the dog ate the pies and Aunt Ruth “passed the butter” by throwing it down the table. This was the stuff that made life bearable. Not that life was shiny and perfect, but that in all its ugliness, we could still find reasons to laugh. It was the hardships that formed our connections, not lovely centerpieces.
This year I will try to let go of expectations and replace them with thanksgiving for the imperfect life I’ve been given. Sometimes blessings are hidden (really well) but perhaps if I spend more time looking for them and less time trying to create shiny facsimiles of them, my holidays will be a whole lot more enjoyable.
This is my prayer for all of you mommas out there: No matter how flawed your Thanksgiving turns out to be and whether you fed your family an eight course meal or TV dinners, please remember that it is your love and your smile that they will cherish.
Try and enjoy your imperfect day and remember that our Savior was drawn to the downtrodden, not to those who were dressed up in shiny new robes. And, He is one blessing we can always count on.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all.