We are emerging from the midterms. The country is either celebrating or cursing, and we the people in our country remain polarized. Some of us are fearful of Thanksgiving and the oncoming holidays. Who will we be seated next to? What will come up in conversation? And how strong will our bandwidth for patience be? Will politics undermine our annual gathering as it did for a lot of us last year? Will the knife slice through the turkey and right through to the table, frustrating, infuriating, devastating us again as the political and cultural war divides us not only on a map, but also inside our homes?
I spoke to a client this week, I’ll call “Phoebe.” Phoebe, who is divorced after decades in a stagnant marriage, told me she was worried, because she’d been invited by her son and his new wife for Thanksgiving. She was excited, but especially worried. She and her son had been at a standoff for too long, not talking, and it had been a source of deep anguish for Phoebe, a mother who loves her son. Suddenly, her son (perhaps encouraged by his new wife) was extending an olive branch after two years, and asking his mother to come to their house and to join them and his wife’s family for Thanksgiving.
Phoebe is worried because she’s met her daughter in law’s family briefly not long ago. But what’s more, she’s seen their Facebook postings and, politically speaking, her daughter-in-law and her family are polar opposites of Phoebe. Phoebe is unnerved and alternately outraged. What has her son married into? …What will the father-in-law say? He’s an advocate for the NRA … There’s his postings about immigration issues ….
Just telling me what she’d seen online stoked Phoebe more. Phoebe is Jewish, and the recent, horrific killing of 11 people in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh followed by the menacing shout of “Heil Hitler! Heil Trump!” in a Baltimore theater not long after have heightened Phoebe’s fear about rising anti-Semitism—and all isms, because she is a thinking woman.
She is also an ecumenical minister, so as much as she was starting to go there — that is open up and be raw, allowing her dark feelings to run … in a moment’s time, too, she stopped. And then …
She told herself aloud, that her mantra going into this loaded home and situation would be to just be grateful.
And if she were challenged, if something insidious was said, she would try to redirect the conversation to show that we are more than this hatred.
We each are more than this hatred.
Phoebe and I talked more, sharing how we both believe a leader will emerge who will help us, someone who will help us forge the divide. But until our next Martin Luther King Jr. arrives, we have only ourselves.
It’s on each of us.
In the spirit of the holidays and the challenges we face, here are eight reasons I am grateful for my divorce this Thanksgiving and all days.
1. I can totally disregard all comments if I choose
I am a divorced, independent woman after all. I didn’t go through all of this only to let others bring me down again.
2. And as a divorced, independent woman, I am grateful I can choose how I want to spend Thanksgiving and how I want to show up
Well, that’s not entirely true. I’d like to host a Walton’s Thanksgiving, on a long pine table in a room warmed by a fireplace and invite every single person I love. Every single person who’s showed me kindness, who’s showed me I was worthy in this new chapter of my life.
I’d also like to be with both my daughters, but my eldest has just moved to San Francisco and started a new job, so this year the Waltons are not in the cards. My youngest daughter and our friends will go for a hike and then have Thanksgiving dinner at a little French restaurant across the river—but I came up with the plan. I do believe in putting some effort in for the holidays. I do believe in making a plan!
3. I don’t have to cook all day to make sure it’s the consummate experience for everyone
Not this Thanksgiving, or ever. I am not on the hook for producing dinners or meals regularly in the rest of my life. I did it. I did it well. And now I am moving on. I am grateful for that.
It’s never the table or warmth or setting or food (though, it helps) that ultimately determines the high I get from gathering around the table anyway. It’s the people, and beyond the people, it’s the joy. I endeavor to remember that joy is always there for us, if we remember where it lives in our bodies and connect to it and be still.
4. I am grateful for having discovered me
I never would have where I was. Thus, every day is Thanksgiving.
5. I am grateful for losing many poisonous relationships
One sheds many scales and skins going through a breakup and divorce recovery. It’s a painful but liberating process.
6. I am grateful for all the people who came flooding into my life
As a result of the shedding!
I’ve always been lucky with good people in my life, but since stepping out of my box, I’ve met such exciting, smart, and deep people. Wonderful men and wonderful women who connect with me sometimes because I am unaccompanied, because I am unguarded. (And then, of course, there’s OkCupid.)
Learning how to converse helps. Just as learning how to converse this Thanksgiving may be very helpful for a lot of us. I recommend this piece on smart and sensitive conversations not only for social gathering but also for honing good dating skills.
7. I can recognize flaws and vices in myself
More importantly, I can keep forgiving myself for them and keep trying. I’ve shown myself before that I CAN change things. I am grateful for that.
8. I am grateful that I have learned about the life-giving force of gratitude
Gratitude and the word “grace” come from the same Latin word “gratus.” When we feel gratitude, our hearts and bodies soften, and we’re able to be with the world and ourselves more fully. We feel an interconnectedness and flow. And that too is joy.
At SAS for Women, we are grateful for each and every one of you reading and endeavoring to shift your experiences. We wish you pure, distilled joy this Thanksgiving and the upcoming holidays. Remember, for each day and its tradition, make a plan that may become a new tradition for you and those you love.
Whether you are considering a divorce, navigating it, or already rebuilding after the overwhelming experience, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce alone.
Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers all women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future self.
“Divorce can be on your terms.” – SAS for Women