unpublished Thanksgiving post…

Historical news photo from Art Shaw (note the man’s left shoulder…)

NOTE: I wrote this on Thanksgiving Day, but never had a chance to edit and post it since PT passed away the next morning- I just didn’t have the heart to go back and revisit this post. I’m just going to do a rough edit and post it in all it’s rambling glory. I’ll do a fresh post later today after I finish my homework for school.

Thanksgiving:

Today is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is always very quiet around here- but blissfully so. Tom’s still sleeping and I’ve just been puttering around this morning, which is lovely considering we’ve had NO time off since Tom got his diagnosis.

Update on PT:

He’s still with us, but every day he slows down a little more. At this point, he naps most of the time, and he wakes up to eat (he spends a lot of time eating) and to poop and a tiny bit of grooming. I’m so incredibly grateful we had this extra time with him- it was almost three weeks ago that the vet told us it was likely terminal, and based on experiences I have had with other pets that had cancer/growths, their passing was always within a few days of their diagnosis. But PT managed to stay with us for these last few weeks.

It’s hard, though, too- very emotional. We’re exhausted. But this is part of the exquisite privilege of sharing your life with animals- you care for them both when they are healthy and when they aren’t. I realize that even though this is heartbreaking, it’s also an opportunity, in a way- I would want to be able to ease the suffering of *any* animal, so I’m trying to remember that by taking care of him and watching for the moment when his quality of life isn’t there anymore and helping to ease his passing, it’s part of our relationship with him, and it’s a way to honor his life.

I have to say that this particular Thanksgiving I am very grateful that I don’t have to experience this alone- having Tom and Grace love animals as much as I do makes it much less of a lonely, isolated process. I’m also incredibly grateful for our little zoo of pets because even though PT is quiet and slowing down, his brother Herbie is still cheerful and loud and messy in the cage right next to his, and there are our four cats always circling around our ankles and “talking” to us and wanting to cuddle up, and there’s Winnie our Caique, who fills the house with her whistles and chatter, and there’s Jack, our elderly leopard gecko, peeking out of his little cave in his tank every so often. While having more pets doesn’t ease the heartache of losing any of them, it does soften the blow to know that there’s still so much love and life going on around here. It doesn’t prevent a hole from opening in your heart, but it helps heal it, I think.

 

Gratitude:

Another thing I am particularly grateful for this Thanksgiving is *comfort* aka having electrical power. I don’t think there’s been a day that’s gone by since the power came back after Hurricane Irma when I didn’t feel intensely grateful for the comforts of everyday life that I often took for granted before the storm- things like air conditioning, a working refrigerator, washer/dryer, fans, lights, etc.  I really do relish the simple pleasure of feeling comfortable and being hydrated and being able to go to sleep at night in between cool sheets without being gobsmacked by the heat or humidity. Every single day when I get out of the shower I just sit there with a towel wrapped around me and breathe for a little bit, feeling a huge sense of relief and gratitude for cool air and comfortable temperatures and a clean fluffy towel to use.

It’s been a weird year. But I feel grateful it’s not *last* year. Even though last year was pre-Tom’s cancer, pre-Hurricane Irma, pre-PT’s cancer, I still feel relieved to have gotten through this year. Last year at this time I was LITERALLY still reeling from the election, and was so stunned and shook up by it that the only thing I could think to do was make the jump and finally convert to Buddhism because I felt the only possible way I had of contributing to the world was by getting my act together once and for all.

Now it’s a year later, Donald Trump is still in office but he hasn’t managed to blow up the world (yet). I still can’t read his name without feeling exasperation, and l feel a heavy sense of doom surrounding his administration but it’s still slightly better than it was just a year ago.

Okay, this is going to go into a little bit of political talk, but I don’t do this much so I hope you will indulge me:

What baffles me most is not Donald Trump but some of his supporters. Even if you like the guy, he’s not a particularly effective president. Not that presidents are particularly effective, not with the level of bureaucracy we have in this country. Doing anything here, government-wise, is just years of red tape. But Trump is… well, let’s just leave it at “not particularly effective.”

The thing that makes my head spin a bit are some serious Catholics I know who are bashing the pope on behalf of Trump. That’s so extraordinarily strange to me. I grew up Catholic (I’m Buddhist now), and the pope was Serious Business. You respected that man, end of story. You listened to what he said and gave it some thought. Seeing Catholic people post memes making fun of the pope’s words in support of Trump. Wow. That someone would mock and foresake their own spiritual leader, a man put into position because those who made that decision believed he was the best leader for that entire religious organization- a HISTORICAL position of power and faith- in favor of Donald Trump… wow.

It’s also interesting to me on a spiritual level  because everything I learned in my evangelical christian high school about the literal devil pretty much matches up to Donald Trump. and of course, the fact that his supporters blindly follow everything he says even if it means going against their faith makes it even more creepy.  “The devil’s finest trick is to persuade you that he does not exist.” – Charles Baudelaire. Buddhists don’t believe in this, but it’s still interesting to observe…

And the situation with North Korea. My heartfelt wish is to see the liberation of the North Koreans in my lifetime, because the people in there are Suffering with a capital “S”. There is NO way of arguing otherwise. But the fall of North Korea, at this point, will mean the loss of thousands of innocent lives. So right now there isn’t a solution to that issue without those poor people suffering even more, and horrifically so. Just blindly dropping bombs isn’t going to fix anything. It’s like during hurricane season- so many people said they wished the hurricanes would curve and hit North Korea. Every time I saw that “joke” it devastated me- do people not understand that if anything like that happened the officials would secure themselves in their underground bunkers and not even tell the civilians that a typhoon was coming, and just leave them to suffer? That’s not even something to joke about. The people who we want to be “wiped out” would be the only ones that were safe, further securing their leadership. It’s just such a complicated situation, and heartbreaking on every level. How can anyone joke about it when so many people are suffering?

But then I remember: ignorance- it’s the disease that every single human (enlightened or not) shares. To those of us who wish to evolve beyond its influence, it seems shocking that there are people who don’t understand their minds are being clouded by it. I have to remind myself every single day that not everyone is aware of the influence that fear has on our lives- it rules us every breath we take. I try to remember that and have compassion when my relatives share shockingly horrific ideas and opinions about the world and the people in it- I try to remember that it’s all based on some underlying terror that they have to live with every moment. That’s got to be so difficult. And Donald Trump’s mindset must be a complete mess- you don’t behave the way he does (remember, I am disabled, and the SECOND he mocked that disabled reporter at a PUBLIC EVENT I understood exactly what kind of person DT is) without having some serious malcontent constantly cycling through the mind at all hours. I never thought that Donald Trump’s presidency would be part of my Dharma practice, but I use him as sort of my highest goal- if I can develop some sort of compassion for him and his ardent followers, then I am making progress. I do want to note that compassion and tolerance of inappropriate behavior are two VERY different things.

But like I was saying- even with all this, I am still less fragile than I was this time last year when I felt like the floor was yanked out from under me.

I will say one last thing about this before I move on- there’s some irony in all of this because while Donald Trump’s election was a main factor in my conversion to Buddhism, he also provides the most compelling proof *against* one of the main tenants of Buddhism: KARMA. If there’s anything that DISPROVES the concept of karma, it is Donald Trump. I know karma is believed to ripen across lifetimes and not years, but still- you’d think there’d be a *hint* of some karma ripening by now. Maybe there is and I’m not fully understanding how it’s playing out. These situations often are baffling and terrible until they resolve and you can see the patterns in them. I’m hoping this is going to be resolved soon- at least this terrible tension between people- and it will make some sort of sense and bring us back together.

 

Back to Thanksgiving:

Since Thanksgiving is a holiday that is kind about food, football, and gathering with family, it’s always been a non-starter for us. Tom and I are vegetarians (Grace is not but we keep a vegetarian house- she eats whatever she chooses when she’s at school and out with friends) and I have a zillion restrictions on what I can eat because of my Spina Bifida-related stomach issues, we’re not into football or college sports, and the only family that lives nearby are my parents, and they’re not big on holidays, either, so… it’s basically a day off, a long weekend.

Typically we go to a movie and go to dinner out with my parents to celebrate a day or two before Thanksgiving, but this year Grace went to Legoland with her friends and I’m still on a time-out with my parents, so it’s just Tom and me at home. We’ll probably watch a movie or a TV show we can’t watch when Grace is at home because she lurks around whenever we watch something without her… so we’ve pretty much had to limit everything we watch, which might explain why we’re suddenly addicted to House Hunters- it’s the one show she shows absolutely zero interest in.

As far as my parents go, my dad stops by our house a lot, but I haven’t talked to my mom since the day after Hurricane Irma -neither of us have initiated contact or discussion. I’m not being stubborn, and neither is she- we’re just giving each other some space, I guess. Her reactions to fights are to act as if they don’t happen, and I don’t agree at all with that policy because then *nothing* ever gets figured out or healed.

I’m trying to figure out a new way of having a relationship with my parents that involves both affection *and* boundaries and I haven’t come up with anything yet. I think, ultimately, the way my parents “parent” is by taking care of things and running the show. And I’m not interested in that. And the way I “daughter” is by wanting to have more of a relationship other than ongoing conversations about things like Grace’s doctor appointments, the health of my foot, and house maintenance, etc. and they’re not interested in that. They are into “doing”- no talking or relaxing or just spending time together for the sake of being together- and I am more into “being” and “thinking”, so maybe our relationship just needs to be one of mutual acknowledgment and sort of a symbiosis (cooperative relationship, I guess) but not one of great friendship and affection. I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure it out. I think it still all comes down to expectations- what they exprect from me, and what I expect from them.

The only issue with all this is that Grace is also having issues with my parents, as well. It’s been going on for about two years- they still treat her like she’s a toddler and completely helpless, which drives her crazy. She really values her independence and when she’s over there, she can’t shut the bedroom door without my mom insisting it be open, and she can’t just be quiet/do her own thing without them insisting she must be mad at them and then getting mad at her for being mad at them for no reason, when she’s absolutely not mad at all, she’s just being quiet.

The issue with this is that it’s the EXACT same thing that happened with me when I became a teenager, so of course I empathize with Grace. My parents are amazing amazing amazing with little kids, but I don’t think they understand how to interact with pre-teens and teens.

Anyway, Grace is 12 now, and she’s a preteen and it’s important to her that she be acknowledged as not a little kid but someone who is quite responsible and very amiable and well behaved. She does awesome in school, and she’s a *good* kid. But she’s also quiet, reserved and very thoughtful. She’ll talk your ear off when she has something to say, but she likes her space and is not chatty in the mornings or right after school, and my parents think that when she’s being quiet, she’s deliberately being rude to them. They don’t understand how she could have turned from this singing, dancing, sparkly girlie-girl kid into this studious, dreamy 12 year old who is a little shy and would rather talk about Dr. Who than Disney princesses.

When this all started happening, I tried to explain to Grace what it meant to be “on” for certain people (something most introverts are familiar with) but it’s an abstract thing to try and figure out until you catch yourself doing it- sort of like trying to explain someone how to balance on a bike. You just have to figure it out and then you get it.

Anyway, since I understood what Grace was going through, and my parents were constantly on her for her “rudeness”, and then telling me I must have told her it’s okay to be sullen (when that’s not how she is, and I have tried to encourage her to be more “on”, if anything, which I now think is not the right approach, either…) I have decided to stop brokering peace between them altogether. This is hard stuff because they are Grace’s only living grandparents, and we DON’T have a big family- Tom’s got one sister who is amazing and wonderful but she lives in Arizona, and I’m an only child. Neither of us are in much contact with extended family. So Grace’s grandparents should be a big part of her life, but I’m not going to force her to have a relationship with them when she feels so self-critical and anxious around them. I’m trying to so hard to teach Grace to value herself and honor who she is and it’s hard to maintain that and then send her over to my parents and say “well, when you’re with them, just *act* cheerful and engaged and talkative and try to tolerate no privacy…” I can’t do that anymore.

 

Thanksgiving Memories

I’ve been thinking a lot about the holidays and Thanksgiving this week. When I was a kid, I hated Thanksgiving but loved Christmas. Now it’s the other way around.

I think that’s because Thanksgiving was such a weird holiday and so the only way it could change was to improve. I love the fact that it’s now this relaxed day that’s part of a four day weekend. Yesterday felt like a Friday, today feels like a Saturday, but then tomorrow is *another* Friday and then we get a whole weekend!

And it feels cozy- since we don’t cook, there’s no prep to do. There’s no place to go, nowhere to be, no one wanting to conference call Tom for work…

I remember how absolutely gobsmacked I was when I realized, about eleven years ago, just how *relaxing* Thanksgiving is. It was such a surprise because all my life it was such a “meh” holiday. When I was in college and grad school it was just a four day weekend- it was usually right before finals, and I wouldn’t just go home for a few days. So I think I just stayed at school like a lot of other kids. Or my parents came to Atlanta, maybe? I have memories of eating with them in a few restaurants in Atlanta on Thanksgiving. Yeah, I think that’s what we did.

When I was a kid, my mom would go all out on Thanksgiving day and do the turkey and everything else. And then the four of us- my mom, my dad, my grandma (who lived with us), and I would go into the NEVER EVER used formal dining room in our house that was decked out in crimson velvet, gold brocade, polished wood, and mirrors and have the meal in there.

In silence.

See, the four of us usually ate at the kitchen table together, every night, when my dad came home from work and my mom finished up her workday in her in-house office. We just ate with the little kitchen TV on. We didn’t talk too much- we mainly just got together for the meal, ate in companionable silence (there was plenty of talking at other times- it was a loud Italian family), and then went back to our own rooms. My parents were big on having TV sets in bedrooms, so we all had our own TVs and watched in our own rooms.

Anyway, when I was a kid Thanksgiving felt super weird and not relaxed so I kinda didn’t like it at all. Plus, I really wonder if my mom enjoyed doing that big meal. I’m thinking probably not. My mom is not a fan of cooking- it’s not to say she’s not good at it, it’s just not something she really enjoys. I don’t think she ever enjoyed it, but back in the late 70’s, early 80’s there was NO ONE ELSE to make dinner. Seriously. And there weren’t microwaves or convenience foods or decent take out other than pizza so she had to cook meals for us. As soon as she retired and moved down to Florida, she more or less shut down the kitchen. And I think that’s a *good* thing, because why should she have to cook if she doesn’t enjoy it? The only issue is my mom won’t let my dad cook because she doesn’t want to deal with any sort of mess so they eat almost all their meals from either the grocery store or restaurants, which is unhealthy…

I kind of wish someone had taken my mom aside back in the 1980’s and told her “stop with this Thanksgiving stuff. Cook a simple meal, enjoy the day. You’re not obligated to cook this giant meal.” But at that time, moms couldn’t really say “I’m not interested in making this huge stressful meal for one day so we’re having sandwiches”- moms spent the week prepping for the meal and spent Thanksgiving in the hot kitchen.

So anyway, I think a reason I enjoy Thanksgiving now is because there’s just no expectations at all. It’s just a true day off. Bliss.

 

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