Today being Thanksgiving, I find that I am less inclined to light the chalice and do our evening thankfulness ritual. That may seem counterintuitive, but somehow I feel like the day in its traditional form, although wonderful in many ways as a time to gather, is not adequately about gratitude. If there is any tradition of thankfulness around the table, it comes in the form of a blessing before eating, or a forced go-around-the-table-and-say-something-for-which-you’re-thankful. Those are the worst, at least in the gatherings I’ve experienced. It makes me want to shake off the anxious feeling going around the room of get-this-over-with, even as I write about it now.
Why are we anxious about being thankful? Because gratitude is a very pure emotion, piercing facades and getting right to priorities – and priorities can and will be judged. Because gratitude admits that we aren’t superhuman, and that our lives might be lacking in some way without the people and things for whom we are thankful. Because we’re afraid that there is a right way and a wrong way to be thankful, and we might not choose well. And because we’re out of practice.
The truth is that those anxieties fade away when we practice gratitude daily. We get used to sharing real feelings and we recognize our priorities in new ways. Ritualizing gratitude raises our awareness of all the people and things on which we depend on a daily basis, which makes us more comfortable with our place in the web of life instead of being the star around which everything must, or must appear to, revolve. Practicing thankfulness means we get better at it, and less afraid of doing it wrong. And maybe it is one step towards identifying the people in our lives who love us for the paths we’ve chosen, and not in spite of them. Being thankful with those folks is hard to mess up.
So, I am just as thankful on this day as any other, despite my jaded wish to dissociate myself a bit from the holiday. And so we light our chalice. Tonight B was thankful for the precious friends we traveled to see for Thanksgiving. I am thankful for our time with them, too, for the abundance we shared, and despite my ranting, for the occasion that brought us together.