We are cooking and cleaning and decorating like mad to get ready for Thanksgiving. It’s an essential part of holiday preparation. But even as we anticipate the warmth of togetherness and family we also need to prepare for Thanksgiving’s dark side. As much as we love the menu and the ease of this no-gift holiday—when families gather conflict is inevitable. Along with the platitudes about gratitude we need to be preparing now for the cornucopia of hurts, wounds, and assaults on pride that is sometimes the real centerpiece when relatives gather. This week –and next– you’ll need to forgive siblings, the spouses, the exes, and the in-laws.
It’s going to happen. Somebody is going to say something to make somebody mad. That someone might even be you.
We all know about resentments, and on Thanksgiving we’ll witness some stunning examples: The aunts who don’t speak, the seething sister-in-law, the ex-husband who won’t come into the house, and the silent, long-suffering teenagers.
On Thanksgiving we’ll be humming, “We gather together….”, but mothers will sigh over daughter’s hair, the childless will offer parenting advice, and the uncle who has plenty will tell those who have none how they should invest their money. Old wounds will be given a good jab, intentionally or not.
Resentment comes from the Latin, re-sentire, to re-feel. Someone else might be the one who starts it by saying the wrong thing, but after that we get to decide whether we’ll feel it once, or twice or for the next twenty years. That’s how we end up with those situations where Aunt Mary can’t come to the wedding because she hasn’t spoken to Bob’s wife ever since… Well, no one really remembers how that one started.
Is it any wonder we eat so much? I think many of those second and third helpings are just to keep the peace.
Frederick Luskin, Director of the Forgiveness Project at Stanford says, “Forgiveness consists of taking less personal offense.” By that he means choosing to give up resentment.
So, what can you do? Here is where you have to give yourself a reminder: “I’m the one with the 12-step program.” Luckily, we have these gems to hold onto as we step up to the Thanksgiving buffet:
“Resentment is like allowing someone to live in your head and not charging them rent.” “Resentment is like drinking poison and thinking that the other person will die.” “Resentment is like setting yourself on fire hoping other people will die of smoke inhalation.”
Just say those to yourself at dinner and everyone will wonder at the mysterious smile on your face.
When the tension rises in the dining room on Thursday just consider it a warm up for the December holidays to come and make another choice. Let’s remember to be gentle with ourselves and the people we will dine with.
Diane Cameron’s book, Out of the Woods is a guide for women new to recovery. With time, recovering women face challenges and Cameron shares her experiences in hopes to teach readers how to handle the unexpected trials of double-digit recovery.