“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” -Melody Beattie

All my life, the holidays have had such a magical presence. The season of gratitude or Thanksgiving was no exception. When I was a kid, it meant going to my uncle’s house for a fantastic feast, running around with cousins, and of course, everyone sitting around in a food coma watching the football game. I can never eat a dried apricot without being transported back to that incredible table and the assorted treats.

When I had my own family, I became “Martha Stewart Jr.” creating my own spectacular day of feast and fun for the kids. Everything had to be homemade. I would spend days and hours reveling in the kitchen to pass on the traditions I loved. We would make turkey placemats out of the kids’ handprints, polish the silver and get out the china. It was exhausting, but I loved every minute of it.

Several years later, life took a twist, and I became a single mom. My world has always revolved around caring for those I love, especially my three kids. Unfortunately, divorce often results in having to split holidays, and that first year was beyond painful. At first, it was Easter, which is doable because it spills over several days so you can make it work. Then Halloween didn’t fall on my day either. As the Kool-Aid mom of the neighborhood, this was a bit more challenging to not be making costumes and being the place where everyone gathered. But more than anything, I dreaded Thanksgiving with its load of what I should be doing, and yet, why make all that food if no one is here to eat it?

Several sympathetic friends invited me to join them, but I was feeling blue and didn’t want to ruin their fun. It just wasn’t the same. I love waking early in the morning on Thanksgiving and making something fresh for breakfast while watching the Macy’s Parade with the kids–we were even in the Parade a few years ago. That first Thanksgiving alone, I told myself I might as well stay in bed.

I’m not sure how it hit me, but a few days before the dreaded day, I considered although life has changed, how could I still make this fun? With a different door opening in my life, what exactly did I love, and how could I choose to make the day a special day of gratitude? The first thing was easy–watch the Parade with some breakfast and bubbles. But what about that fantastic feast? Everyone already had plans, and that is a lot of work for a party of one. Strolling around the grocery aisles, I spied my solution! A Thanksgiving Lobster! I absolutely love lobster, but it is a delicacy that not only was out of my budget, but something the kids didn’t like. But one lobster…well this was my chance to do something special just for me.

The day started with a slow morning of reading and writing, which I obviously love to do, watching the Parade, and remembering all those magical moments of years past. A few tears came, but I realized as long as I could recall them, those special memories were still mine, and I hadn’t lost them at all. The day became one of reflection and self-care. It actually was a brilliant way to unfold the day of gratitude after the many years of rolling out the red carpet for others. I lit some candles and quietly savored the lobster. It was perfect! Later in the day, I met up with friends who were just having their dessert. I took a day I was dreading and made it magical by considering what my heart and spirit needed to make it special–love of the people in my world, laughter, good food, and being grateful for the many blessings in my life.

While life continues with its twists and turns, I try to keep my rhythm when it comes to Thanksgiving. Year-on, I whip up a feast for all my loved ones and have fun creating surprises for them. Year-off, I try to take a quieter day of contemplation for my own soul with a few cherished treats.

We always have a choice when it comes to what we emphasize in life. A party of many may be beautiful. An intimate party for one is likewise spectacular when you can reflect on the gift of being alive and take time to be still to the spirit and meaning of your life. What I have discovered is that as long as there is love in my heart, including love for myself, I am never alone. Taking time to nourish my spirit heals me so I can be all that I am for those I love.

If you are at a point where life’s taking you for a bit of a ride down a new path, consider what is available to you. First off, you are not alone, and you don’t have to choose to be. However, if for some reason you are alone for the holidays, go into your heart and ponder what surprises and delights you. Spend time celebrating who you are and dream of the life that you wish. Lavish upon yourself the most incredible gift–time. Take a day of self-care and gratitude for all it means to have this one simple life. And finally, know you have a friend out here who is raising a glass to toast you and your presence in the world! Happy Thanksgiving, all! And for those of us who are on an off-year, enjoy your lobster!

photo credit: Vince Moro

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