On Thanksgiving, we’re all supposed to be nothing short of grateful and appreciative. And I am, but that’s not all that I am. I am also a little sad. There are lots of people in this world today that feel like they have no real reason to be grateful or have mixed emotions this holiday season. We live in a time of transition, confusion, and anxiety. People, depending on their circumstances, feel anything from happiness and joy to heightened stress levels to despair or hopelessness. This is all okay! Just because it’s Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you are suddenly in different circumstances or that you can change your life for the day. It’s OKAY to not fit the expectation of the day, but you do have to be the best person that you can be and to treat each other with kindness.
Thanksgiving, by its very nature, puts a lot of pressure on each of us to be thankful. We are supposed to spend the day basking in the comfort of our family, eating an abundance of delicious food, and the day should be idyllic. In reality, this is seldom the case and, when it is, you should truly appreciate it for the gift you have been given. There are a lot of people that have no family to spend it with, people that have no food to eat, and people that have nowhere to sleep. There are people today that are anxious and frightened, people that are angry and frustrated. I think now, more than ever, it’s necessary to recognize our differences and respect them. Each of us cannot possibly understand how the other feels since we’ve never been in their specific circumstances, nor can they understand how we feel. In this time of turmoil, and especially around the holidays, can we all agree to take a minute and just be human beings that care about each other, that care about our world, our earth, and everybody else in it?
We all have so much on our plate right now between our individual lives, our families, and the world and politics that have taken center stage. I think we need to give ourselves a break! We are reading so much these days about the stress and anxiety that the vast majority of people are feeling that it’s clear that we need to do something. In the news recently, there are more celebrities talking about their issues with mental illness and struggles with anxiety and depression. This is so common among us that it confuses me when people still attach any kind of stigma to the subject. Mental illness is just another illness similar to cancer or diabetes. In fact, depression, stress, and anxiety are common symptoms of a lot of other diseases, too, as in Selena Gomez’ battle with lupus. These illnesses tend to take on an additional impact during the holiday season and need to be understood, addressed and treated. If you think about the many diseases that have these symptoms as a component, it’s likely that most of us will be affected at some point. Please be kind to those you come across every day, but especially during this holiday season. The great expectation of having a “perfect” holiday just adds to their already burdened life in trying to manage their emotions.
I can tell you from personal experience that I have mixed emotions around this holiday. I, too, battle some common physical, mental, and emotional symptoms as a result of my lupus and other illnesses. I struggle with the fact that I cannot do what I used to do, that I cannot live up to my own expectations. It’s nobody else’s problem; they do not have those expectations of me…I do. I know a lot of people with chronic illnesses feel this way. In addition, I experienced the greatest loss of my life around this time of year, which makes it even more difficult every year when it rolls around. My emotions and feelings are heightened. At the same time, I am so appreciative for the things that I have in my life that I can’t even begin to express how blessed I feel. I have family in my life that let me know how loved I am and I am truly grateful for them. This alone does not, however, result in my being deliriously happy. Why? I try, and succeed, every day in recognizing the good in my life, in nature, in the world around me. This doesn’t prevent or minimize those other thoughts or feelings that creep in. I’m learning to recognize that it’s okay and normal. I think most of us struggle a lot more than we recognize or acknowledge. We all have different feelings at different times and it’s not always just due to your circumstances. It can be physical and it can be attributed to a number of other things. The key is to keep fighting the negative, keep celebrating the positive, and always seek treatment when you need it. Nobody should have to fight this battle alone. Recognizing other people’s problems should unite us in our humanity and how we treat each other. We need, as a human race, to do a better job of recognizing people for who they are, for the core of their being, their fears, their problems, and their feelings.
I know that we’re all busy in our lives, but stop and make some time during this holiday season for real human interaction. When you’re with family, co-workers, dinners, etc., try to leave the politics and religion to the side and have a real conversation. Get to know the other person better; ask them about their life. Let them know you care. Take time to really see that person you pass every day. Say hello, ask how they are, and actually listen to their response. Look in their eyes. Listen to how they sound. Take this opportunity to reach out to someone, to make real human contact, to truly understand another person’s perspective. It might just surprise you and bring you closer to someone. You may find another point of view in something you never thought you would. You might make a new friend or ease somebody’s burden by just being kind to them. Each one of us has an impact on every single person we interact with every day, whether it’s good or bad. Stop and think about how you want to affect people. Make their day a better one. You don’t know what they’re going through and you may very well make a much bigger impact on them than you think. Just think of the possibilities if each one of us did this, every day.