My Mom leaned in close, her eyes brimming over, and quietly said, “I can’t believe this is my last Thanksgiving.”
I wish I had just taken her hand and nodded. Or said, “I know” or “I love you” or “you’ll always be with me on Thanksgiving” or said just about anything other than what I did.
However, I wanted unadulterated positivity. It was Thanksgiving, my all-time favorite holiday, and I wanted full throttle grateful, happy, and thankful. I wanted the focus to be on the good, not the bad, and suggested she should want the same. I wanted the simplicity of either/or, happy or sad, black or white.
I wanted THANKFUL, not THANKFULISH.
Yet, by insisting on either/or, I discounted my mom’s feelings and her right to feel loss and sadness and the myriad of emotions that were accompanying her long goodbye that was named cancer.
But life isn’t what I was insisting on. It’s much more nuanced.
Life is mostly both/and, and my mom knew that on that Thanksgiving Day as she looked around the table and felt a jumbled mix of love and regret and gratitude and grief.
However, I was caught up in the simplistic idea that if only I was positive enough, grateful enough, and optimistic enough, all would turn out okay and her last Thanksgiving would be an unequivocally happy one. And while, yes, we can adjust our attitude, keep a gratitude journal and work on creating a better future, that doesn’t mean forgoing how we feel or simplifying the paradoxical nature of reality.
In real life, we’re often drinking a strange brew of positivity and gratitude mixed with fear and worry, a drink that contains multiple realities, flavors, and feelings. A drink that leaves one feeling thankfulish.
I was thankfulish as I basked in the extended, mild fall weather we experienced in Denver this year while reading Antonio Guterres’ remark from the COP27 global climate crisis in early November in which he said, “We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.”
I was thankfulish when I felt giddy about the outcome of the most recent election, laughing with relief that democracy lived to see another day even as some election deniers prevailed and hateful, bigoted, and phobic messages were a big part of the election.
I was thinking about being thankfulish as I continue to work to be proficient, if not fluent, in my use of people’s correct pronouns so that I can honor the right of people to be seen for who they are, even as I mourn yet another hate fueled massacre in Colorado Springs.
And I was thinking about being thankfulish just now as I wrote that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday even as I recall stories of smallpox infected blankets and other atrocities.
Being thankfulish is about being grateful for all we are and have right now while figuring out a way to be in this crazy, beautiful, baffling world.
Being thankfulish is about appreciating the ish for all the power those three little letters hold to nudge us forward in the ongoing work of making our world a better place for all.
Thankfulish is about finding a way to hold the love and the beauty and the joy and the hope alongside the grief and the fear and the pain and the loss, just as my mom did during her final Thanksgiving celebration.