We are all living the unlived lives of our parents and our culture.
In Anna Karenina, Tolstoy writes, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Now we speak of dysfunctional families. We’re wounded by our beginnings, even if we just had a “good-enough father” when we wanted a perfect father. But could it be a necessary wounding?
–from On the Threshold of Transformation by Richard Rohr
I remember hearing the great Jungian psychologist and writer James Hillman say families are dangerous; they can kill you. I know he was being provocative. But I’m going to suggest that this Thanksgiving you try not to live out the unlived lives of anyone. Instead, be highly conscious and present, which is one way to avoid some unwelcome family dysfunction.
As we gather with our families and friends this year, be mindful of the emotional dynamics at play. Be clear and gentle with yourself and others. Someone, usually the wife and mother, will be working herself ragged to make certain everyone enjoys a perfect feast. Be sure to thank her; be sure to help her. If you see folks getting stressed, be the peacemaker not the provoker. Model genuine appreciation. If you’re lucky enough to celebrate Thanksgiving in a warm and dry house with people who care about you and enjoy more food than you can possibly eat–this means you’re one of the fortunate ones–don’t feel bad about it; just appreciate it.
Thanksgiving can be a wonderful holiday, with none of the stress of Christmas or the pressure to over-socialize at New Year’s. It’s really a brilliant opportunity to unlock the secret at the heart of all great spiritual traditions–to give thanks; to live with gratitude. What could be simpler? What could be more profound or life-changing?
Save some stuffing for me.