Hope that those of you who observed Thanksgiving in some way had a meaningful day.
My day was nice and quiet; it was also a little melancholy. I have a feeling that this holiday season will be a tough one, but I’m trying not to turn that feeling into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I went to a mid-morning yoga class on Thanksgiving. This is basically a tradition of mine, but there are some years when I need it more badly than others. This was one of them.
When I got to class, I thought about all of the other years when I rushed to yoga on this holiday or another one, taking refuge on the mat. I thought of the year I went to yoga and cried my eyes out before class had even commenced. My teacher walked up to me, hugged me, and said, “we’re here; we’ll be here all weekend.”
I was so profoundly grateful to her for saying that, to the studio for existing, to the communities and shared spaces who give those of us with complicated relationships with holidays and/or biological family a place to gather and feel safe.
I felt all of that on Thursday as well. But what I felt most of all was gratitude to be in my body, moving and breathing and just being. It was a pleasure, and it helped to break up the knot of sadness I’d been carrying around.
Later that day, I had some sweet one-on-one time with my mom and some very good food. I made red lentil chickpea loaf and mushroom gravy, mashed sweet potatoes and green beans, and some cranberry sauce.
It was all simple and very tasty, but of course the highlight of the meal was dessert: pumpkin pie and tofu whipped cream. A few bites of that reminded me of how much sweetness and goodness there is to savor, even in complicated moments.
I was consciously thankful for my friends, my mother, the place where I live, the roof over my head, and many of the same blessings that I try to acknowledge as part of my daily gratitude practice.
At the same time, I’m not of the mind that anyone should try to force gratitude as a way of erasing other feelings. Holidays are complicated for a lot of us. It’s important to acknowledge the sadness, anger, loneliness, or ambivalence that can arise at this time of year, even when gratitude is present.
When I reflected on what had kept me to remain grounded through the flux of emotions on Thursday, it was the joy I had experienced being in my body in yoga and the happiness that I got from eating my dinner and dessert.
Isn’t that remarkable? If you’d told my younger self that I’d one day find comfort in food and my body like this, she’d be shocked.
She spent most holidays calculating exactly how much she’d need to restrict ahead of time in order to “make room” for her Thanksgiving meal. She punished herself with exercise she hated before and after. She often spent the days after eating a great big feast avoiding mirrors, sometimes even showering in the dark, so that she wouldn’t have to look at or acknowledge her body.
Food and embodiment—physical sensation, putting a hand to the belly and being thankful for breath moving in and out—were not places of refuge. They weren’t home.
And now they are.
Life hasn’t become less complicated in the years since my recovery, but the way I handle it has certainly changed. That’s one major thing to be thankful for.
Happy Sunday, friends. Here are some recipes and reads.
I made mashed sweet potatoes this week, so now it’s time for some regular mashed spuds. Liv’s roasted garlic and herb mashed potatoes look great.
I’ll never turn down another recipe for vegan mac n’ cheese.
Thanks to Gina, I’m very intrigued by the idea of a broccoli, potato, and tahini soup.
I’m so into the dairy-free version of Lindsay’s cozy broccoli cheese casserole.
Finally, how beautiful (and seasonal) are Natalie’s chocolate chai cupcakes?
1. Five expert tips on how to make better homemade latkes. Mostly I’m just fascinated by the “carrot trick”!
2. End-of-year is always my season for adding more books to my wish list, and NPR’s best books list is very comprehensive.
3. Everything we burn, we breathe. A hard-hitting and sobering essay on air pollution and its toll on human life across the globe.
4. An examination of the beloved molasses cookie, as it always has been and as it is becoming.
5. Finally, I’m one of many people whose lives were deeply impacted by Stephen Sondheim’s music. We’re mourning him this weekend. I’ll probably have something to write about it at some point, but in the meantime, Michael Schulman has put a lot of my feelings into words.
Hope you’ve had time to rest up, enjoy some leftovers, do something nice for yourself, or maybe all three this past weekend. Till soon,
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