I sat scrolling through my Facebook and allowing my Instagram stories feed to play itself as I nurse my baby. I's thansgiving day here in the US. Dinner tables all over America in homes of people some of whom I know very well and others I barely know. Staged for perfect shots, full from end to end with scrumptious-looking comfort food and surrounded by those eagerly awaiting to crowd their plates with it. Fun and laughter in the backgrounds.
"I am thankful for" and "happy thanksgiving" posted everywhere, folks listing all the great things and people that's happened to them.
Kitchens, living rooms an dining rooms bubbling with family and friends. I could not shake off the feeling of wanting that for myself. Only a few weeks ago our home was filled with loved ones big and small but today it's just the three of us.
First generation Ethiopian- American with barely a decade lived absorbing American culture, a fairly new blended family and having to share our kids with their other parents, a friendship landscape that had to resurface itself. Just a few of the ingredients from the recipe of a quiet thanksgiving with my Ethiopian-Brit husband and our 3 month old daughter.
Draw this picture of the first generation, in-the-middle immigrant, would you?
You have two pools of customs and traditions from two distinct cultures to pick and choose from, a range of holidays to observe. Well, in our case, three! You are deeply rooted in one but like a good immigrant, ever assimilating into the other. While that may sound like a luxury of choice; it's also hectic. It requires establishing circles of family and friends with whom you maintain and nurture your ties to each pool. It demands time and effort while the things one can't control can only be hoped for to remain constant.
As I joked around with my unbothered husband about our injera be shiro thanksgiving dinner, my inner-chatter continued.
"Yes you are thankful for a whole lot in your life and yes you advocate year-round gratitude but now you have a nagging feeling that only roast turkey and loved ones crowding your home was going to determine your level of thankfulness" I admitted to myself.
It felt uncomfortable and yet, like most discomforts, it triggered it's own healing.
"How?" You may ask.
I pondered on discomfort and how to be thankful for it.
Then followed an array of reasons why I felt down but paired with each was a reason why even that was something worthy of triggering gratitude.
Whoa! Gratitude for things that pull you down? Praise about people who made up your inner circle but are no longer in your life? Appreciative of pain? Relieved about prayers unanswered and wishes unfulfilled yet with a possibility of ever?
Now that's something!
It's no surprise we say "thank you!" when pleased but how about when we aren't? Can we still appreciate moments we would rather alter, thereby accepting them as they are and even seeing their perfect beauty by daring to alter our perspectives instead? Who would we be if we realized that discomfort is also our friend? That without it, comfort would have meant nothing?
That pain and pleasure are always in the flawless flow of balance? Would we then, maybe, mention the less-than-ideal as something we are grateful for?
I challenge you to remember this the next time you are stuck in traffic or a coworker pisses you off. When you get a past-due notice on your bill or sink into sadness remembering someone you lost. Whenever you feel less-that-content, that's your cue to be in the present as pain is merely a nudge to pay attention to the here and now.
May we learn to practice wholesome thankfulness.