You don't have to feel grateful. Happy Thanksgiving!

There is something very peaceful about today. Baby bear is sleeping in his little bed, in the walk-in closet we recently converted to a (very small) bedroom. Papa bear is sleeping in 'Big Bed' (we don't call it 'our bed' - it's not). My usual morning clients rescheduled and I got two hours to myself instead.

Today is American Thanksgiving. In Canada, Thanksgiving happens in early October and it's pretty much just a day to get dumped, since it's the first long weekend after the start of the school year and young people come back home from college to break up with their high school sweethearts. Some like to call it 'Turkey Dump'.

But it's a really big deal down here. Papa bear says it's the biggest American holiday, that the day before Thanksgiving is the highest travel day of the year. Our conversation this morning went like this:

Mama: It's not the biggest, Christmas is. For sure.
Papa: It is the biggest! Everybody celebrates it!
Mama: Not Jews. Sela doesn't celebrate it.
Papa: Well, not practicing Jews, they only celebrate holidays on their own calendar. But everybody else.
Mama: Do Mormons? I just wished a Mormon Happy Thanksgiving.
Papa: Yes. Of course Mormons. I'm telling you, you can say 'Happy Thanksgiving' to basically anybody. It's not a religious holiday.
Mama: Yeah well, I said 'Happy Thanksgiving' to my prof and she said, "I'm Cherokee."
Papa: OK. Not everybody celebrates it.

Then I went to get the diapers from the laundry.

I could write something about anti-colonialism, but today I'm just thinking about gratitude. Gratitude is a complicated thing. I remember hearing once that, "Where there is gratitude, there is no neurosis." And  I think that's probably true.

But people get confused. They reverse it – they think that if you can just cultivate the Attitude of Grattitude™, you can eliminate the neurotic parts of yourself. I'm not so sure about this. When I was really unhappy, reminders to be grateful just felt like a slap in the face. I knew I was lucky in some ways and totally privileged in others. But knowing that did not make it easy to get up in the morning or to look myself in the mirror. If anything, it just felt like, "I'm such a jerk to be so unhappy when I have so much."

Gratitude is like the warmth of sunshine. It comes with happiness. And it doesn't cause it. It's a lucky by-product of feeling good in your skin, feeling loved and secure. My life is different now, and I can't help but feel grateful, many times a day, for my husband's broad shoulders, my son's smile, his good health, his obsession with all things carpenter.

Remember when people used to tell you to do positive affirmations? To look in the mirror and say, "I am beautiful, I am happy, I am the best me I can be," crap like that? Research came out a few years ago saying that if the person doesn't already feel pretty good about themselves, positive affirmations make them feel worse. They remind you of how much you actually think you really suck. Plus, that kind of cognitive dissonance (believing two opposing things at the same time) is stressful.

So anyway. Today I give thanks, but I don't encourage others to do the same. If you don't feel grateful today, that's OK. You can feel grateful later. For now, maybe just see if you can do something to remind yourself that you are loved.

Elder and little one at a 2009 candle-light vigil for Tiffany Morrison.

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