The Thanksgiving Solution

Every year around this time the world feels a little off. I️ don’t know if it’s the time change, weather, or season but it seems like everyone around me is more on edge.

And I️ feel on edge along with everyone else.

Work and school obligations and kids’ extracurricular activities are tantamount to all but when you add the emotional and financial stress of another passing year, even the most mundane chores and expectations of daily life can be exhausting and overwhelming.

I️ believe in gratitude. I️ am thankful for this life I️ lead, for this second chance at being a military family of five and a partner with whom I️ can finally live under the same roof.

Sometimes gratitude isn’t enough.

I️ walked around Target this evening looking for a cheap box of hair dye in an attempt to cover my gray roots and was overwhelmed but not for the reasons you may think.

The commercialization of Christmas used to really bother me until I️ learned to look and listen past it.

I️ heard a preschooler asking his father a million questions about the different animals in the Christmas displays. I️ wanted to tell him my oldest was ten years old and I️ missed that curiosity stage of all three of my children dearly.

But I️ didn’t.

I️ met a grandmother asking me for help because, despite holding her reading glasses in her hand, she could not see the price of the giant doll in a striped pink box. I wanted to tell her that when my middle child was one and a half, Santa brought her a baby doll and a crib for the doll but in that Christmas morning, she picked up the doll and put it on the floor so she could into the crib herself. Even then as a toddler she did whatever she wanted to do.

But I️ didn’t tell her that either.

I️ heard traditional Christmas songs playing faintly from one of the aisles and remembered how my mom and dad played their favorite AM stations on a dusty old portable radio all the time. I️ always assumed they were too cheap or too poor to buy whatever everyone else had like microwaves or cable only to find out quite recently that they put everything they had at the end of the month toward next month’s mortgage payment, paying it off in eight years rather than the full thirty.

When I️ heard that, I️ was speechless. All those nights of making ramen noodles fancy with fresh shrimp, eating Vienna sausages from a can with leftover rice, and freshly caught fish from my dad’s fishing trips to Moss Landing weren’t because we couldn’t afford it? Even now thinking about it, I️ chuckle because they did not waste a single penny and for that I’m grateful.

While I️ can still take a page (or a hundred) from their example, I️ wonder if back then was a simpler and better time. I️ don’t know if materialism wasn’t as rampant but I️ feel like I️ wanted less than my kids. But I️ wanted less because my parents said NO and I️ knew better than to ask. I️ have honest conversations with my kids and tell them that these extras that we provide are extras– if they want those things when they’re older, they aren’t free. I️ hope we are telling them NO often enough because I️ don’t want my kids to have what I️ couldn’t have. My thinking is, “If I️ didn’t have it, they don’t need it.” I️ am grateful to be in this situation where we can provide them with their needs because Lord knows that isn’t always the case.

Maybe that’s why this time of year brings anxiety. All of this change seems sudden as if the weight of the entire year hangs in this delicate balance. This season of rejoice has become a season of stress and financial burden.

We can change this. Every year like the bad moms in “Bad Moms”, I️ begin to take things back. I️ reject what was once expected of myself (because we all know that there is no pressure quite like the pressure we put on ourselves) and I️ decide to do things my way. Or not.

One year I️ decided not to do a Christmas letter to include in cards because I️ didn’t think anyone read ours. Another year, I️ completely forgot to do them. Inevitably I️ always have at least a Christmas dozen cards still sitting on my piano come Valentine’s Day.

There was one year where we did not throw any parties. Nothing. Not a birthday party, not a Halloween party, not a Christmas party.

It felt amazing.

That isn’t to say I️ didn’t miss spending time with friends and family but to be rid of the stress that comes with planning was well worth it. You all can just text me, bitches!

I️ don’t know how or what I’ll take back this year but I️ know it will feel amazing.

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