“My Grandmother Got Drunk,” and Other Thanksgiving Stories

You know you have a friend who knows and trusts you when you ask about Thanksgiving and they respond,

“My grandmother got drunk and fell down the stairs.” 

What keeps us from sharing the truth with people? Why, when most of us are asked, do we say, “It was great!” Or “I love Thanksgiving!” Even when that isn’t actually true?

Or maybe you say,

“It sucked. COVID sucks. I hate turkey.” 

It’s all paradox right? Some of us want to be with people who lift us up. Some of us want to be with people who can join us in our emotional realness. But all of us want to be with people who are real and neither of these perspectives offer the whole truth.

How do we get that?   

Presence.

When someone asks you about your holiday, do you immediately wonder, 

“What will they think if I tell them?” 

Or, in my case, I ask myself, 

“What do they actually want to know?” 

Curating my response has become a habit. I think about what they really want to know and then I give it to them. Because my quick mind can do some mental gymnastics pretty darn quickly and it always comes out in a way that they feel satisfied with my answer and I stop being caught up in whether I answered the question “the right way.”

But what if I didn’t do that?

What if I didn’t have the thought, “They aren’t really interested.” 

What if you didn’t think, “They’ll judge me!” 

What would be true then? 

I’ll tell you. 

Without the thought that they are just making conversation, I’d tell them the truth. I’d take a breath. I’d go within and wait for an answer to rise up. It might look like this: 

“You know, it was a really different year. I missed the high school football game and the energy of my extended family, but I really loved hanging out in my PJs, watching the parade, and smelling the turkey all day. Dinner was a loud shit show, but that’s how we are when we are together so I guess that it was like any other dinner that way.” 

When we layer a bunch of thoughts on top of the truth, we get confused as to what is actually true. When we jump out of the moment and into the future when (in our made up story) the person is judging us for our Thanksgiving, we fake it. We put a story on top of the truth so that it isn’t quite a lie, but it is a curated response. 

We aren’t in relationship with one another.

We are in relationship with each other’s stories. 

If we want to be living life wide awake, we need to start shedding the stories and get at the truth. Presence allows us to do that. A quick breath. A turning inward to check in.

An intelligent response comes from all three centers: our bellies, our open hearts, and our quiet minds.

Here is what happened. This is how it felt. This is what I think. The End.

Genuine, intelligent, real; a quality response to the question. 

So on Friday, when someone asks you how your Thanksgiving was, you might answer,

“My grandmother got drunk and fell down the stairs. We laughed away our fears when she stood up and joined us at the table. So I guess it was like any other family dinner that way.” 

Enjoy the holiday, however you spend it, and feel free to share how it went.

Really.

Creativity as a Practice, Might Save You from the Quar.

Twenty years ago, if you asked me if I was creative, I would have dismissed you with a joke, moved on, and found it entertaining that you had asked me such a thing. No part of me identified as a creative. Sure, I went through a gift basket stage and a collage stage, and when I look back on those times, I wonder if I was trying to access a sense of creativity without really knowing it. I know that I found those things to be soothing to my psyche. 

Today I see creativity everywhere, right down to how I define creativity. I am an “outside the box” thinker. While I want my outer-limits to be defined, I want total freedom to frolic within them as I choose. And I hate a plan. I like to make things up as I go. I am a thinker, for sure, and I love to imagine possibility. For me, creativity and freedom seem intimately linked. 

The Quar has taught me something. People who have a creative practice – handiwork, ideas, interior design, music, or stretching into something uncharted – are doing ok. 

People who come to me exhausted, unfocused, and stuck, are not accessing their creative genius in any way.

I’m no Sandy Cheeks, but it feels like this is more than coincidence.

As is the case with the ‘Rona, we are often powerless over the removal of the thing causing stress (ie: the stressor), but we can control how we manage it.

Bottom line, stress is caused by not acknowledging our emotional response to the thing to which we are responding (sounds like a riddle, huh?). 

For me, this looks like, “It is what it is!” Or “Everything happens for a reason!” The perspective can be helpful, but backfires if I don’t also acknowledge those feelings of frustration or fear or loneliness that accompany my experience of the ‘Rona.  

It is a global human experience to resist difficult emotions. We push them into the darkness of our bodies, where we can no longer see them, but where they continue to live. We don’t want them, so we will them away. But they aren’t actually away, and when under stress, those emotions leak into our conversations, our minds, and our hearts. Our families see them, even if we don’t.

Have you yelled at your kids or husband lately? Leakage. 

Been critical of people on Facebook about how they are managing their beliefs about the ‘Rona? Leakage. 

Reacted to a boss in ways that you wouldn’t have before? Leakage. 

These reactions to seemingly unrelated things, are triggers that show us that we have pushed something into the darkness that is wanting to be seen and dealt with.

What is the best way to do this?

Have an ongoing practice of stress-reduction that help to mitigate the emotions in the first place. 

Because stress lives in your mind, heart, and body, your practice will work best if it comes from those centers, as well. You have intelligence in each of these centers and when you access it, your decision-making, processing, coping, and overall well-being, will always come from your highest intelligence. It will come from the wisdom of your life experience and learning, from your intuition, and from your most authentic emotions. What could be wiser than that? Creativity accesses all three Centers of Intelligence.

Creativity Accesses All Three Centers of Intelligence.

Here are some examples:

Music: I work with someone who made a choice to take some time off from work last fall and when the ‘Rona struck, was completely depleted by the prospect of not going back to work on his timeline. He wasn’t all that social to begin with, but he found himself withdrawing from his family and sitting in front of the computer, playing games or endlessly looking at fantasy jobs. When he took out his guitar, something he hadn’t gone near in months, something opened up for him. He started to spend more time outside and found time to play with his two young children. He actually enjoyed playing with them. He recently found himself planning a backyard obstacle course in the snow and spending time on his computer creating programs. He credits the guitar as the thing that opened this up for him. 

Don’t play an instrument? Take one up. But know that even listening to music, particularly classical music, lowers the heart rate and pours oxytocin into the brain. Simply put, music, however it is accessed, will support a reduction in stress hormones and an increased sense of resilience.

Interior Design: I’ve painted a bedroom and a bathroom during the Quar. I’m about to start on a large family room. The family has had beautiful conversations about what we want, from colors, to design, and how much time is realistic, given my work schedule. Whether you are planning something with your family, or doing it solo, your neural pathways are opening themselves up to possibility as you choose paint colors, imagine the room the way you want it, and engage in the physical labor of repairing walls and painting a new room. 

Visual Art: I walked into my daughter’s room last week and found paper plates covered with paint and canvases with butterflies, flowers, and smiles. She isn’t a lover of the hybrid schooling and misses her friends. She wouldn’t describe herself as an artist, but she is stretching into something intuitively as a way of getting her emotions unstuck. Thinking outside of the box is second nature to a visual artist. They are discovering and stretching their brains and hearts with logic and skill and beauty. And yes, they are moving their bodies as they sculpt, paint, or sketch. 

I could keep going, but you get the idea. I have clients who dance, sew masks, engage in storytelling and writing projects, and who walk without a plan, a phone, or a map and let their natural intelligence guide them. All of these use the mind, heart, and body. 

Tired thinking about this? You aren’t adding something to your plate. You are excavating exhaustion and stress from your body. Creativity is a practice and it just might save you.