“We can all find reasons to be thankful,” I was told when I was lamenting the fact that I wasn’t looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with strangers. Ya, sure we can. After all, isn’t thankfulness ‘mindset' #12' in the Handbook for Better Living, a book I’ve been preaching from my entire life? Thankfulness is a cornerstone of philosophic thought all over the world and I know the Thanksgiving Day drill: “Dear Lord, I’m thankful for central heat, clean water, indoor plumbing and the fact that my address isn’t ‘the center refrigerator box underneath the Main Street viaduct.’ I’m thankful that farmer Jack’s cows come home every night for milking, that I have Ben and Jerry’s Death by Chocolate ice cream in my freezer, and that we’re not living in a nuclear winter.” But here’s where I get a little testy. We humans are multi-taskers so why is it so hard to understand if a thankful widow---anticipating a Thanksgiving dinner with strangers---can visualize herself standing up on her chair and proclaiming she’s got a whole cup of crazy going on in her head? “But I am thankful you invited me here,” she’d continue, “and I thank you for asking me to lead us in prayer.” Of course, you know I’m not going to do that at dinner on Thursday, even though I am stressing out over the very real possibility they’ll ask me to lead a pray, me the person these super-sized Christians don’t realize is an agnostic.
You’ve got to admit there’s a difference between having a good time and pretending you are so you’ll get invited back by the hostess of whatever affair you’re attending. You want her to know her kind gesture of including you is sincerely appreciated. And isn’t that what a good guest is supposed to do? We bring a little wine, maybe a box of bonbons or flashy flowers and smile in all the right places. We help where ever we can and feed their dog under that table. We are good little guests who try hard not to let on that we feel out of place, like a fish swimming in olive oil. I am woman, master of multitasking and I can be as two-faced as the next person. “Thank you very much for inviting me and my ghost for dinner," but did you have to let your uncle Harry sit on his lap?
Last year, my holiday season and the invitations that came with it was all about concentrating on not bursting into tears. This year my mission statement for the holidays is to “dam the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” I am a woman at war, a woman determined to stand on her own two feet. A widow who can move on with the best of them. But I’ll tell you a few secrets I’ve learned over the past year. Moving on doesn’t mean you forget. It doesn’t mean you can’t be both thankful and regretful at the same time and still be a perfectly balanced, sane person who knows how to keep her cup of crazy from spilling over. And the piece of résistance of all secrets is this: in the second year of widowhood a woman must learn to carry her losses forward (minus the pain) to live in harmony with the joy that she’s adding back into her life one baby step at a time. It’s hard work. It’s worthy widow’s work to let go of the pain that came tethered to our losses. And, yes, I am thankful I learned these secrets in a timely manner and I didn’t scratch anyone’s eyes out in the process. I am woman and I’ve roared enough for today. ©