Thanksgiving Do-Over

This Thanksgiving I forgot to be thankful. I spent a lot of time cooking, prepping the table, planning logistics of when to put the rolls in the oven, take them out, and warm rest of the food before the rolls cooled. Hosting family and friends on Thanksgiving day, more than a typical get-together, is a hit-the-ground-running affair. But since I didn’t schedule actually pondering my own, and our communal, thankfulness, it didn’t happen. I forgot, and it made me sad.

Two years ago when we hosted Thanksgiving, I made an effort to recognize what exactly we were celebrating. Of pointing everyone’s attention toward gratitude and of listening to each person’s thankful heart. It was memorable. It was bonding. It was what Thanksgiving should be. This year I failed as the ring-leader of gratitude. I made some rockin’ brussels sprouts (yes, that’s possible) but I didn’t host the bigger idea of the occasion, which I think is even more important.

I’m certainly not saying

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The Wounds That Bind

I wanted to write about anything other than the election this week. Maybe my kids. My marriage. A fabulous song I want to share. The change of seasons. Anything but the elephant in the room.

But my heart still feels a bit raw more than a week after the election. I thought that once the actual voting was finished we would feel a collective, national release of tension, but obviously that was wishful thinking. It seems blaringly clear now that whoever won, it would have been a difficult transition for our country, since half of us feel one way and half feel another. A drastic split down the middle – at least according to those of us who voted. Sadly, we’ll never know what the rest of our countrymen/women wanted. We’re left with the reality of a jagged tear in the fabric of our country. Not a clean cut, even, but a fraying, ragged mess of threads that must somehow be patched together if we want it to be one nation again.

The first step to healing is what is always the first step:

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A Nobler Task

I voted this morning after dropping my girls off at school, and it felt fabulous to tangibly help this election cycle be over. The long slog of this combative race has worn me out, along with the entire nation. Like the yellowed leaves outside my window today, we have withered. You can see it on the faces of anyone who doesn’t love arguing for the sake of arguing; everyone is ready to move on. We, as a collection of Republicans and Democrats, Green Party members, Libertarians and independents now have to start the harder process of getting along. Ranting about them is easy. Getting along with all the thems is a much harder, and nobler, task.

A giant chunk of our population will be upset tomorrow. And a giant chunk will be happy, or at least relieved. Either way things fall, this is true. And we will all still be living in the same country, with the need to plow ahead. Wounds will need binding. Not gloating poured over them like salt.

A friend just emailed me with an election story.

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Them Becomes We

 

Seventeen people were shot and killed in Chicago over the weekend, making it the deadliest weekend of the year, in the deadliest year since the 1990s. I was there. But my experience was markedly different. I spent Friday night riding on the El to a concert by one of my favorite singer-songwriters and back again with hundreds of Cubs fans. Besides the mini-dream-come-true of seeing Foy Vance live, the night left me with some significant reminders about humanity, completely contrasting the record-breaking violence.

The World Series happened to be occurring in the same city as did the friends we were visiting.  In the same part of Chicago in which we attended the concert. And we just happened to miss our stop on the train. We got off next to Wrigley Field to wait for the return and saw the light flooding out of the baseball field, the dozens of police in yellow vests on the street below, and heard the crowd roar. That roaring crowd, the hordes of fans dressed in blue and red, the general excitement running through the air, all reminded me how in-this-together we are. It was electric, full of possibility. And I don’t even care about baseball.

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Layover

I’m sitting in the Denver airport waiting for a flight. On the very edge of this particular terminal, before an entire wall of windows. Looking out into a view of clouds and an expanse of plains. Cars inch along a road in the distance, tiny against the slice of land and the broad swath of sky. Airplanes taxi across runways to my left and right, as if in slow motion. It’s growing dark, the sun easing its way down in the west, the east getting sleepy.

My flight is not for another hour and only a few passengers have made their way to the gate. It is quiet, save the intermittent instructions over the intercom -the quietest experience I’ve had in an airport for years. I’m thankful for this calm descent of day. I’ve had time to sit and think and look out of large windows – one of my favorite past times.

I watched a bunny hop through a construction area and find a home for the night beneath a stack of green fencing. Dozens of workmen labored on the pavement to it’s left, hundreds of passengers, pilots and airport employees walked these terminal halls, and no one saw it but me. This was my experience alone. Insignificant to the world, but significant to myself. The way I love to watch a single cardinal pecking it’s way across my yard. Or a bee visiting each flower in a patch of liriope blooms. Quietly witnessing something so tiny happening at the same time that wars and Wall Street and LA traffic rage on. It’s centering and humbling and enormously pleasant.

I need this. When I moved to Los Angeles at the age of 23

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For Every One Of Us

The significance of delight. Our right to make things simply because we are alive. The creativity that lurks, no, waits to explode, within us if we will just let it out.

These are a few of my takeaways from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. I often listen to her podcast by the same name and continue to chew on many of the things she dishes out in both. I’ve copied down several quotes that have inspired or challenged me, and I’ve wanted to share them all. But in order to keep my post from being as long as her book I’ve narrowed it down to three heavy hitters.

So here are some of the best bits, in no particular order…

Actually, I lied. This is kind of the very best bit, and it’s a quote from someone else. I’ve adopted it as a personal belief statement. Of how I view the world and the base from which I intend to jump my whole life long:

“We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,

but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have

the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless

furnace of this world. To make injustice the only

measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.”

                                                                                      -Jack Gilbert

Hallelujah that someone said it and said it so well. To claim gladness as a worthwhile, even essential, point of view. Something to hold on to amidst the mess of the world around us. To find the light in the darkness, the glimmer of a gem within the muck, the cool breeze inside the ruthless furnace. If you’ve read my writing before,

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Yes. And Yes.

Sometimes a particular idea will come at me from all directions. As if it’s supposed to. Even a single word can become a theme for a period of time in my life. Remember, gather, and sit have all been recent centerpieces of my thoughts. But the words for this summer that really hit home were both/and, stuck together just like that. I’ve actually thought about them before – wrote a post by the same title a couple years ago (see here), but this summer it was if every podcast I heard, conversation I had and book I read was related to these words. Surely that’s an exaggeration, but when a thought wants to be considered I think it makes itself known. This summer, both/and came crashing through the ether.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about it in her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. After a couple hundred pages of explaining why creativity is both innate in us as human beings and essential to living life to the fullest, and also often taken too seriously by the creators themselves, she summarizes the dichotomy on the last page:

“Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred.

What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all.

We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits.

We are terrified, and we are brave.

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Love Over Lust

I feel love in the age of lust.

I feel love in the age of desire.

That snippet of a song was playing as I walked through the kitchen one morning. Just two lines, but my ears perked up. I then googled it and found that the lyrics belong to Sam Weber, a Canadian singer-songwriter whose album I have now listened to in full. Many times. This happens a lot: my husband plays music from a new artist, I notice the words, a voice, or both, and a new obsession is born. But rarely with such a short introduction. These two lines sparked a rocky, complicated trail of thought, the way words do when at their best.

Since then I’ve been thinking and re-thinking about the idea of lust. What, exactly, is wrong with it, what separates it from love, or just wanting something badly. And I have to say, I got stuck. I couldn’t write about it because I wasn’t sure. Until I read a random comment on WoodenBoat Forum.

What?

Yep.

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Summer of Symmetry

This was a summer of symmetry.

Let me explain.

I have been in a long-term fight with a certain persistent virus that refuses to take a hint (or a shove) and move along. My old nemesis, Epstein Barr made itself comfortable, particularly in my gut this time around, and made me tired and grumpy and not very summery-feeling at all. Yet there were periods of joy, sunshine and laughter, in between the in-bed-or-wanting-to-be, that felt just as summer should. There were family vacations; days at the pool soaking up the vitamin D (Seriously. Vitamin D is my hero. And Epstein Barr’s worst enemy.); horseback riding; late dinners with friends on the back porch; fireflies; Gin and tonics; and most recently,

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And Then

Well.

All three of my children are now in full-time school. Under someone else’s watch. Outside of my home and my care for a good portion of the day. I was excited for this moment to come. It’s been 11 and a half years since I started having kids, quit my job and stayed home full-time to be with them. Today, when I dropped off my sweet girl and walked out the school doors, I didn’t feel much. “That was anticlimactic,” I told my husband.  Which felt completely  wrong. In the span of three minutes I changed from being a stay-at-home, full-time mother to not.  With no fanfare or recognition of the tremendous change. The platform of the last whole chunk of my life was removed and I was walking on nothing. I almost put my arms out to get my balance. I got to the car and sat for a moment, and then the tears came.

Those tears were unexpected. I love her enormously – this is not a case of wishing to be rid of a troublesome child – but she was ready, and I was ready. I thought I was ready, at least.

I had my list. Of all I would accomplish today

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About Me

I am a writer of truth, at least for this site. I write fiction as well, but you won't find it here. The truth is my jam, people. jbhavener at yahoo.com (yep, I'm old-school)

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