Each year as the holidays approach, dread seems to consume me more and more. For example, it has been at least two years since I stopped listening to Christmas music, eight years since I decorated anything for ANY holiday, and one year since I resolved on Thanksgiving that it would be my last. This reflection is about transforming my resentment by calling myself out...
...for what probably appeared to family and friends as lukewarm or “half-hearted” participation and gratitude.
Holidays remind me through sights, smells, and sounds of the many acts of love by parental figures over the years. I also am reminded of the shadowy undertones that nobody seemed to know quite what to do with other than consume or “gift” more things or food.
Last year on Thanksgiving I found out that the turkey is a sacred animal in some indigenous cultures and used to be killed and eaten when people were diseased and starving as a sacred ritual of finding harmony with the earth once again. Every bit of the turkey was intentionally used in gratitude and honoring of this earth gift. The turkey was seen as noble and courageous for their fearless presence and taken as a sign from the earth that humans were redeemable and could remember a communal path. Thanksgiving or “feast of friendship” was not held on a Thursday of the month, but instead on the full moon of November (which was last week on 11/12). This new moon ceremony strikes me as participating in a fullness or abundance-rhythm with the earth. The turkey was known as the “peace eagle” and the whole story feels like such a different presence and process than the holiday feast we have today.
After learning about the indigenous meaning behind the turkey and then seeing the yearly presenting of the giant glazed body at the center of the table; An unnamed, most likely tortured, and definitely uncelebrated creature, brought me a mixture of resentment and wishing we were more conscious as a family group and species. Instead of feeling genuine gratitude to the hosts for all their love, labor, money, time, and planning that was given for such an abundant meal, I felt obligatory consumerism overcome me and observed myself guiltily swallowing food that I could barely taste while holding such shadowy thoughts in my consciousness about what I and we were participating in. Here’s a meme I’ve been contemplating recently:
My boundary is to change the rhythms of my resentment and collective cooperation by tapping out of Thanksgiving this year and spending it on something more meaningful to me (and hopefully others). I’ve spent years processing with friends and in my own therapy the interpersonal tangles that seemed to get swept under the rug in my family especially on the national holidays and I’m ready to act from clarity instead of resentment and own my truth that Thanksgiving is too twisted for me to stomach, at least this year. I feel less like a rebel in this act and more surrendered to the new consciousness I have around the holiday and what it means collectively to the original stewards of this land. It pains me too much to join a “feast” centered around consuming a creature’s body that was held so sacredly by the people of this land.
I’m also fortunate to not have ties yet to the holiday through offspring or a significant other that might pressure and require me to participate in or host to keep the peace in family traditions.
Here is where my change process currently resides to make the holiday more in line with my values:
How do you acknowledge the complex history that comes with this holiday and how you make reparations to indigenous people for what genocidal harm our ancestors have perpetuated and we continue to participate in even today?
About the Author
Ruth Diaz, LPC, Psy.D. is a counselor, consultant, and coach on returning to compassionate connection in relationship with ourselves and each other at every level. She works as an organizational consultant and therapist in Portland, Oregon.