Martha Carr’s column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at Martha@caglecartoons.com.
Thanksgiving is one of the simplest American holidays. There are no expensive presents, no elaborate decorations and no divisions based on religion or political ties.
There are actually very few expectations of any kind. Sure, my family always had to have rice, whipped potatoes and stuffing or there would be hurt feelings. That’s a lot of carbs at one table, but those are still all easy requests to fulfill.
Independence Day is fairly simple with cookouts and fireworks, but it lacks the effort most people will put into gathering around the table with family and friends for Thanksgiving. This holiday is consistently the most traveled holiday of the year. Not Christmas or Mother’s Day.
Americans will drive hundreds of miles on the fourth Thursday in Thanksgiving to have one over-sized meal, watch some football and then drive home. All in an effort to stay connected.
However, Thanksgiving is also the holiday that takes the most ribbing from late night comedians. There are always plenty of potshots about the trials of hanging out with family for an entire day, much less a weekend.
The theme is along the lines of the verbal poking and prodding from well-intentioned relatives who want to know about the job, the spouse, the lack of a spouse that can leave some of us feeling a little less successful. Some of us can even leave feeling just like the turkey.
It doesn’t have to be that way. I may not be able to do a thing about the way my family behaves, but I can show up differently. Instead of taking some sense of self-worth from how well my life plan is received around the table, I can take for granted that my self-worth is doing OK. Then, I have a better shot at being grateful and maybe even being of service. There’s no contest going on to prove my standing in the family.
The truth is, the questioning doesn’t really bug me. It’s not having any of the right answers.
The only time a question like –– How’s the writing business going? –– can get under my skin is when I have no idea. There’s no flashy answer that I can give you that will elicit oohs. My big worry is that the interrogator, a cousin or sister, will see the small bits of worry spelled out on my face and start offering large doses of advice.
Get a backup job that can pay the bills just in case. Look into selling real estate instead. Try writing textbooks, because those are always in demand.
Not once did I say that my particular area of the profession was circling the drain. But not being able to say how a problem will get fixed and when that will happen can worry the best of us. I’m not sure that translates into I may die broke and alone. Of course our families want to help us.
They don’t want to see us suffer and are willing to offer whatever resources they have to make everything better. That’s not always in our best interests.
Now, I don’t like the waiting or doubt that goes with waiting for a job or looking for a spouse either. I even jokingly refer to it as the hallway between the door that closed and the one that’s going to open. During particularly long waits I’ve said I was going to get a couch in my imaginary hallway to make the wait more comfortable.
But I’ve also learned patience, trust in God’s plan for me and a lot of humility. Big doses of humility that get me to once again admit what’s really important to me. Somehow, family and friends keep coming up on the top of my list, despite all of their traits that can make me wince.
So, sure, our families drive us nuts, but they also remind us that we’re loved just as we are today. No big job title required. No fancy car, doting spouse or well-behaved children needed either. In return for this very precious gift we can just feel grateful. We can learn to appreciate the nosy questions, the elaborate stories and the self-appointed experts and just be present. Then pass the gravy and say thank you. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
Tweet me at @MarthaRandolph and tell me how your Thanksgiving holiday went. www.MarthaCarr.com.
Martha’s column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail Martha at Martha@caglecartoons.com.