Welcome to Conversation with Katherine and my podcast Holidays
This is Thanksgiving, 2019 and the beginning of the holiday season. In reflecting on holidays I am struck by how a media narrative has been created. It starts with the commercials and a picture perfect holiday meal with picture perfect people around the table, looking happy and all of them are attractive. I have hosted decades of Thanksgiving parties. I have shopped, chopped and cooked a lot of food.. My food is tasty and no one has ever complained about the quality or quantity. I can honestly say my turkey has never looked as good as the turkey in the commercials.
I have had a series of mishaps over the years of forgetting ingredients and having to run to the store on the day of to get whatever basic ingredient was missing. For some reason, no matter, how much stock I buy I always run out of stock. I think of the memory that my cooking has created for many. There will be someone who remembers their moment at my Thanksgiving celebrations. I think of the couple that met at my house on Thanksgiving after the Katrina Hurricane. They are now married with children. I knew something was going on because they went out on the deck and spent their time talking to each other.
I think of the mishaps that happened. The turkey that was dry and really needed all of the gravy to make it edible. I think of all of the rushing around and the mess that was left that took me several days to clean up. For me cooking for Thanksgiving was my act of service for those that I cared about. I received a lot of joy from observing them eating my food and I pretended the amount of money that I spent on all that food came from my personal money tree that was in my backyard. Not the credit cards that I would have to pay off during the year. I happily did all of this until....I stopped. Now I won't go into the exact reason that I stopped but instead of it being joyful and a gift it seemed to turn into something else.
I realize the holidays are a time when we have hopeful narratives with expectations that are fueled by our desires, media and family history. Sometimes a holiday will live up to the positive expectations. Sometimes the holidays will live up to the negative expectation that has happened every year as long as can be remembered.
I am amazed when I look at recipes for holiday food that does not have the caveat on all of the pictures, Your Food Won't Look Like This, for the simple reason that a food photographer is taking the pictures and that glistening turkey is some type of chemical glaze that was made for the lighting not to eat. I have never seen a photograph of food that look like the photograph in real life. Think of the last time you had a McDonald's hamburger. Did it look like the picture when you ordered the burger. There is no disclaimer that your food might not make a good picture but it will taste good. The only time in may life when I have eaten food that look and tasted good is at a foodie restaurant that had a tasting menu.
Then there is the sad reality for some of a lonely holiday season. A season that is filled with disappointment, unhappy memories, anniversary memories of the loss of a loved one and how and when will this all be done. Sometimes the sadness does not go away even when you are in a crowd. There can be memories of the pain of holiday past that are so present your ability to enjoy holiday present is missing. If that is your reality it may be hard for you, I suggest that you decide that this holiday will be a beginning of a new holiday tradition. The traditions of holiday present. I suggest to create a new memory based on how you want to be in the present. To allow your relationship with the sad memories to fade because you are going to create new memories in the present. This is not an easy task. It is the task of letting go and embracing something new.
It is finding life affirming moments in the present and embracing the new moment. Your sadness can be a place of the familiar. It does not have to be an always place. If you are alone is there one thing that you can do for yourself that would be life affirming for you today. It could be something as simple as going to the movies. Change the narrative to making a choice rather than I have to be alone. That mental shift can move the present moment from one of something that is happening to you, to something you are choosing for you.
I have chosen to be alone this Thanksgiving. It is the first time that I have been home that I have been alone. I have chosen this because this is what is good for me now. I can't predict if this is my new normal but it is my now. What am I doing? I am cooking. I am cooking, for me, all of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes. I don't like turkey so I am cooking all of my side dishes. I am having fun. I will probably give the food away but I did not need a money tree this year to prepare all of the food. I am taking care of myself and though I have been part of the memories of others I am learning to create my own life affirming memory of my now.
Thank you for listening to Conversation With Katherine and have a great conversation in your life about holiday