The first Thanksgiving I found to be meaningful in my life was when I was ten years old and my mom decided to pack us all up in the truck and start the tradition of a day of hiking in the Rockies, homemade hot chocolate, and dinner at Cracker Barrel. My sisters had left for college that year, and with only me and my dad left, she didn't feel like cooking an entire Thanksgiving dinner anymore. We joined forces with another family of three, and some of the most happy memories were born. The other family had a son my age, who I had quite the love/hate relationship with. Thanksgiving became a sort of 'check-in' point for where we were in our relationship with each other, and with our parents. You can imagine over the years, especially as we grew into feisty teenagers, how many deep conversations were had on those hikes. We went from inseparable, to refusing to ride in the same car together, to bonding over differences with our parents and we got closer to leaving for college. In the quest of determining our own relationship, I distinctly remember a 15 year-old Marji jumping out of the car as we let the dogs out for a bathroom break and refusing to get back in the truck. I cried, yelled, and threw an incredible tantrum telling my parents that there was no way I could possibly be in the same truck as him. I was quickly told to suck it up, and forced to ride the entire way up the mountain seated right next to him. If I remember correctly, the argument was over something to do with a comment he said about my hair that day, because, after all, what else do you fight about at 15?
One thing that always remained the same about those Thanksgivings, though, is that I was always, undeniably thankful for him. He became a deeper part of my life than anyone --> a soulmate, a best friend, that became a witness to some of the most difficult times in our lives. Years later, as I hosted my first Thanksgiving on my own in my apartment miles away in Miami with my first serious boyfriend, I thought of him, as we frantically called my mom because we had no idea you had to thaw a turkey. I thought of how funny he would find it that my boyfriend had to run to the store last minute and way overpay for an organic turkey because it's all they had left. I thought of him as we had extra food on the table, enough for the six of us that used to go hiking all those years ago.
I thought of him as I surprised my abusive ex-husband with a homemade Thanksgiving dinner, and he picked a fight over spilled pretzels on the floor, and left me alone with an entire dinner for myself and didn't show up back up at our house until the next morning. I craved those innocent Thanksgiving treks to the mountains where a comment about my hair was the biggest thing we had to fight about.
I think of him now, as I prepare to fly back to Wyoming for my first Thanksgiving back home in years. Those Thanksgivings bonded us, to where we are with each other on the holiday, even now that we have gone our separate ways. They bonded us because being stuck in a car for two hours and then in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the mountains for at least eight hours, forces you to work through your differences, and we did.
If anything happened to me right now, I would call that boy that teased me mercilessly over homemade hot chocolate on the tailgate of our truck with our four dogs jumping up trying to steal our marshmallows.
As we kick off the holiday season, I am thankful for a time of reflection, a 'check-in' with my inner self to make sure I'm where I want to be in life. Here are some ways I 'check-in':
Am I Right With God?
This is a #1 priority in my life, and a critical check-in for me. While I evaluate my relationship with God on a daily basis, I do some overall evaluating of it during the holiday season. I think about how often I've been going to church the past year, the most important lessons I've gained from the sermons, and ask myself if I'm living out my faith in my daily life.
Where Did I Think I Would Be Five Years Ago?
This one isn't always the most friendly check-in. I either get super agitated because everyone reminds me I'm not married with children yet, or I get super excited because I love where my career is, and the home I've made wherever I am happening to live. This forces me to realize that you have to be flexible in life, and accepting of where you are. At the same time, it allows me to course-correct if I am way far away from my life goals.
Who Do I Crave Seeing Right Now?
This is a check-in that just seems to naturally happen during the holidays. My mind wanders to happy memories with family and friends and I start craving the people that created those memories right now. This allows me to realize who I might have abandoned over the past year, and who I need to check-in with more when it's not just the holiday season.
The allusive question that adults realize is not just a physical question. Over my life, this has moved from a city, to a person, to myself, to my relationship with God. It's important to recognize who and what creates 'home' for you so you nurture it throughout the year. Try to make home somewhere inside of you, so as you move from place-to-place, job-to-job, friend-to-friend, you are always home.
Who Do I Need To Forgive?
Being a Type-A personality, the person I often times need to forgive is myself. As I surround myself with close friends and family, and gain perspective by traveling during the holidays, I realize how many things I have been blaming myself for that I need to let go of. I also use this time to think of who else I've been harboring some blame towards, and work hard to work through it so by the time I step in to the New Year, I've stepped out of the blame game.
Where Will I Be In Five Years?
Just as important as thinking of where I wanted to be, is thinking of where I now want to be years later. I like to think of what I want my holidays to look like in the future, who I want to have with me and where I want to be. This helps me think of what changes I need to make to get myself there in the future.
How Can I Help?
One of the most important things I reflect on is how I can help others throughout the holiday season --> not only monetarily, but emotionally. The holidays can hit some people pretty hard, so putting a smile on someone's face quickly becomes a priority.
What are you reflecting on this holiday season? What holiday memories do you carry with you? Share in the comments below!
-Marji J. Sherman