“You’re the only one who knows when you’re using things to protect yourself and keep your ego together and when you’re opening and letting things fall apart, letting the world come as it is – working with it rather than struggling against it. You’re the only one who knows.” —Pema Chodron
This quote is me. At Thanksgiving. At any holiday really. Struggling, fighting, throwing an emotional temper tantrum because things aren’t going my way. Because what I see isn’t what I want to see. People have changed. I’ve changed. But I want things to be as they were. As they were all those years ago when Thanksgiving was perfect, the potato rolls were on the table, the country ham was never too salty and the turkey was never too dry. When all your loved ones were still with you, and the only stress you had was whether or not you’d have room for Nana’s perfect pecan pie.
The memory you have in your heart is always perfect. Unblemished. All year long I eagerly await Thanksgiving because I crave the closeness and the gratitude and the peace that comes from family. Okay, I just wrote that and re-reading it microseconds later I don’t even believe it myself. If family=peace Hollywood movie writers wouldn’t have any material. But somehow in my mind I equate Thanksgiving with all the happy memories I have of that time when I was a child. It’s like a perfect portrait of nostalgia. Not saccharin like Norman Rockwell, but certainly something close to it.
Except that picture doesn’t even exist. Life isn’t a stagnant oil painting. We grow up. Loved ones die. People move away. Things change. And the picture is a lie anyway. It doesn’t show everything. It only shows the happy, pretty surface, not all the pain, baggage, and crap the kids in the picture carried into their adulthood. Carried with them like a second skin, refusing to ever let go. You can’t see that in the picture. In the picture all is well. It’s this perfect, unrealistic picture I’m carrying around with me, constantly trying to recreate. Struggling to recapture in vain. Not ever looking past the pretty surface, hoping to forget the painful shadows and only see the pretty highlights.
In my head this is how Thanksgiving is SUPPOSED to be. Happy happy. Pretty pretty. Perfect. And so every Thanksgiving rather than accepting what is, surrendering to what I am and what I have, and what I can handle, I fight against what I think it should be. What definitely ISN’T there, but what in my mind SHOULD be there. Instead of living in gratitude, I’m struggling and fighting.
I haven’t accepted change and so I use nostalgia and memories as shields – to guard against the very real fact things are different. We don’t get together as a family anymore, I don’t have children, and things are never again going to be the way they were. And that’s okay. I can’t live in the past. It’s getting tiring. I am grateful for Pema’s words, because in reading them it’s helping me to be aware. I might not be ready to surrender my shield just yet, but she promises that maybe relief from all this fighting is in sight….awareness is the first step.
Trouble is, this whole blog is about remembering. Recording and remembering for when I can no longer. How do you record and remember without totally getting lost in the past? And how do you accept change and begin to move through the holidays without losing yourself in nostalgia? Without fighting. Accepting and moving on. Being truly grateful for what you have instead of spinning and spinning in this longing for what you think you’ve lost. Creating new memories rather than longing to bring back the old ones. They wouldn’t be as great as you remember anyway, would they? If hindsight is 20/20 then nostalgia is Blu-Ray…