I stood in Macy’s last night, waiting for the seemingly endless line to glacially move forward so that I could buy two pieces of clothing for my nephew, which I clearly could have purchased online. “Frosty the Snowman” was playing above my head, and rang through my ears almost like hypnotic music, attempting to taunt and brainwash me into feeling happy–into feeling like this was what the Christmas season was supposed to be about.
“This song,” my friend said as she rolled her eyes. She was feeling the same thing I was.
We laughed, and luckily, felt happy just with each other’s company and the mere ridiculousness in which we found ourselves. In that moment, I was just thankful for a friend, and thankful that we both recognized how silly our lives had become–in that moment, at least.
I was going to sit down this morning and write about the things for which I was thankful. It felt timely. It felt like something I should do. But I noticed I was only sitting here, feeling sorry for myself, and thinking about all of the things for which I wasn’t thankful. I was alone for most of the day yesterday, I went to bed alone last night, and I find myself sitting alone again today, simply thinking about how alone I feel. Now, don’t get me wrong, I value my alone time, but after a certain point, the sound of my own voice in my head is almost as taunting as the rousing rendition of “Frosty the Snowman” from Macy’s.
But I got to thinking a bit more. I can sit here and feel sorry for myself, and I can sit here and remind myself that I am, in fact, alone this weekend. Or I can try to control the way I’m feeling, take it at face value, and perk myself up. Maybe I don’t know what it feels like to truly be alone, and maybe, in relation to the other phases of my life, this is the most alone I’ve felt, making it super visceral and hard to cope with.
Or maybe I’m just being a baby.
I spoke to Grandma yesterday for a minute or so, if that, while I sat in the midst of heavy Thanksgiving traffic on the Kennedy. It seemed that the world outside of my little yellow car was loud and boisterous, rushed and frantic–up until I spoke to Grandma on the phone. Within a matter of seconds, the high frequency of the world outside my little bubble was dampened and suffocated by the sound of sheer grief coming through my car speakers–the sound of a woman having to spend her first holiday, alone, without her husband, in 55 years.
And then I got to thinking that maybe I don’t truly know what it’s like to be alone.
And maybe none of us do. And maybe, just maybe, in relation, Grandma’s loneliness is nothing compared to what others in the world are going through. But it’s funny how it doesn’t make it any better, and it doesn’t make what she’s going through any easier for her. Each of our experiences are viewed through lenses that have been tarred and polished by our other experiences. We can only see each new event through that lens, no matter how much we want to look through other lenses. Grandma’s lens was polished by 55 years of turkey dinners, smiles, and laughter with her husband. This year, most likely, cannot look like anything more than a deep scratch.
Thank God she doesn’t have Facebook.
While on Facebook yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice how every inch of my Newsfeed was adorned with Thanksgiving selfies and pictures of lavish meals. It further contributes to this idea that this is what Thanksgiving is supposed to be. This is what it looks like to be thankful. It looks like a turkey, smiling faces, cranberry sauce, and some candles around a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables. But, in reality, I don’t think any one of us would say we need that to truly be thankful. However, if we don’t have that picture in front of us, we begin to feel less thankful.
And so, instead of being content, instead of just sitting and enjoying our family time, we feel the need to document it and show everyone. We need to prove to others that we are loved, that we have family, that we have somewhere to be, that we have somewhere we belong, because at the end of the day, we are all so afraid to be alone. We need to tell our whole world that we are thankful, perhaps in an effort to prove to ourselves that we have things for which to be thankful.
#guiltyascharged, but I have a cute nephew. So it’s different, right?
It’s not different. I’m a self-proclaimed, chronic picture-taker, trying to capture all of these moments in my life, and for what? Is there some deeply embedded, subconscious fear, that if I don’t take the pictures, then I won’t remember these special moments? Will these moments be less special if I don’t capture them to look at later? Or is my inclination to take thousands of pictures merely a manifestation of how thankful I am for small moments like these?
But why do I feel the desire to post them? Is the reason that we (and I) are so inclined to post pictures of our lives because we know what our lives could be? Does it make us less thankful or less present to prove our gratitude to the world? Or does it simply mean we are sharing our happiness with the world? Does posting pictures of our lives for the world to see really do anything to increase our ability to be thankful, or does it simply add to our less-present lives and show how truly unthankful of a society we have become?
At it’s most basic level, does thankfulness and gratitude truly manifest itself through our actions, or is gratitude an internal emotion, an intrinsic awareness? To me, it seems like something that no one else can perceive except for the beholder of gratitude.
So today, I will be a beholder of gratitude. I will be thankful for the air in my lungs, the capacity of my mind, and my ability to think freely and divergently. I will make my best attempt to be grateful for my independence and revel in my loneliness. I’m going to let the sound of my own voice taunt me and drown out any feelings of isolation. I will be present. I will be thankful. I will be happy.
But I will make sure to let you know about it first.