Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thanksgiving (and) dinner

This is a tough time of year for weight loss. The weather is cold and damp, and the kitchen is warm and inviting. It becomes more of a hearth than merely a place to store and prepare food. More than ever, a cozy, fragrant kitchen is the best place to find solace.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays- and no, not because the focal point of the whole thing is a huge dinner, lol - though that does add to the appeal. I remember cooking my first Thanksgiving turkey ever and playing hostess to the feast. One thing I was grateful for that year was the example my mother, grandmother, and aunts had set for me over so many years of Thanksgivings in the kitchen. I saw very clearly what a labor of love is it to put on a spread like that, and how effortless they had made it look, trotting around the kitchen talking, stirring, chopping, and laughing - always laughing and smiling.

But more, I love Thanksgiving because it simply asks everyone to reflect and give thanks. That's it. You don't buy gifts; you don't give out candy or throw an endless series of parties. The year is coming to an end. The harvest is in, and winter's on its way, along with Thanksgiving's brash, boisterous, big sister, Christmas. Thanksgiving brings a moment to pause and think (after the cooking is all done, I mean ....), to sit with family and simply "be" together. This holiday can be celebrated by anyone living in America, no matter their countries of origin, religious practices, or lack thereof. It's also a patriotic holiday in its way, but one that doesn't conjure up images of cannons, muskets, bombs, or bloody battlefields. And while I am well aware of the actual relationship between settlers and Native Americans, I believe it's still possible to embrace the notion that our country and everyone in it can take a day to gather at its collective table, together in peace, with gratitude in its heart. It's a beautiful thing.

I recall thinking that Thanksgiving was boring when I was a little girl. I was too young to help cook, and it always took FOREVER for the darn turkey to get done, so I remember lots of waiting around and listening to the men holler at the football games they were watching. We didn't get presents, either. Then as I got older, I'd take more of an active part in the preparations, not to mention the visiting and frivolity. And even as a young kid, I was always aware of how wonderful everything smelled. There's this Thanksgiving aroma - it's a mixture of cooking turkey, wood smoke from the fireplace, cinnamon, rosemary, and .... men's aftershave. I conjure up that fragrance in my memory and tears come to my eyes.

I am grateful to have had Thanksgivings like those back then. I still love the holiday and the sentiment (and the aromas), though the actual event has changed in recent years. I am divorced, my mother died years ago, my father and sisters live too far away for us all to celebrate together, and the other "orphan friends" I used to host on Thanksgivings have either moved away or hooked up with new families to celebrate with. Last year I celebrated with my two teens and my boyfriend, which was lovely. Still, it's not quite the same as having a house filled with people in their casual best and smelling all nice.

And this year? Well, frankly, I'm not in the mood. I had hoped to be considerably thinner by now, which I am not, and that makes me mad. My family is far away, and that makes me sad. Add that to being in the above-described kitchen atmosphere, and it only makes me want to eat everything in sight. (And holiday fixin's are so hard to resist!) I could take my kids and go out to dinner, but my son looks forward to those day-after turkey sandwiches all year. Yeah, I guess I'll cook a dinky little turkey. Maybe even our meager little gathering will stand out in their memories as a happy, meaningful time for them. Maybe one day, years from now when/if they have their own families, I'll be dottering around their kitchens, slipping their children pieces of pumpkin bread and searching for the potato masher, and they will wistfully remember the non-chaotic, aromatic Thanksgivings of their teen years. That would be nice.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Things Fall Apart

It's November now, and my saga begins again, reluctantly rising like the fed up and flabby phoenix that it is. Where have I been for the last six or seven weeks, you may wonder. Why haven't I been here, enthusiastically chronicling my smashing success in taking control of my weight, and more importantly, my life? How shall I say it? Things fell apart.

Have you ever bolstered your courage, polished your self-esteem, convinced yourself you could soar on wings of your own faith, if only you would take that leap? So you do - and just when you think you feel the updraft, you find yourself in a free-fall? And then you make yourself believe that the Forces That Be are quickly mobilizing to stretch out that safety tarp below as you hurtle faster and faster to the ground, but instead, you smash into the punishing concrete. Have you ever endured a phase when you questioned every step you've ever taken? Every choice you've ever made? Every accomplishment you've achieved, or worse, thought you had achieved? Have you ever awoken to the understanding that you will never create the life you had intended to, no matter how hard you try? That you will always be "too-this" and "not-enough-that" to be who you really want?

Okay, probably. I imagine most of us suffer a crisis of confidence at some time or other, particularly around mid-life. This post sounds more morose than I really feel at the current moment. Sorry about the melodrama. But sometimes I just get tired. It's true that all I can control is my own behavior and my own response to the things that happen in my life. Yes, I understand that. But it just never stops - the frustrations, disappointments, the things you can't change but still intrude and muddy your efforts. Life barrels on - the exigences, the responsibilities, the curve balls. You scramble to take care of one thing, while another suffers from neglect. You'll have to deal with the fall-out later. Things keep falling apart. Some people seem to deal with it just fine, and others don't.

So ... my rant for today is over. I am done being angry with life and disgusted with myself. But I have come to a reluctant conclusion: I'm sick of trying to believe we can "manifest" anything we want badly enough. Attitude and belief only go so far. Sometimes, things are the way they are, period. Pigs can't fly. Love doesn't conquer all. The best intentions promise nothing. Life isn't fair.

And tomorrow? It will be the first day of the rest of my life. Thank goodness.