My son (my conscience) has me working out at the "Y" five days a week. Those of you who know me personally know what an accomplishment this is, as I hate physical exercise! I must admit, however, that it is making me feel better and better both physically and from that emotional lift of accomplishment. With the exercise has come a decreased appetite for junk food and overeating ("they" told me this would happen, although for me it is counterintuitive), and that has felt good too.
Why, oh why, then did I stuff myself crazily yesterday? Can't I enjoy Thanksgiving with family, be thankful and not overeat? Apparently not. After eating turkey, ham and all the trimmings plus two kinds of pie yesterday, my son and I climbed into the car bloated and sluggish as we have not been in months and slunk off from my brother's house. By the time I left the feast scene (leaving every scrap of what I had brought, knowing how dangerous leftovers are), I felt like I was fleeing.
Now I'm feeling set back in the self-righteousness I was achieving by my newfound physical consciousness. It has caused me to reflect on why I would do this when I could not claim to have been all that hungry and had been so proud of myself in my weeks-past diet.
I know why I did it. It isn't as simple as being a glutton who just loves food, although that shoe might fit. My real downfall yesterday was tradition. Almost all of us have traditions that include a Thanksgiving one. I have one friend who prides herself in her non-tradition of having chili every year instead of turkey. Sorry, baby, that's a tradition. Very few escape it, and those few are usually those we pity as lonely; and I think it is true that those who have no family to forge those Thanksgiving traditions are, indeed, the lonely among us. And, you know that it's true that part of Thanksgiving is the tradition of overeating. Every single person at the table where I dined yesterday spoke about how full they were getting, whether they were going "back for seconds," or how many of the desserts they might be having. We were consciously stuffing ourselves; it is part of Thanksgiving, a traditional feast day.
Those traditions are very hard to shake, not that many of us want to shake them. Obviously, I did not shake the feasting aspect in favor of healthful living--it would have been almost rude! And on the way home I had another little reminder of the power of traditions and the longing we have for them.
As we drove through the dark, my cell phone "dinged" and lit up. It was a text message from an old friend. This man and his family go back with ours for at least twenty years. He is someone my estranged husband and I see (separately now) maybe twice or three times a year. He and his family are good friends, but not weekly social friends.
This text was a Thanksgiving greeting but, more important to the sender, it was a message that my husband had called him to wish him happy Thanksgiving. Amazing. I think it was amazing to our friend, too, because it called for a communication with me. His text informed me that hubby had simply called to say "Happy Thanksgiving to your family," and that my friend had returned the sentiment to him. End of story.
I thought how odd this appeared on the surface. I don't remember my husband calling this family on Thanksgiving in the past, although it may be that they have joined us for the holiday once or twice, but not in a long, long time. They just have not been part of our Thanksgiving tradition, and I know from a recent conversation that my husband has not talked to this man in months. I also knew from just having hung up from a holiday conversation with my mother-in-law that he had not called to wish anyone on his side of the family a happy holiday, although he has acted badly toward them, as he has toward me, and those relations are currently strained.
Now, this is speculation on my part because I have realized months ago that I no longer understand anything in my husband's brain, but see if this makes sense to you: This is his first Thanksgiving with his half-his-age-live-in girlfriend. He is starting a brand new tradition. But there is that old one tugging at him, a powerful remembrance; at least it would be for me. It seems to me that reaching out to this friend was his way of touching that past tradition in the safest way he knew.
Why would it be this powerful? I believe it goes back to something about which I have written before: community and connection. Breaking bread together, especially in that spiritual context of giving thanks to God, is a unifying ritual and it is something we all need. We look forward to the feast because of that mystical forging of relationship and family, and it is hard to give up. During the emotional travail of my husband's leaving my family's traditions--such as yesterday's--have stood me in good stead. They have given me something grounded in a time when it seemed that life was reeling. So, from that perspective, I am going to have to come full circle and say that the feasting I did yesterday was, indeed, a healthy thing--notwithstanding the two kinds of pie...
So, today I am still thanking God. I am thanking Him for my plenty, and I am thanking Him for my family and our traditions that give us the sense of belonging and see us through awful times. And I am knowing that, now that the feasting day is over, it is back to the grindstone!! - C, 11/29/2008.