Some Things to Feast on This Thanksgiving

Letting Go of the Shoulds
by Tracy Uttley

A lot of shoulds live in my head. I think the world should be a kinder place. Pumpkin Pie topped with whipped cream should have no calories. Life should be fair. Spending time with family should feel warm and snuggly like a pack of puppies. Pimples and wrinkles should not be able to exist at the same time, and Republicans and Democrats should work together to achieve common goals.
We all are hungry for similar things. Even though there are canyons of differences between us, when you get right down to it, most everyone wants to be loved and accepted. This Thanksgiving, I fast on feeling disheartened and feast on gratitude. I accept the imperfections in me and my world. I give thanks to those who will gather around the table, and I will be grateful to have known those not in attendance, including my uncle Ron and my vibrant 79-year-old brother-in-law Joe who passed away suddenly from an infection while visiting Morocco. Instead of wishing, I could go on one more bike ride with him, I will cherish the numerous bike rides we enjoyed with him and my sister-in-law, including the 35 miles we rode the week before he died. I will be grateful for the incredible role models they both have been as parents, as grandparents, and as engaged citizens.
This Thanksgiving, I fast on conflict and feast on peace. As dissonance and discord divide our country, I realize that the most intense battles we face are within. Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or disagreements. It is living amidst those things and still being able to find peace. The more I let go of how I think the world should be and accept it for how it is, the less conflict, the fewer problems, and less stress I have. The more peace I create within me, the more peace I experience in the world.

This Thanksgiving, I fast on indifference and feast on understanding.  My friend and I were walking through Golden Gate Park when a car did an illegal U-turn, nearly hitting a bicyclist. The biker slammed on his brakes, flying off his bike and scrapping up his face. The driver got out of the car and started yelling at the biker, accusing him of doing something wrong. We stood in disbelief. Several others who also had witnessed the incident gathered around the bicyclist.  The driver backed down when he realized we were not going to let him get away with his negligence. When I see unsettling things in the world, I know that it is a mirror of something disturbing in me. When I see something that irritates me in another person, it is because that same quality exists in me. Every experience I have can lead me to a better understanding of myself.

This Thanksgiving, I fast on fear and feast on Love. We are here to love this beautiful and complex world, somehow learning to accept all its stumbling blocks as opportunities for growth. It's easy to love the people who are the most like us. It takes maturity and self-reflection to love the people that are different from us. Each day we get to choose to close down in fear or stand up and be open to Love. We are here to learn how to demonstrate kindness to ourselves and each other. We are here to experience togetherness. Let Love replace fear and every day be a thanksgiving.


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