Thanksgiving Alone

This Thanksgiving my ex took the kids to her parents’ in LA. With nowhere to go, it was my intention to make Thanksgiving merely mean “Thursday off work.” I would read and write and run — enjoy my solitude. I had no complaints. I would be fine. Living alone I thought, “How could another simple Thursday occur in a qualitatively different way just because it was also called ‘Thanksgiving’ that day?” I have no idea.

I think I must think I’m more disconnected than I am, as if I’m not a product of a culture in which a holiday occurred. You know? I experienced Thanksgiving as a kind of pressure, not thought, but pressure descending on the city and my person to be grateful for, and with, my family. But I wasn’t. They weren’t here. And I couldn’t talk Thanksgiving into being Thursday or myself into being okay.

I don’t even eat turkey.

I spent most of my Thanksgivings in Michigan with the same eight people and four of them are dead. I knew, I was completely aware, that if I just put on my running shoes and kicked off five, I would be fine. But I didn’t. I was completely baffled by my inability to navigate that day. The distance between gratitude and self-pity is minuscule, a little swing in perspective, but I couldn’t pull it off. I went to the movies and ate popcorn, more aware of myself as a lone figure at the movies on Thanksgiving than the movie itself.

You would no doubt like to see this story turn around. Me too. I don’t think it does.

Because the only epiphany I had in that movie theater was that the life I wanted and the life I had were completely at odds. The life I wanted appeared to me as a jail cell and I couldn’t escape. I was trapped inside a bunch of ideas that didn’t exist. I couldn’t even see through the bars to see the life I had with the hope of learning how to appreciate it. I was not grateful. I gave no thanks.

Saturday, I took the kids out to lunch and we ate burritos while I edited my son’s essay about Vincent Van Gogh. I told them: See? This is life as it is, the one we’re living, the one we could never make up. We’re eating burritos and talking Van Gogh and this — it’s good enough. My son asked if I was crazy. I said If I was crazy, I would never tell you. He thought this was fair enough. I’m getting too old to imagine cures for depression.
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