Last weekend it became clear I would not be receiving my package of cranberries and sweet potatoes in time to make an American Thanksgiving in Italy. For some, that may not seem a big deal, but Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and hands down the hardest day for me as an expat.
Read: Homesick City.
I love Thanksgiving because of its important components — family, food, and giving thanks, and when I can’t have my family nearby, well, the food I’ve been eating on this day for 30+ years becomes even more significant. And without the cranberries and sweet potatoes, well, it’s just not even worth having. Believe me, I’ve been here all but one Thanksgiving of the past nine, and not celebrating at all is better for my psyche than having a half-assed dinner.
So I had a meltdown. I wasn’t screaming or crying or anything, but I did need to vent — so I turned to Facebook. Say what you will about social networks, but for me, in times of disappointment and annoyance, they are truly a blessing. My friends rallied around my feelings with virtual hugs and many offers to send replacement supplies (a lovely thought to be sure, but the Italian postal service would never have delivered in time) and had me feeling better within a couple hours — not perfect and totally accepting of the lack of a traditional Thanksgiving this year, but pretty darn good.
And oh so grateful, not only for friends and Facebook, but also for all of the other wonderful people and things in my life.
During those conversations with friends, I came to an idea for how to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. Even though I express gratitude daily and don’t need a special day to do so, Thanksgiving still holds a unique place in my heart, so I’m going to acknowledge the day by enjoying all of my friends and family’s Thanksgiving photos and greetings and by making my mom’s apple pie, one of my favorite parts of the Thanksgiving meal.
The dough is chilling in the fridge as I type.
And we’ll have our Turkey Day celebration one of these days, after the package arrives, but today will be Pie Day — homemade pizza (pie) by Paolo with apple pie for dessert, an appropriate blending of Italian and American. It won’t be anything like Thanksgivings past, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be special. I’ll still have a pang in my heart for sitting around the table with my family digging into my mom’s turkey, stuffing, and sweet potatoes, and there’s no reason to ignore that.
Acknowledging and making space for all of our feelings, including disappointments, is healthy.
What we shouldn’t do is let those temporary feelings take over and make decisions for us. That is one of the core teachings of Buddhism, but you don’t have to be a practicing Buddhist to grasp and practice this idea, one that has truly changed my life over the past few years.
Seeing those feelings of hurt, anger, disappointment, etc., float on by, understanding that they are indeed temporary but nonetheless absolutely exist is both calming and reassuring; acknowledging them helps bring me back to center where I can again think positively and logically to come to a solution that works for me and for those around me.
So I’m grateful this Thanksgiving for another opportunity to learn from disappointment, to appreciate my friends around the world, and to celebrate another day in a place I love with the man I love (who also happens to make a mean pizza).
I wish all of you who are celebrating a wonderful Thanksgiving as well — and please have some cranberries and sweet potatoes for me!