I have the great good fortune of having multiple Thanksgiving options this year. I could go really ambitious and drive to my parents’ place in Minnesota (this is not happening, but it could). A few church folks have let me know that I’m welcome to join them. I may go to a Friendsgiving party with a couple of the people I’ve gotten to know here. Yesterday another friend invited me to his big family gathering. I’m still not sure what I’m doing, or whether I want to do anything at all. Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays that clergy have off, and sleeping and watching Netflix with the dog for a couple of days with absolutely no schedule is sounding really great right now. In my uncertainty, today I bought the ingredients for a solo feast, with many days of leftovers. A turkey breast that was dwarfed by the whole turkeys but will prove to be way more food than I need nonetheless. Eight pounds of potatoes, because for some reason that is cheaper than just buying two potatoes (I will not be cooking all of them this week). Stovetop stuffing – don’t judge me; I’m not feeling the bread drying rigamarole. Sweet potatoes. I don’t even like sweet potatoes, but I saw a recipe for sweet potato gruyere gratin, and if I do go to someone else’s dinner, I figured that would be an interesting addition. They have to be good when drowned in gruyere and cream, right?
Doing Thanksgiving alone or very small isn’t new to me. By this point in the church program year, I’m usually getting a little strained, and Advent arrives right on its heels. It’s a good time for even this extrovert to take a step back, fill up the sleep tank, and gear up for a hectic month. I also just spent a few days back in my old stomping grounds, and that also made me realize that it’s probably a good time to regroup and reflect.
The fact is that I have said goodbye to many significant parts of my life in the last year, and that could use some time.
Most of the time, I don’t even notice the amount of goodbye-ing I’ve done. I stepped into a really wonderful new life. I love my new city and adore my new church. The congregation and the job are both a remarkably good fit for me. I feel unbelievably lucky every time I walk into my apartment and realize yet again that I get to live there. I’m making friends and experiencing a ton of music, theater, and art, and generally rolling around Cincinnati and having a blast. It’s the life I wanted and was ready for, and I am grateful for it.
But even positive transition is hard, and even as I settle into the new, I become more aware of what I’ve left behind. I left another church that I loved, and colleagues with whom I had worked well and closely for many years. I sold or donated about two-thirds of my stuff and moved out of the apartment where I had lived more or less comfortably for several years. I left my band and the other side musical projects I had been casually pursuing. I left multiple committees and boards, including one for an organization I had started. More significantly, I left being known and having influence and impact in a specific community. I’m in the process of leaving the denomination of my ordination, even while I still occupy positions of leadership in it, which is quite the interesting situation. As I was painfully conscious this weekend, I’ve left a space and group of people who remain familiar in that way that only time and shared experience – both joy and grief – can bring. My relationships have changed and some will continue to fade as I no longer spend time with friends there. In the midst of all this, I lost one very close friendship entirely, and to be honest I’m still a little adrift about it.
Most of the time, it’s pretty easy for me to be all “Shiny new woohoo!” about everything, but grief unprocessed is merely grief delayed. It feels like maybe my thanks this year will be touched by a bit of that hard and necessary emotional work of saying goodbye – again – and that kind of thanks may best be given alone. Or with a dog. And perhaps too much turkey.