This has been one of those Thanksgivings when I am alone; my daughter is visiting her father, and I have refused invitations from friends.
I have thirsted for some time to myself, to catch up on grading, quiz-construction, lecture prep, reading, and a bit of blog-surfing. Once the Summer passes and Fall descends, my routine gets a bit hectic and I need some down time, more, I notice, as I get older and slower. So this was the time I have kept for myself, sans chores, sans car, sans a life beyond my door.
However, by the time it was afternoon, I found myself orbiting Facebook, wondering what was going on in the world beyond. As expected, most entries were about how thankful people were for various things in their lives; some entries even invited additions.
This does make me feel a little guilty since I cannot adequately, ever, articulate how grateful I am for everything and everyone I've known and felt. There are many problems with this: what can one say? How does one reduce such a complex feeling into proper words? All the words I tried out seemed trivial, trite, and a repetition of what everyone else had already said, perhaps better.
There is another problem with this formal expression of thanks: whom does one address it to? The Divine? Other people? Oneself? But no; that smacks of hubris and seems unwarranted, rather silly, even.
In the final analysis, I find myself disappointed: it seems to me that everyone thanks themselves and each other with what seems like a self-congratulatory tone, a pat on each others' backs for what a wonderful job we all are doing at being nice and selfless to each other.
I think what is lacking here is a ritual, to make this expression of thanks formal, to lend it validity. Certainly, there is the food and there are the relatives and friends, but then this day becomes very similar to any family reunion day, like Memorial Day, only indoors. Of course, there is the mad rush to the malls the next day, but the stress-driven, neurotic Black Friday is, by no stretch of imagination, an expression of any gratitude, or quality time spent with friends and family.
I don't want to seem ungrateful, or Scrooge-like with this entry, because that would be an outright lie; I lack the strength of character and fortitude such a role demands.
What is more, I AM thankful for every breath I draw as me; I am grateful I got to live this precious time as who I am; I am grateful for the people around me, of course, but I am equally grateful for being able to genuinely enjoy my solitude; I am grateful I have the means and know-how to treat myself occasionally with whatever I want to read, write, eat, and dress in; I am grateful for having seen as much of the world that I have; I am grateful for the disappointments and stumbles, not because they've made me better or stronger (I sincerely doubt that they have), but just because they are mine; as I get increasingly narcissistic here, I am most grateful for the hands and eyes I am using right now.
But most of all, I am grateful for the written word that has created such a rich world for me, enriched all levels of my realities, and made sense out of a chaos of cosmic proportions.
The best expression I have found for my gratitude remains the unchanged from my daily routine, that which I begin and end the day with: I shall light a votive in my little home-temple.
What would, do you do?