How are you holding up these days?
Yeah… that’s what I thought. Don’t worry. I’m not here to add to your misery by reminding you of the suuuuuper problematic history of the holiday, formerly known as Thanksgiving. Nor am I here to try to assuage my guilt by convincing you that even though I’m gathering with family members this week, we’re all wearing masks and everyone got tested, and and and…. nope. stopping right there. Not today. Thanksgiving is problematic. The way many of us are choosing to gather is problematic. The fact that we’re still here, doing all of this, is problematic. But just pointing out the problems is too easy. I’m ready for a challenge.
This week, I’ve had the same conversation over and over again with loved ones: we’re cancelling Thanksgiving. It’s just not worth it. We’ll zoom, or something. Whatever. This all sucks. Over it.
And I totally hear this. I mean… Fauci the God has told Chris Cuomo five thousand times that if we care about our family, we’ll cancel Thanksgiving this year. But the event Fauci is talking about is Thanksgiving™ — the hallmark TV special, sit down, shut up, don’t mention anything political, more gravy, Thanksgiving.
But what about the other type of Thanksgiving? Thanks. giving. I know this sounds corny as hell, but I’m actually asking a real question here. When was the last time you gave thanks — a real, heartfelt, genuine, thank you, to someone else?
My last real thank you was given to my Uncle Michael, early January 2020, about a month before he passed away from lung cancer. Any strong giving thanks story has a cancer anecdote in it, obvs. Anyways… Michael was withering away by the minute. He looked like a model for For 10 cents a day, you can save a 60 year old in Bedstuy but still, he took my hand in his and held on tight. For a few minutes, it was just the two of us in his bedroom — a makeshift attic bungalow, with floor to ceiling shelves of vinyl records and a huge poster of the iconic Tommie Smith & John Carlos black power salute at the summer olympics in Mexico City, 1968.
Michael began to quietly cry, his hand pulsing with each tear. He did not even attempt to wipe away the tears, to apologize, to minimize, to “man up” for my sake. He just cried quietly, and let me sit with him, lightly caressing his wrists with my thumbs. And without words in that moment, my whole body gave thanks to Michael, for allowing me to bear witness to his pain. For letting me hold his hand. For just being, with me. I thanked him for showing me a perfectly imperfect image of Black male vulnerability, a tender sliver of light beaming across his left cheek.
Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” I agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment, and would add that there is immense power and strength of witnessing, for the teller and the witness as well.
As a therapist, I have the unique privilege of hearing others’ most painful stories, to sit with them while as they slowly unlock their treasure chest of secrets. To be trusted with those stories, with those treasures, is like no other gift.
So today, I want to say thank you to all of my therapy clients. For showing me life, uncensored, in all its realness. For allowing me to be there as they grieve and grow. For sharing themselves, fully, with me. For opening up a space where there once was none. Thank you. Thank you. Thank.you.
One is never truly forgotten when one is shared and carried in the hearts of others. Thank you Michael. Rest in Power. I carry you in my heart, always.
This week’s mixtape is all about giving thanks. From my heart to yours.