Last year in my weekly newsletter, I shared this picture of my Dad from Thanksgiving '16.
Because my Thanksgiving was meh this year (and I'm guessing yours was too), I'm revisiting this photo with a new take.
The story I told this time last year was how, three weeks prior to sitting in this sushi restaurant in Helsingor, Denmark, my father had lost his beloved wife of forty years.
One week prior to this photo, he was hospitalized (and even quarantined - before it was cool) for pneumonia.
Finally, at the time of this photo, all of his Danish bank accounts had been frozen (he wasn't a threat to the state or even, more glamorously, a potential spy; it's just what the Danish government does until the will of the surviving spouse is adjusted. Yup, Denmark's THAT serious about wills).
I wrote that my Dad was able to be happy because he was present and focused on the happiness of being with his daughter at the moment. I stand by that.
But this year, I wanted to highlight another perspective.
As I've ventured more into life coaching, I've come upon the theory that all circumstances in life are neutral; it's our thoughts about the circumstances that determine whether they're bad or good. (In other words, Thanksgiving is neither inherently bad nor good - it just is; our thoughts of "I don't like this holiday because I'm alone" or "I love this holiday because I get to eat" are really what determine this holiday's importance in our minds)
I bring this up because, especially if you've lost someone or faced difficult circumstances within the last few months, it can be hard to live through the never-ending messaging that "it's the most wonderful time of the year" (when it sure doesn't feel that way).
But what if you were to step back and neutralize the holidays? Take back your power from the forced happiness of marketing culture and think "it's the most neutral time of the year"? What would that do? Could you find little pockets of joy and gratitude on your own? Could you find the reason in the season?
I think this is why my Dad is smiling here. He wasn't happy because the holiday told him he had to be happy. He found his joy in thinking "I love being here with my daughter on a sushi night out" and found gratitude in that.