building a thanksgiving for one

At first when I figured out I would be spending Thanksgiving alone this year, I felt a little scared and a lot sad. I don’t always have a traditional family holiday, but I usually do, and I’ve always had someone I love to spend the holiday with. But this year, COVID considerations, schedule conflicts, and separation from my family of origin have left me to face Turkey Day alone. Which I guess isn’t the worst thing, since I don’t particularly like turkey!

Celebrating Thanksgiving in France, 2017

My fear slowly churned inside until it solidified into anticipation of something new, a chance to experience the unknown. I love to travel, and that hasn’t been available to me this year. But what has remained available to me in the pandemic is the chance to experience new things, even if that happens in old surroundings. Thanksgiving 2020 provides another opportunity to try something different.

This isn’t to say that the holiday will be without its challenges. But by continuing to strive towards being the ideal caregiver for my inner children, I can subvert a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering. I spoke with my therapist yesterday about my plans for Thursday, and she suggested that I prioritize self-care and deeply nourishing myself in lieu of traditional celebration. After all, colonialism isn’t exactly something worth celebrating. Whether you’re celebrating alone or just differently this year, it’s helpful to take time to plan proactively for your mental wellbeing. Change is hard, no two ways about it. I took my therapist’s advice and planned a day that will nourish me: Maybe some of my ideas could help you, too.

holidays alone:

profound + passionate self care

1. something familiar: what makes me feel safe?

I decided the most nourishing way to start the day would be to attend my teacher Libby’s Thanksgiving class over Zoom. Libby’s class is a safe place for me, a haven where I know what to expect and also feel deeply free to express myself.

I spent last Thanksgiving morning in the hot room with Libby practicing hatha yoga in a room packed mat-to-mat. I never could’ve guessed that we might never be able to put that many bodies in one place again. I’m grateful that Libby is still teaching this Thanksgiving because it provides me with a comforting way to start my day.

2. something invigorating: what makes me feel alive?

Being outside in nature awakens my body and my spirit. After yoga, I plan to spend sometime outside and take my dog on a hike near my house. I don’t go into the forest often enough, and a day all to myself is the perfect opportunity to go explore.

3. something comforting: how can i love my inner child?

Late ’90s Thanksgiving with my Grandpa Hal

Some of the people in my life have very poor boundaries and live very nearby, so I don’t feel very safe staying at my house all day long. My inner child loves to GO, and after our little hike, I’ll probably take her on a beautiful drive in nature. Maybe we will drive deep into the forest or run away to the ocean. After years of painfully imposed structure, part of the magic is not having to decide.

4. something centering: how can i reunite with my greater meaning?

It’s easy to get caught up inside our own egos and forget about how we are truly situated in this existence. Yoga is the closest thing to a religion I have, so I will practice twice tomorrow. It will be a gift to myself and an expression of gratitude for the practice.

In the morning, my teacher will lead me, and in the afternoon, I will lead myself. I will move intuitively. I will dare to do as I am inwardly prompted. And I will remember my profound connection to all that is not me.

5. something indulgent: how can i pay homage to the feast?

Toasting Martinelli’s with my little sisters, Thanksgiving 2000-something

Thanksgiving is rooted in colonialism and has recently been highly commercialized. But the origins of the celebration are about feasting. Humans have been fasting and feasting for thousands of years. As someone who fasts often, the chance to indulge in a true feast is tremendous and lovely. I will feast on food that I don’t eat often that feels rich and nourishing: lamb steak and mashed potatoes. I also picked up some of my favorite hard cider and a Genesis cranberry lemonade, because cranberry felt festive and Genesis cold pressed juices are one of my favorite treats, ever.

6. something relaxing: how can i allow myself to rest?

Thanksgiving 2018: Passed the fuck out

After dinner, I will spend time reading or watching TV. Anything that soothes my heart is fair game. I will also consider the best ways to keep my mind busy without overwhelming myself, because evenings are a hard-hitting time for me, emotionally.

7. something mundane: how can i return to my routine?

My quotidian life of being a busy law student in finals season will be back Friday, so I want to make sure to take the time to gently return to the things I’m used to doing each day. This prevents a more jarring transition and is comforting for my small selves. For me, this means taking a hot bath and climbing in bed early.

I hope you prioritize your physical and mental safety this holiday season. I also hope you find ways to incorporate familiarity, the invigorating, comfort, centering, indulgence, rest, and routine into your day of celebration.

Until next time!

love always,

amanda alice swan

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