"A wind has blown the rain away and blown the sky away and all the leaves away, and the trees stand. I think, I too, have known autumn too long."
October brings change, whether we want it or not. The earth begins to prepare for it's long slumber before winter. It can be very easy to loose sight of it's beauty when we can only see it's darkness. It brings glorious vibrant colours, and leaves that crunch and that smell of the earth, only found in fall. It's pumpkin spice everything and wearing extra sweaters. But it's difficult to visualize the beauty when all you are able to fixate on is the absence of another.
In addition to the Pumpkin Spice craze, October brings us Thanksgiving. Although Thanksgiving is not as big of a holiday here in Canada, it’s still is a beautiful opportunity to sit down, break bread with the ones that you love and come together. Even if you are not a "Thanksgiving person" it can still feel lonely. If this is your first Thanksgiving without your person, this can be a tough one, especially if that special person was the glue that held the family together and maintained all of the special family traditions.
I personally fall into the Clark Griswold (remember National Lampoons Christmas Vacation) manic way of thinking about holidays, every holiday. In my head, I envision my family around the table looking at me with love and gratitude. Their eyes glass over a little with delight at the amazing food I have prepared. There are not dirty dishes from the food prep stacked to the ceiling, the house looks like it was styled by Martha Stewart in her prime… in my head. The reality is trying to fight dogs off of stealing from the table, dishes stacked on the counter and sink like Jenga, one teaspoon away from a giant crash. The meal itself is always ready to erupt into “FOOD FIGHT”, and I need to force out of each person’s mouth what they are grateful for, and inevitably am irritated when they just repeat the person before’s answer. What I am saying is that it does not live up to my ridiculously high expectations of perfection. My unrealistic expectations are setting myself and my family up for defeat. I know that I am not alone in setting unrealistic expectations for a holiday.
Think of family traditions like a family recipe. Great Grandma’s pumpkin pie.
Not too many of us still use old woodstoves to cook, and we use different measurements. Over the years there have been modifications (ever ask your mom or grandma for a recipe and most cannot nail down the exact measurements, it's a pinch of this, a dab of that).
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Set aside premade pie shell.
Mix in a stand mixer 1 can of pumpkin pie filling; 7 large eggs or 2 cups of liquid eggs; 1 tablespoon of 18% table cream; 1 and a half cups plus 2 teaspoons of light brown sugar packed tight; 1 teaspoon of salt; 3 cups of evaporated milk. Mix until it is smooth. Pour into pie crust and bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool. Before serving top each slice of pie with ready whip coconut flavoured whipped cream in a can or cool whip.
Is this the same recipe, no, well kind of… traditions can change to suit what we need when we need it. The world will not spin off of it's axis if you take a year off from family tradition to mend your broken heart. It’s also ok to go to a bakery and buy a pie, or buy a grocery store pie. It’s ok to go out for dinner, or even eat sandwiches or skip this year. The important thing about tradition is not the actual execution of events, but rather the joy and comfort they bring. If they no longer provide joy or comfort why would you put yourself through it?
The moral of the story, it’s ok to lower your expectations, because you didn’t follow the family traditions this year, doesn’t mean you can’t next year of the year after. Traditions can change and morph like Grandma’s pie. The important thing in this world is allowing yourself space and time. There are ways that you can include and honour your person in every celebration, to include them. Set an extra setting at the table that remains empty, or if that's too hard, say their name. Tell funny or heart warming stories about them around the table. Celebrate, or abstain from celebration, it's ok.
Whatever you decide to do this holiday, remember to be grateful. It can be difficult to think of gratitude when in grief, but it actually changes your brain chemicals and sets up up to better deal with the loss.