Being Grateful vs. Feeling Grateful

Much has been written about the connection between Thanksgiving and the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. But I realized that I experience Thanksgiving more similar to the way I experience Rosh Hashanah (Jewish new year) – holidays with introspective, spiritual “shoulds” that I don’t do any of at all because the holiday experience winds up being all the fun and logistics of family obligations.

Not a self-portrait of me at Rosh Hashanah or Thanksgiving. Not that I’m not those things, but it just isn’t how I really experience the holiday. The holiday is really just family shenanigans. Image by John Hain from Pixabay

I don’t mind exactly. Hanging out with my family is rather entertaining. Even when we aren’t having deeply inappropriate conversations about anal sex, it’s still pretty entertaining. I used to attend my community’s interfaith Thanksgiving service the week before Thanksgiving which provided some of the missing spiritual element, and one year, I spoke at it as my congregation’s representative. But I haven’t been in a few years (other family obligations, COVID, etc.)

Anyway, I am grateful. Extremely grateful. But I don’t feel particularly grateful at the moment. It’s not like last year where I was focused on the metaphorical gross olives in my otherwise perfect life sandwich. It’s more that I fell deep into the self-critical/self-deprecating/low self-esteem/whatever you want to call it rabbit hole of “I’m useless, fat, ugly, talentless, incompetent, lazy, with absolutely no problem-solving skills and nothing to look forward to” and I haven’t managed to either pull myself out nor be able to think about or feel anything else.

Self-portrait. Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Then Husband managed to injure himself in a dramatic way and has been hobbling around in pain. I feel bad for him and I’ve been getting him ice packs and driving him around. I don’t mind that, but….well, for background, you need to understand this: Husband has a body that is utterly gorgeous and totally impractical. Every health-related thing or injury is more dramatic on him than it might be on someone else. There’s a lot that I’m leaving out for privacy. Anyway, I keep being reminded of the time a few years ago when Husband had a health issue necessitating an extremely common, safe, routine surgery. It was a nightmare. Not because of the surgery or the recovery itself (which went perfectly and he recovered just fine) but because of Husband’s anxiety over it, some of which was understandable and some of which was so far over-the-top. Anyway, we both entered mentally dark places of different sorts, although Husband left his immediately after his surgery was over. I’m not sure when (or even if) I left mine exactly, but watching him with this injury is bringing back shadows of that mentally bad place.

In contrast, my body is ugly, but hardy. I’m not strong or athletic or anything like that. More that my body can put up with a lot of abuse like lack of sleep and neglect and so on. That’s definitely something to be thankful for, considering how much abuse I put it through.

I don’t really feel thankful, but I am. I’m thankful for my family and for the opportunity to be seeing my family in person today. Zoom Thanksgiving last year wasn’t all bad and in some ways, it had its advantages, but three different family Zoom calls on the same day with an awful migraine is its own kind of hell. It’s shallow, but I’m grateful that my additional COVID body fat mostly still fits in my clothes. (It’s one thing to gain weight during COVID. It’s another thing to visit your judgy relatives who notice everything. I choose my outfits carefully.) I would be a little bit more thankful if I could actually drink at the Thanksgiving meal today as opposed to having to be the designated driver, but a) Husband is taking pain-killers so he’s not going to get drunk and rub it in my face, b) drinking mostly just leads to a killer headache vs. an actual pleasant state of drunkenness, and c) I enjoy spending time with my family sober too, so this is not so bad.

Not a self-portrait of me at Thanksgiving dinner later, for better or worse. Photo by Justin Aikin on Unsplash

I’m thankful for my job, even though I don’t really like it and am performing it badly. I’m thankful I have a roof over my head. I’m thankful for The State I Would Like to Move To. I’m thankful for my husband, who read my blog and seemingly decided to remain married to me. (Not that I’m entirely convinced that staying married is the right decision for long-term happiness but that is not the point.) I’m thankful for G-d and the many ways I’ve been blessed by G-d even though I am not at all deserving. I’m thankful for the few in-person friends I still talk to. I’m thankful for my blogger friends. Your kind, caring comments mean more than you could know.

Husband just woke up. He’s doing better. I sense the shadows receding somewhat.

Getting there, I guess. Image by John Hain from Pixabay


  1. Aww, JWP. What a time to be down on yourself, when family’s there to judge as well! Felt like this many times. Hang on to the gratitude: it will see you through. (I was going to say “grateFULLness” but nah. What’s grate? Looks like a typo). 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We all have a lot to be thankful for, even with all the ugliness and divisiveness in our world these days. I think you are probably much too hard on yourself. You are obviously brilliant even if you believe you have no problem-solving skills. Your husband sounds like my wife on medical stuff. The simplest procedures give my wife so much anxiety so they get blown way out of proportion. I just take it all like ¡No pasa nada! I also end up being the guinea pig for med students. One time when I was having my port flushed, the nurse asked if I would let a nurse in training (NiT) perform the routine. Fine I said. The needle they access ports with are an inch long and 18 gauge (big needles). The NiT pushed the needle in and I calmly said “You missed the port!” The other nurse said, “I thought that went in awfully easy!” The poor NiT had a breakdown when she realized she had stabbed me in the chest with a huge needle. Poor thing. I kept assuring her it was perfectly fine, no damage done, she had to learn, make mistakes, and try again. It would have been pandemonium if that happened to my wife. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Have a lot of fun at your get-together.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not an 18 gauge story, but once, I went for a blood test. I’m short and if I’m wearing a sweatshirt, jeans, and sneakers, I look like a teenager (I think I was in my late 20s at the time). The nurse starts putting on this
      “there, there now” kind of voice, like she’s talking to a little kid, like “now I’m just going to draw this small vial, don’t worry” and I was like, “I’m a regular blood donor, this is nothing.” Husband passed out at his blood test. Not so much out of squeamishness or fear, but because his body tends to react dramatically to everything.
      “Obviously brilliant” seems generous, but I do appreciate the sentiment.
      The Thanksgiving meal was fun! How was your holiday?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I discovered that we (wife, daughter and I) cannot donate blood because we lived in Spain when there was mad cow disease. I’ve had so much blood drawn over the past 11 years.

        The last port I had was accessed many many times at the cancer center in 2016. When I went to the hospital to have my stem cells harvested, the tech tried to use my port for return blood supply. The port wasn’t able to handle the volume so I had to have relly large needles in both arms, and I had to hold my arms straight for 8 hours. I was in a lot of pain because they had been giving me Neupogen shots every day for a week to force my bones to make lots of white cells, so my bones felt like I was having growing pains on steroids. Since the tech accessed my port in a filthy hospital environment, the next day I noticed a bright red line on my skin where the port line went up into my jugular vein. I called the CC and went in for the doctor to check it. It was definitely infected. He got me an appointment the next day to be deported. I got to the hospital and they had not surgeries available to perform the deportation. They put me in the children’s ward, where I read Cat In The Hat in French while I waited for the doctor. The doctor came in and when he saw the line on my chest going up to my neck, he said “Oh my god! Oh my god! We have to get that out NOW!” And he went right to work deporting me. Basically it was only a matter of hours before the infection would have gone straight into my bloodstream and I would have become sceptic. I might not of servived that.

        We had great Thanksgiving. We had a nice time visiting old friends, then we were over at my in-laws. A friend in Virginia texted me a Happy Thanksgiving and said he smoked a turkey. I texted him back that we ate our turkey.

        Liked by 1 person

          • When I was round 14, I cut my leg really badly being wild on my motorcycle. When I got home, only my grandma was home. She helped me clean up the mangled mess and put a wrap on it to stop the bleeding. When my bother and sister got home, they wanted to know what happened. I said I cut my leg really deep. They wanted to see it, but I didn’t want to unwrap it. They started teasing me an saying it can’t be that bad, calling me a faker, a wuss and a that. I finally unwrapped it. They both fainted because it was so mangled and gross looking. I wrapped it back up and waited for my parents to get home to take me to the emergency room. I almost lost my leg from that injury. Did I stop riding motorcycles? No! Did I stop being wild? No! Teenage boys don’t have a lot of sense.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. We don’t do Thanksgiving in Australia (yet). So I have no strong ideas about how it ‘should’ be or how it ‘should’ feel. It’s to do with the pilgrims isn’t it? Is that the history? Anyway they say that being grateful is good for your well-being so it sounds like it has value. I look forward to family gatherings less and less. I have a wonderful family but I find the logistics overwhelming. And the cooking unsatisfying. And, although my family is great I will always be the youngest and there’s a certain amount of frustration around the treatment that comes with that. So having thanksgiving so close to Christmas would be a big deal for me. I hope you enjoy your gathering and that your husband continues to improve health wise

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I think of the introspective “shoulds”, I think of the idea of taking the time to really reflect on blessings and feel thankful and grateful. Truthfully, most American Thanksgiving traditions for observing Thanksgiving have arguably nothing to do with this, but I still feel like there’s an undercurrent that one should be doing this. Anyway, I would say that I am grateful, but that gratitude is not the primary emotion at the forefront of my mind.

      Totally hear you on the family gathering logistics and dynamics. Logistics and family dynamics get so much more complicated over time (or maybe they were always complicated, but I didn’t notice that so much because I was younger and more naive). I tend to enjoy the Thanksgiving celebration with my family (and I did enjoy this year’s celebration as well), but I can definitely understand why someone might not enjoy it at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi there! Here I am!! I hear ya!! I’m grateful for a lot, too, but I also judge my body and find it lacking. I have to say, though, that your husband’s hysterics sound hilarious. 😀

    My mom used to call herself TOFU: tired, old, fat, and ugly. I wish we could all think we’re beautiful!!

    I’m sorry you’re going down the negative rabbithole. If you ever want to talk, come and find me! Happy Day of the Turkey!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh yes, so much to be thankful for and candid discussions on anal sex even made the list, discreetly of course. I enjoyed the brazen honesty of your post and can relate on many levels after surviving to Thanksgivings that seemed so surreal. Cheers to you and finding purpose and passion this holiday season.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. When my husband came home from the hospital after his bout with covid, he was very weak so I was very happy waiting on him hand and foot, doing all my chores around the house as well as his. When he got better, thank God, my old self came back and I told him ‘get it yourself’ .

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have been exploring gratitude a lot recently, and I’ve been finding power in turning every negative into a positive. Somebody hates me? I guess that helps me build a thicker skin. Have a lot of work tomorrow? That’s helping with my resilience. Injured? Woopee! Lotsa time to read!

    I love the insights from your post. And I love the topics you’ve been covering recently too. Thanks so much, JYP!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is really impressive! I am still trying to get out the deeply unhealthy mindset of seeing negatives in everything, including things that are good. You’re an example of the mindset to strive for.
      Thanks for stopping by and glad you’ve been enjoying!


  8. […] Thanksgiving summit, but I see not my grandparents in sepia memories, nor my family, lively and animated with wine and spirited discussion, but the hazy etherness of future ghosts – like climbing a mountain, knowing that someday it will peak and plunge. I grieve for loss not yet realized. I recall my biologist friend who’d watch the unknowing rats dance etherized across the lab bench before killing them, and I wonder who among us is seeing clearly. […]


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