We just got back a few days ago from Thanksgiving festivities with my family. Thanksgiving day was pretty stressful, despite the fact that we had made very detailed and reasonable plans in advance; there’s always something – many things, really – when you’ve got 14 people, many of whom are contributing various dishes to the feast table.
As always seems to happen, the turkey cooked faster than expected, which was a little stressful for me, not that it should have been. And then two hours after we had taken it out of the oven (and rapidly covered it in a couple layers of foil), and we got around to carving it, we realized that it had not, in fact, gotten up to temperature despite what our trusty thermometer said – and some of the inner meat was still uncooked.
(So it went back in the oven for a few minutes, while we all sat down to the table, and portioned out some of the cooked slices! Which everyone was totally cool with.)
And then my well-intentioned father in a completely unmalicious, purely curious gesture, inquired at the dinner table why the turkey hadn’t been cooked enough. Which, like I said, he did not do in any way to be difficult, but it was mortifying for me, since I had been the one in charge of the turkey – I had even brought it up to New Hampshire from our farm in Pennsylvania! And despite the fact that I had asked him not to get into it, my dad pursued – after delay – in this line of questioning, in a way that only increased my embarrassment and general feeling of incompetency. Because I really do pride myself on my ability to cook delicious, nourishing food for my family and friends — and tend to beat myself up when I pull off what frequently are spectacular failures in this department as well.
And then I got a migraine. And I had to take medicine, which is frustrating for me because I know it’s not good for my healing system, and stand outside by myself in the dark quiet cold for close to an hour, until the mind-crushing pain subsided.
And then it turned out that the cream I’d used to make the whipped cream was sour.
The thing is, I had a beautiful, wonderful Thanksgiving.
Because the only point in time when I felt like crying, and a few tears welled up in my eyes, was the night before Thanksgiving, when (almost) all of us first gathered together as a family for dinner, and held hands, and I looked around at all of these people that I love so much, who mean everything to me, who bring meaning and purpose to my life, and it just made me so incredibly happy.
And despite all the things that went wrong on Thanksgiving day itself, all the frustrations, all the moments which should have – and would have just a year ago – set me off into a total sobbing meltdown – I didn’t cry at all. I didn’t get upset. I didn’t get frustrated – maybe a little annoyed, but not to the point where I couldn’t communicate, or had to just isolate myself and sit alone feeling sorry for myself, hating myself for screwing up my own and everyone else’s holiday, feeling miserable because I was feeling miserable and not enjoying the extremely limited time I get to spend with these people I love more than anything else.
But this Thanksgiving, even during the time I spent outside recovering from the migraine, I was remarkably calm. I really surprised myself – I wasn’t emotionally upset, just in pain. It didn’t bother me that I had to step away from the commotion that was going on inside, I didn’t feel guilty about needing time to myself, or pressured to step back inside until I was ready. I just waited, breathed in the fresh air, enjoyed the calmness and listened with some ironic amusement to the bickering neighbors (and thinking, I’m so glad I live in a family which doesn’t bicker and yell at each other!), and appreciated the gradually increasing moments when the pressure in my head subsided and allowed me to relax.
It seems like so many previous holidays, I’ve had to take this time to step outside, or into a separate room, not to calm my nerves and head pain, but to have a complete and total breakdown, followed by someone – usually my husband, sometimes my dad – coming and seeking me out, trying to calm me down, apologizing for something that they or someone else did that set my very easily activated emotional alarms off and made me angry or annoyed or bitter …
I’m just so overjoyed that that didn’t happen this year. And believe me, with everything that happened, it really should have.
Except that in the past year, I have made my health better. It’s still got plenty of improvement to make. But it is definitely, markedly, measurably better.
This experience just shows to me _how far_ I have come in that healing journey.
My brain – it’s more stable, more balanced. It’s not getting thrown off whack by chemicals and hormones that make me feel like the only way to release whatever has been building up inside of me is to flip out completely, lose total control over my inner tormenting demons.
When I started GAPS, I did it for “Gut and Physiology Syndrome” reasons, not “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” reasons. I’ve always been a little off balance, but I never thought of myself as having any sort of mental illnesses, and compared to what some of my family have been through, I certainly haven’t. But now I see that things are better, things feel better emotionally, when my body feels better.
And I’m extra thankful for not flipping out. A whole new world of experiencing the holidays may just have opened up to me.
Photo Credit: Nesster on Flickr.
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