By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note. Rarely if ever have I seen my fellow countrymen so riled up… irritable, angry, rude epithets at the ready, bad behaviors endemic. What’s going on? Try these for openers…
A rotten economic situation that just won’t get better… and you’re afraid it never will. And so you worry (for the umpteenth time) about just how secure your job is. Is there some guy in Mumbai who’ll be glad to do it at half what you get? You’ve raised the subject with your boss… but his answer was not reassuring and now he won’t look you in the eye.
A president whose leadership style gives us no leadership… and nary a Republican presidential candidate who doesn’t cause multitudes to hold their noses, gagging, and wonder why our mind boggling lengthy and expensive campaign produces candidates we can’t stand or respect, much less admire.
Sickening scandals like the one still unfolding at Penn State, scandals that make us wake up in the middle of the night shouting, “What the…… is going on around here?”. Sometimes we wonder, and not just once either, whether anyone is honest, decent, and unarmed anymore… or whether it’s only suckers (you being one) who play by the rules.
Every day we pick up the newspaper and read about another murder in the neighborhood, our neighborhood. Are our neighbors only “good” because we don’t know their secret lives and the home truths that haven’t yet been disclosed?
We read about some drug bust at the school down the street… and are horrified to see the police photo and recognize our kid’s favorite teacher. We run upstairs and check the closet and dresser drawer to see if this has touched us even closer. You’re fortunate today… nothing out of order… but
the word “yet” comes immediately to mind… since these days you expect something bad to happen any time now and aren’t particularly surprised when it does.
We read about… and are as concerned as our busy lives will allow… another species declared extinct… another Web sex scandal… another political official with a skill for theft and plausible denial. You feel sure he’ll get off easy when his time in court comes up. Is that what the bandage over the eyes of the statue of Justice is supposed to mean?
You’re concerned about America’s unending wars in countries whose names you cannot pronounce, much less find on a map, but which you are paying for. You’ve got a friend whose young cousin, proud and handsome in his Marine Corps uniform, was killed by a sniper… a boy just 20 years old.
The thought haunts you all day… You want to believe such early death helps the country in question, America, the world… but you don’t. You see that boy’s eyes and feel them boring into you, asking one question over and over — “Why?”… and you just can’t give a good answer.
You feel increasingly helpless as the barrage of bad news, miseries, muddles, mayhem just won’t quit. You want time off from it all… but these realities, details delivered to us faster than ever compliments of the Web, constitute the unceasing rhythm of our lives.
And this is only the tip of the iceberg.
We wonder if, after a lifetime of contributing, Social Security will be there when we need it… and whether Medicare will provide the level of service we’ll need. A gal from our office had that acute breathing problem and was put on a respirator; the hospital didn’t want to pay for it… and the matter now resides in their legal department. We want care… we get lawyers. It makes us very, very nervous…. and sad.
We wonder how some shady Greek and Italian politicians can have so much influence on our lives so far away. What kind of magic powers have they got that force us (however superficially) to pay attention to what they’re doing… and doing… and doing, all of which threatens the stability and satisfaction of our lives? You want to say it’s “unfair”… but you know no one cares what you think about the matter… and you don’t want people to think you’re a wimp. So you stay quiet and unsatisfied… it’s just the way things are. And so the days pass…
… until the calendar tells you it’s Thanksgiving, the official day, sanctioned by custom and dictated by law, you get together with family and friends to eat too much and give thanks for your ability to do so. But this year, you just don’t feel like it, though you wouldn’t mind a piece or two of pumpkin pie. What’s a body to do?
I’ll share something that works for me… don’t waste your time enumerating all the good things you’ve got, especially when you realize most of them are flawed and superficial. Instead, focus on the myriad of problems, inconveniences, woeful situations and debilitating malevolence you don’t have… bullets you have dodged for another year. This will make you feel really thankful about things that really matter. Here’s how it works…
Preparation and The List
This year I attend my 64th Thanksgiving, so I consider myself a man with some experience in the matter. Put this experience to work by putting aside the usual falderals… don’t just hold hands and ask little Janie to say the blessing. Janie is probably too young to have much insight into the event… and will be unable to perform her helping role to perfection. Thus the end result will be unutterably banal, like all the years before.
Instead, seize this bull by the horns and brainstorm a long list of things you are thankful you don’t have to do, think about, or consider in any way. Be brutally frank.
Item: your boss got fired because of that restroom peccadillo, and you never have to see him again. That was huge!
Item: your estranged cousin Herbie, bete noir of many years, has gone missing, no one knows where. If he never returns, that would be too soon.
Item: Your darling daughter didn’t marry the wild idealist who always played the zither and never bathed. Delicious.
Item: your neighbor’s noisome pooch Mickey, gifted with a piecing yelp and high decibel duration, ran away in pursuit of amorous freedom. He will of course be missed by someone… but not by you.
Keep going! Don’t stint! As you get into the task, you see that the things you don’t have, that you were afraid you would have and forever are the very things you always needed to make this holiday sing.
Now type your list. You will never remember them all and since each adds its mite to the happy event, do not rely on memory. Practice, too, reciting them. Read slowly…. with deliberate cadence and gravitas in your voice.
Having recited this list you will feel, perhaps for the first time in months, truly happy for you have discovered for yourself and shown the world the ample bounty of happiness at your fingertips, Thanksgiving now and forever your favorite holiday.
This is an excerpt from Dr. Lant’s new book: “Thanksgiving: Some Remarks on Turkeys and Their Day”
Available at: http://www.drjeffreylant.com/store/p55/Thanksgiving-turkey