One of the hardest parts of any change is making peace with traditions. Traditions are a wonderful way to mark the various holidays and occasions. But often, people forget that as their lives change, it is reasonable to expect that the traditions will too. Traditions are only good so long as they serve the needs of the people participating in them. Holding on to a way of doing something, because that’s the way they have always been done, causes emotional pain when things are changing.
This recent Thanksgiving marked my fourth different way of living the three days marked for this national occasion. Three years ago my father died on Thanksgiving. Frankly I don’t remember much about it, other than making travel arrangements to get back to my hometown. The following Thanksgiving I was in the midst of my separation. I needed a place other than in the home I was still sharing with my husband, so once again I was making flight arrangements. This time it was to spend the weekend with close friends who live in the U.S. Last year I was fortunate to have friends invite me to their home for a beautiful meal. And this year? Spent with my new love.
Call me a rebel, but I think there is something to be said for changing what happens during these special times. Any number of things can and do change as time moves on. Children grow up and may move away. Parents age and yes, eventually die. Jobs, houses, locations, everything changes.
Whether you are joining in or creating your own way of doing things, isn’t it better if new ideas can blossom? Blending old and new, much like what happens within families. Siphoning out what is really important and letting go of those things that have become an unspoken burden.
It is up to us to create what we want
Don’t get me wrong, there are things that I love to do or be a part of, if the opportunity arises. That’s not always the case though, so it is up to me to create what I want. My mantra has and will always be “People before things” and frankly, traditions are things.
I don’t have control over others, nor should I. Just as they don’t have control over me. What we do have is a common space to create, as we can, an occasion that meets our needs wherever we are in our lives.
If you are a young family, then it seems reasonable to shorten the day and attend, rather than host, an event. Or, if you are single or have no family nearby, you make arrangements with friends to mark the day in some way.
Traditions shouldn’t be so firmly set, that not participating in them leaves you feeling sad and depressed. Nor should they be used as a place of judgment with right and wrong indictments of those taking part. Instead, opportunities exist to create a new version of how you spend your time.
I grew up in a large family, married into a large family and with children of our own, became accustomed to big celebrations. Life changed, as it does for everyone.
Some changes I created, but mostly, it has been the natural evolution of life. My options were to try to hold onto what was, surely causing myself and others grief and heartache. Or, to accept, embrace and create new opportunities. A Thanksgiving meal for two is only lonely and sad if you decide it is so.
As the year winds on and more holidays come our way, perhaps it is time to ask what traditions are truly important and if it might be time to make some changes.
If you have changed any traditions or ways of doing things, please leave a comment. Who knows, you might just have the spark that creates a whole new tradition for someone else.