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Thanksgiving Your Way - Don't Force The Happy

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Thanksgiving is just about the greatest holiday ever invented. I'm sure you will agree.

It's classic Americana (unless you're celebrating in Canada then it's something else). An enduring tradition of giant Woody Woodpecker balloons, Detroit Lions futility, the absence of any dietary inhibition, and assuming there is enough booze on hand, lots of warm and fuzzy family togetherness.

Everyone celebrates in their own unique way, but the idealized nature of the overall template is universally awesome.

Or is it?

Actually, it's often not like that at all. The Turkey Day reality for many people is very different.

Maybe you heard on the news, or read in your Reader's Digest how stressful this time of year is for lots of people. Instead of looking forward to participating in their annual rituals, many people would simply rather be doing something else.

The cause for this feeling of dread varies, but my experience has taught me it usually boils down to one of three scenarios.

1.) Outside pressure. Spending time with family members we don't regularly associate with imposes a burden on us. Think, being forced to answer for the perception of unmet expectations. Not measuring up to some arbitrary standard. And the questions, ohh the questions. Why are you still single? When are you having a baby? Why is this stuffing so dry?

2.) Obligatory fakery. Being anything less than our true selves causes emotional stress and unhappiness. The Holidays are loaded with this. A lot of people at your party won't know you very well, it forces you to make nice and act a certain way. You pretend you're happy to see these people, you hold back an opinion, you tell your host her candied yams are delicious.

3.) Thanksgiving itself is nostalgic. We often associate it with extremely positive memories. Different people, special people, better times, etc. It's easy to get caught up thinking how great life used to be. How far we are from where we want to be. Where we thought we'd be.

My personal view is Thanksgiving is a wonderful and sentimental time to enjoy interactions with people I need to see more often. However, I am completely aware that not everyone shares this perspective, maybe not even the person I'll be sitting next to at dinner. I won't ask him about the stuffing.

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