November 2013

Thanksgiving: Being Better: Stepping one-down this Thanksgiving

Author: Kitty Bartell

Ahh, Thanksgiving … the weather is crisper and Lowcountry autumn colors have begun to appear on the trees. The scent of baking pies and roasting turkey calls you to slow down and take a long breath of appreciation. Family and friends celebrate the day playing games and feasting on the feast of all American feasts. Okay, back up the bus; not everyone has a Thanksgiving quite as idyllic as all that, but wouldn’t it be nice if we did?

Don’t wait for New Year’s to arrive; Thanksgiving is the perfect day to make a resolution. Make a resolution to be better: this year, be a better member of your own family starting on Thanksgiving Day. If holidays have ever been anything less than idyllic, make this the year you leave saying you can’t wait to do it all over again.

I believe the key to real change lies quietly within the one-down approach. I promise that if you try it, this Thanksgiving will be transformed, and quite possibly so will your whole life. The one-down approach comes with a warning, however. Once you get a taste of its power, you won’t give it up easily, and your family and friends will wonder what happened to the old you. You may already know people who live a one-down life. These are the people who make you feel good when you’re around them, even if you’re not really sure why.

Thanksgiving is an excellent laboratory in which to try the one-down approach, because for it to work you need to be pushed a little, and the potential is pretty darn good that the people who push your buttons will all be gathered in one place: around the Thanksgiving table. Lifestyles, politics, religion, education, recipes, dating, hairstyles, childrearing, diets… the list is endless in the ways that disagreements are provoked and good humor is tested. In past years, it may have only taken one question about your haircut, or one snide comment about your favorite politician for the downhill slide to begin. Not this year. This is the year of being better.

At first, the one-down approach may require some intense lip-biting and tongue-holding. The basic idea is that in every encounter, conversation, or decision, you will assume that the other person is the expert. Figuratively, you take one step down from where they stand. I can hear you now: Hold the phone. Are you kidding me? My aunt is full of hot air, and my little brother knows absolutely nothing!

At every opportunity, various members of your family like to corner you and question your lingering single status. When are you going to find someone? Don’t you want to give your parents grandchildren? ARGHHH! Take a deep breath and make the offending relative the expert in the conversation. Ask your aunt what her favorite part of being married is; ask your mom what she loves about having children; ask your uncle if he has any dating advice. Guaranteed, you will feel your mood lift, because you are being better.
The opportunities to practice the one-down approach are endless at any given Thanksgiving celebration. The following scenarios may seem familiar.

The Location: Your sprawling home may be perfect for hosting the big day. Plenty of seating around your King Arthur-sized dining room table, a high-definition television big enough to make you believe you’re actually in the game, and a rumpus room equipped to entertain the children for days. But there’s a fly in the ointment. Your newly married cousin-in-law wants to host the big day in their two-bedroom, 800-square-foot, fifth floor walk-up, because she says there’s nothing like a Thanksgiving in the city.

The Menu: The big day is happening at your home and you want to flex your culinary muscles. You’ve been testing recipes and formulating the perfect menu when your mom informs you that she is bringing your dad’s favorite squash casserole topped with corn flakes, and your brother tells you his girlfriend will be contributing her family’s traditional tofurkey in case there are other vegetarians in the family. Rage on. Your beautiful plans have just been blown out of the water!

The Activities: Every year, the entire family takes a traditional hike through the nearby nature preserve after polishing off the Thanksgiving feast. You look forward to it almost as much as the pumpkin pie. The kids burn off some energy after being little ladies and gentlemen at the table, and the adults moan a bit and “walk it off.” This year, however, your husband announces he’s skipping it, and like bees to honey, one by one the children ask if they can stay home too. Chaos is about to commence.

I am guessing you are getting the picture. The one-down approach will require you to walk up those five flights and eat your meal on your lap sitting in a folding chair in a jam-packed apartment while appreciating the uniqueness of this year’s celebration. Making room on your beautiful buffet for less-than-gourmet casseroles and ugly tofurkeys gives everyone something for which to be grateful. And remember, this is your husband’s holiday too. Without all those children running amuck and a whiney spouse dragging along, the crisp air and conversation may be an unexpected added treasure to your day.

Being better may sound a bit like giving in when your instinct is to fight; but remember, it’s only food, it’s only a game, and it’s only one day… but it will always be family, whether that looks like something more traditional, a bit out-of-the box, or friends and neighbors. Who knows where being just a little better might take you.

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