Graham: Covid changed Thanksgiving; some for the good

For many it has limited gatherings, but it has also allowed a focus on what we can be thankful for.

By Ciera Graham / Herald columnist

As many of us begin to close out a very tumultuous and emotionally trying year, we’ve also had to confront an unpredictable year that has drastically altered normality as we know it.

There is no better time to reflect on both the blessings and fortunes of the year than Thanksgiving. Of course, this year’s Thanksgiving looks and feels a little different. Many of us are forced to give up traditional Thanksgiving practices of large family gatherings, and instead opt for smaller gatherings or other virtual means of connecting with our family members, both near and far. Covid-19’s omnipresent nature reminds us that life is precarious and fleeting, but we should always strive to operate from a place of gratitude.

I know many of us are finding it very challenging to limit social interactions or divert back to pre-covid practices and traditions of frequent traveling, food-sharing and large parties and events with family and friends. After all, traditions represent an important part of our culture and existence; many of us our creatures of habits, and these traditions serve as the foundation of our family. Traditions lead to preservation of culture, and there is nothing more special than seeing traditions being passed on through generations.

Learning to operate from a place of gratitude is not easy and takes an incredible amount of self-work. In a world that values over-consumption and consumerism, it is easy to fall victim to living in excess and overabundance.

We live in a culture where we are often forced to attach our self-worth to external objects and material possessions which makes it incredibly difficult to be content with having enough. More than ever, 2020 has forced us to be content with both being and having enough.

As I have been thrust into a work-from-home life, I have also accepted that I no longer need to be inundated with countless social obligations, incessant amounts of take-out and food-delivery services and material possessions. I am finding myself more content with spending time alone, exploring new recipes and cooking at home, and opting for more quality time with family and friends.

During the state-wide lockdown, I could no longer fill my thirst and desire to spend money incessantly, I was forced to live without the things that I found joy in once before. During times of change and upheaval, it also forces you to think and reorganize your priorities; you learn to understand what makes you happy and grateful. It’s an incredibly scary but rewarding experience to learn to be grateful for what you have; as you learn to operate from a spirit of gratitude, the more present you become in your relationships. As I learned to let go of my attachment to external objects and social obligations, the more present and in tune I became with myself, and more aligned and connected, I became with my partner, family and friends.

As I watch friends and family members being directly affected by the virus, I am grateful that those around me remain safe and healthy and continue to make good choices to protect others. As I witness friends losing their jobs because of covid’s impact on our economy, I am grateful that I still have a place of employment and a source of income.

Of course, I continue to be emotionally and psychologically affected by the murders of Black and brown women and men, and the overall political and economic state of our station, I am grateful that my heart and soul is still activated to heal and help my local community in ways that feel valuable to me. In a world where so many people are feeling suicidal, and depressed, I am grateful for my own spirit of resilience, and my ability and commitment to be a light for those who are unable to do so themselves.

Gratitude has many benefits; it helps prevent negative thinking, it eliminates stress, improves sleep and boosts self-esteem. Gratitude is the best medicine for a broken spirit and mind and is the healthiest human emotion.

Instead of lamenting on how covid-19 has changed the way in which we will all gather for Thanksgiving, let’s not forget the true meaning of the holiday season. My hope for all of you is that you spend this holiday thinking about what you’re grateful for and learning how gratefulness can still be present in the midst of despair and destruction.

For 2021, I hope we all, myself included, learn to start each day with a grateful heart. Gratitude is a choice, and it’s a choice I hope we all choose to make as we head into the new year.

Follow Herald columnist Ciera Graham on Twitter @CieraGrahamPhD.

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