What I Discovered After I Gave Up Trying to Please Everyone on Thanksgiving

Stacey Freeman

By Stacey Freeman | Nov 23rd, 2022

I have a confession to make. When I first pitched this piece, before thinking it through and sitting down to write it, of course, it had a different name and with it a much different message. I was planning to call this essay “Going Cold Turkey: Why I Gave Up Trying to Please Everyone on Thanksgiving.” That was until I decided, for the first time (I think) in the six years since I separated from my husband, that I was going to host Thanksgiving in my home. I say I think because, if I did host Thanksgiving during that period, I don’t remember doing it, which is why I’m going with the fact I didn’t. So if anyone remembers me cooking a turkey for them anytime after November 2011, please feel free to message me privately.

In any event, what happened when I sat down to write this blog post is something that happens to me often; my writing takes on a life of its own and rarely resembles what I set out to say. Situations change as do my thoughts about them, something that happened this past week. You see, I, like many people, don’t love the holidays, Thanksgiving being one of them. Naturally, I didn’t always feel this way.

It all started in 1985 when we spent the holiday at my grandparents’ home. That year their table was small; my parents, me, my younger brother, and them. One of the last memories I have of my father is him walking out the door and stopping to turn around and smile at my grandparents as he said goodbye for what would be the last time. Their relationship was a complicated one, but in that brief moment, I glimpsed something different, something unspoken between them. It was nice. My father died unexpectedly eight days later, along with him my enthusiasm to celebrate holidays.

In the years to follow, Thanksgiving gradually became filled with happier moments again. Since my divorce, however, this particular holiday once again took on a life of its own or, shall I say, lost some for me. That’s because this was the last holiday I hosted in my house while I was married. Toward the end of my marriage, I wasn’t the happiest person, but I loved married life nonetheless. I don’t prefer being single, despite its perks; I have only learned to make the best of my situation. These are my truths. I accept them now.

In the years after my divorce, I’ve taken great strides learning how to say no, and to say it repeatedly if and when I have to.

I have other truths, too. One of them is that I’m a people pleaser and always was. When I finally began drawing lines in the sand with my husband, he left, and life changed for me in ways I could never have imagined, some positive, others not. On the bright side, in the years after my divorce, I’ve taken great strides learning how to say no, and to say it repeatedly if and when I have to. I haven’t always been as proficient at it as I would’ve liked, but I’ve made a lot of progress, which brings me to current day. Or I should say last week, when I decided, a little reluctantly I admit, to take on this dinner once again, including cooking it from start to finish. I initially told myself I would be doing it for others because everyone seemed to desire me to, but I realize now that’s not entirely true. I’m also doing it for me because I want to.

Although establishing boundaries and engaging in self-care are musts for rebuilding self-esteem following a marriage’s end, such pursuits should never extinguish who we are at our core but, instead, preserve and enhance it. In my case, this Thanksgiving will, in large part, be about pleasing others, the key being that making other people happy also makes me happy, despite how difficult I anticipate hosting this dinner will be. What I do know for certain is that my table, which is going to be smaller relative to prior years, will be as, if not more, abundant with love and gratitude, beginning with my own.

Wishing you and the ones you love a happy Thanksgiving.

Stacey Freeman

Stacey Freeman

Stacey Freeman is a New York City-based writer, lifestyle editor at Worthy.com, and the founder and managing director of Write On Track.


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