Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Obligatory Thankful For Column

Thanksgiving is the most forgotten of the major holidays in my opinion. New Year's gets attention because we are either obsessed with getting our year off to a good start or trying to blow off the stink of a crummy year, and it's a great excuse to dress up and drink your problems away for a night. Memorial Day is the first major summer holiday, and there's plenty of camping opportunities and blockbuster movies that open that weekend. Oh, and there's that other reason to remember the day, which is extremely important yet often overlooked depending on how you feel about the military. The Fourth of July celebrates patriotism by blowing up small portions of real estate, while Labor Day celebrates working by giving you a day off work.
We then cruise into Halloween, which has become a major player with parties and costumes, and then afterwards the malls go into hyper mode for Christmas and shopping. I get why they do it, as most retailers make up to half their business during the last months of the year during holiday sales, but Thanksgiving ends up being trampled in the process. We don't have a lot of thanksgiving songs to sing, there's really only one good Thanksgiving special (Charlie Brown making toast still makes me laugh), and the day becomes about eating massive quantities while passing out in front of the television.
Granted, I think part of my issue is that Thanksgiving for me was never a big holiday in my family. We often spent the day with my stepdad's family, which was always an interesting sight. They hated pointyball, would play odd card games and the kids hardly got included, and it's about the only time the entire family would get together, which surprised me. When I left for college, I wasn't able to travel home, so often times, I was stuck at college hanging out with others who didn't have a place to go, and honestly, Dominos Pizza has never tasted so good on a holiday when you couldn't get the turkey to cook right. As I moved to Portland, Thanksgiving turned into a day from work, and I floated between friend's home as a guest, which while is good to have a place to go, I always felt a bit odd infringing on family celebrations where I wasn't part of the family. Things changed when I met girl and I gained a whole new family. They are super folks, and I see them a lot, which took a bit of time to get used to.
Granted, a lot of families work like that, but outside of my mom, stepdad and sister, I rarely saw my other family members more than maybe once a year, or sometimes longer. It does give you a sense at times of being by yourself, but at the same point, I always knew that if I asked for anything, my family would step up. It just always felt unusual to have that sense of family when you just don't see folks that often, but as the saying goes, "You pick your friends, you don't pick your family." I think for a lot of us, we see our family as people we need to relate to because that's what they do, and so you put up with a lot more than you would from your friends in an attempt to keep things together. Some of the things my family has done to each other would cause me to disown friends, but with family, the tolerance is a bit more.
I don't know why that is, but for some of us, it's hard to say the things we need to our family because we're afraid of what they might think or how they might react, and to keep the peace, you just let things slide. It's been my mode of operation for years, and I'm very good at it. Which is really bad for those around me when I really need to say things, because I'm used to trying to keep the peace. It was what I was always thankful for, a quiet, nice gathering of family that didn't end up with one of us pissed off at somebody else for some stupid reason which would then cause chaos for the day.
Now that I'm trying to work on being more aware of how I react to things, I realize that Thanksgiving has a more important purpose to remember what we should be thankful for. And as predictably cheesy as it is to say we should always remember that every day, we just don't. The world has lots of shiny distractions, pressures and stressors, diversions and widgets, and bamboozles and blitzches, and so we don't often think of how important certain people are. I've learned that not only do I need to say how much I appreciate certain folks in my life, but show them as much as I can how much I care. Sometimes, it's the little things that matter the most, and I admit that sometimes the big picture has been more distracting.
But having this realization makes me really appreciate the things and people I have around me. I couldn't do what I do without girl's unwavering love and support, even though I drive her completely nuts most of the time. She gives me so much, and I am so grateful she is in my life. I'm also thankful that I fell into a collection of football fans like the Timbers Army, who have been some of the most accepting, wonderful, irritating, and best people that I could ever count as friends. Finding a home in a place like Row N with my friends has really helped me find myself, and I won't forget what those fine folks have given to me. We always have a celebration of friends Thanksgiving weekend, and I'm really looking forward to spending time with this bunch, because I not only view it as a time to gather, but for me now, it's a chance to celebrate the wonderful gift of friendship amongst these great folks. Well, and celebrate our hatred of clowns.
I'm thankful for being able to read some great writers like Bill Simmons, who consistently make me laugh and I hope to one day emulate in my writing if I can only get my wit and charm down well. Seriously, I've never laughed so hard at the repeated mentions of Zombie Sonics than I have with his latest column, and Simmons also avoids some of the preachiness and overzealous approach of other columnists I know. I'm also thankful for my CD player and MP3 player, because my wonderful city has become a wasteland of crappy commercial radio that has really stopped caring about listeners. I used to think well of some stations in town, but right now, I can't listen to the music I want to because I'm tired of the over the top self promotion and countless ads about concerts or other things as distraction. If I had to listen to this stuff full time, I think I would lose whatever is left of my sanity.
I'm also thankful of the wonderful city I live in, which is an amazing place despite itself at times. Portland seems to be so intent on being weird and unique that I think some folks don't realize that we've already got that character. I've never lived in a place that worships its institutions, rallies around causes, and loves its pets like people around here, and while we may not fundamentally agree on everything, we all agree that this is a very special place and we want to keep it that way. And we will use our money, voices and talents to make sure Portland remains a gem in the Pacific Northwest.
I'm also thankful that I can recognize things about myself that I don't like, and work on improving those things so that I can be a better husband, brother and person. Because of my quiet tendancies, I think some people believe that I couldn't possibly be selfish, thoughtless, or inconsiderate, but I can say as a human being, I'm guilty of those things more often than I'd like. We tend to take it out on the ones closest to us, and so I'm working on recognizing that. I also want to make sure that I'm telling people what they should hear from me, instead of keeping quiet and thinking I'll have time to tell them later. What I might say may not be what they want to hear, but at the same time, they deserve to hear my perspective, good or bad.
Being a human being is a wonderful gift, and something that we should always appreciate. We have the capacity to do so many things, but we also have the capability to recognize our faults and work on fixing them for the greater good. It's an amazing thing if you can do it, because many of us resist change or think things are good the way they are. But if we aren't looking at ourselves and asking questions about who we are and why we are here, we run the risk of being complacent and we stop growing. And not that I would support a complete and total change for anyone, I would say that it's important to examine yourself from time to time. It's the most compassionate thing we can do for ourselves, and the rewards are priceless.
(Sorry for the cheesy marketing ending, but I've been watching too many &(*%*% Black Friday ads. I realized Christmas was for sale, but not this much. Seriously!!)

No comments: