What is the opposite of Thanksgiving?

Larger view

Perhaps we all know what Thanksgiving is.  We know what it feels like.  Underneath all our turkey and stuffing, we know that Thanksgiving feels like gratitude, appreciation and love.  It smells like pumpkin pie mixed with joy.  It tastes like mashed potatoes whipped with the heart’s fairest harvest.  It is the giving of the feast of compassion, the giving of our deepest gifts.

But what is the opposite of Thanksgiving?

Closer view

Could it be the way we steer through our days on auto-pilot, concerned only about getting things done?  Concerned primarily about connecting the dots between A and B?  Could the opposite of Thanksgiving be our busy lives, our focused doing, our physical robotic movements?

Could the opposite of Thanksgiving be our forgetting to be grateful?  Our forgetting to marvel at the small gifts which life presents, moment after moment, hour after hour, day after day?  Could it be a sin of our attention?  As we focus on (you fill in the blank of your hectic schedule) do we simply give our attention to other things, forgetting to let the heart drink of appreciation and gratitude?


Is the opposite of Thanksgiving our tendency to focus on what’s wrong, what’s not working in the fabric of our days?  Are we focused on what’s ripped, what’s broken, what seems beyond repair?  Are our eyes and thoughts frantically attempting to fix, to sew, to knit new ways of existing?  Are we lost in our imperfection, our humanity, our feelings of wrongness?  Could this be the opposite?

Dock reflections

Are we ever simply ungrateful for what Life brings us?  Do we expect Life to bring us wine and roses, and mutter under our breath when it delivers compost and mud?  Do we think we deserve a basic standard of living or a millionaire’s dream?  Are we comparing ourselves with our neighbors and feeling envious?  Is this the opposite of Thanksgiving?

Do we think Thanksgiving is too much effort, or too silly, or impotent?  Do we think that it doesn’t really matter?  Do we not care?  Do we think gratitude is not a dove flying free above the trees, an orange sunset, the hug of a small child?

Ladder above and under water

Do we sometimes give from obligation, from tradition, from a heart partially squeezed shut in a frustration of too-much-materialism?  How much do we hold back from our family, friends, the world?  Is the opposite of Thanksgiving stinginess, clutching our gifts toward our own chests, attempting to fill an inner sense of lack, an inner suffering?

As we sit before our turkey or ham or green bean casserole, as we kneel our heads in prayer, as we smile at family members, shall we remember also the opposite of Thanksgiving?

And tomorrow–when we whip out our VISA cards and buy Christmas presents–can we remember again what Thanksgiving feels like and bring it into our daily busy lives, our tendency to forget, our focus on what’s missing?

Day is done. Gone the sun...

Thanks.  Giving.  Two simple words. 

Bringing them more fully into our daily lives may mean looking more deeply at why we choose other options between sunrise and sunset, why we grasp or push away Thanksgiving in our daily lives.

It’s not about feeling shame or guilt–wishing we could live Thanksgiving 24/7.  Instead it’s about finding space for these precious qualities in the ordinary moments of our day, in the rushing out the door, in the simple act of baking pie.  It’s a gentle reminder to ourselves:  Thanksgiving is now, when we choose to remember it.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends and family–from our Little House in the Big Woods

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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37 Responses to What is the opposite of Thanksgiving?

  1. Reggie says:

    We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here in South Africa, but it is clearly a wonderful tradition.

    Every year, I marvel at the fact that Americans put so much energy into this special day, with children traveling long distances across the country to make it home on time – every television series I’ve ever seen has at least a couple of Thanksgiving holiday episodes!

    I love your post… very thought-provoking.

    Enjoy your turkey and your pumpkin pie, as you share your bounty and your love with your family, dear Kathy!

    • Kathy says:

      Oh Reggie, I am glad this made you think. All I can think about you is the image of you meditating for nine days in South Africa–and eating home-baked bread. Barry and I are roasting our turkey now. Our family is spread out across the country. Wish they were all here. In the meantime, I am thankful for so much. Including–you!

  2. Elisa's Spot says:

    I don’t really think that THE DAY of Thanksgiving is anything other than a sham. I do not find it at all important to go play games with a group of persons, with whom I do not spend much time on any other day. Heck, I can even resent it interfering in my peace. I do like the yummy foods, but I make a lot so for the winter, we have those foods once a week 🙂

    I like taking off by myself on this day and walking the earth. I think the escape from some of the things that I abhor most helps me to ground and to be glad to find what feels right and good, to notice it and to give thanks for the noticing. I do stop many moments in a day and find the gratitude, particularly should I become irritable and think the world owes me something! 😀 I think that if I do not experience, what I feel during a moment as lack of perfection, that I forget to remember the feeling of gratitude. Words of gratitude for me are rather useless, but for the times that I do it on purpose, hoping that the mind will follow the body. I am grateful then, that it does.

    Happy remembering we are enough day Kathy!

    • Kathy says:

      How wonderful, Elisa, to take off and walk the sacred earth. That sounds like Thanksgiving ot me. I walked today, as well, admiring the melting snow, the little green ferns emerging again. I like what you describe about the experience of “lack” allowing you to remember gratitude. I join you in remembering that we are “enough”.

  3. Robin says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to you too, Kathy. 🙂

  4. jeffstroud says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your lovely family! I am grateful for our long distance friendship, yet it is closer to the heart than some who are right next to me.

    Yes being grateful everyday, every moment of that day is the key to it all.

    • Kathy says:

      Jeff, your comment filled this heart with happiness. It is true–those of us next to us are often not as dear as those of us far away. I echo your gratefulness..

  5. Martha Bergin says:

    Loved this one, and the pictures are wonderful! I was afraid when I saw the title that not all was well in your world, but reading this I give thanks that you have time to reflect, so everything must be OK. We are good here, and are happy to share the reflections of this day with you! My Christmas ritual over the past years has been to watch A Christmas Carol and then promise to make every day somehow like Christmas in some way. Now I’m also including Thanksgiving in the plans. I assign my students (already) a “Gratitude Extra Credit” where they get 50 pts ! for listing 50 things in their lives that they are grateful for AND giving the reason. I’m thinking of creating “Gratitude Trees” where the leaves (construction paper) have some of the gratitudes written on them… maybe we will do that. I don’t know for sure. Got the idea for all this from one of ~C4Chaos’ blog posts long ago. When I first did the assignment, a student made it into a tree spontaneously. Soooooo cool!!! : ) Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Kathy says:

      This sounds like a most lovely assignment, Martha. My heart is smiling, thinking of your students fulfilling this. And to make every day like Christmas…golden! I appreciate your presence in my life, Martha. So much. I wish you everything your soul truly desires. Love, K

  6. HolEssence says:

    “…it’s about finding space for these precious qualities in the ordinary moments of our day…”

    This says it all. happy Thanks Giving from our house to yours 🙂

  7. Brenda Hardie says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to you Kathy and to Barry! I hope he is feeling better and resting comfortably after the surgery.
    Thanksgiving (as well as every other holiday) used to affect me like it does Elisa, but I have moved away from that place. Now, I try to find ways to give thanks in every day. Because there are things all around us for which to be grateful for…people most importantly. Today as I sit at the feast table, I will bow my head in gratitude for the many blessings in my life…for friends, near and far…for family so dear to my heart and for the food on the table, the warmth of our home, the companionship of our pets, for the memories of happy times past. I am truly grateful for abundant blessings, big and small. And yes, even for the mundane, daily events of the day…even the trials and times of sadness and despair because it all plays a part in who we are.
    Peace and love to you Kathy…thank you for another thought provoking post ♥ Happy Thanks Giving ♥

  8. Barb says:

    Hope Barry is feeling fine today. I’m feeling grateful – lots of blessings to think about along with friends and family who make my life more abundant. (Now if only I can say “no” to that second dessert.) Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours, Kathy.

    • Kathy says:

      Barry is napping now, Barb, but feeling pretty good today. I am thinking of your Thanksgiving dinner now, Barb, and wishing you much joy and love on this special day.

  9. A beautiful post! Happy Thanksgiving!

  10. OM says:

    I can’t think of anything more which could be said on the subject, Kathy. You have captured it all,so eloquently. With images to contemplate as well. Thank you for speaking the words and the pictures!
    I am surely grateful for YOU in my life, among my many blessings. Wishing you and Barry and your family and extended family, all the joys of the day and of living!

    • Kathy says:

      OM, how happy am I to discover you here today. I am grateful to you–have always been–from the day we first “met”. Wishing you and yours the joy of Thanksgiving. Always. Love, K

  11. P.j. grath says:

    We kind of went in different directions today, didn’t we, Kathy? I came back to read your post again, and now I’m thinking that “opposites” makes the matter seem as if it has only two sides, attention vs. inattention or gratitude vs. ingratitude. Surely, as you say, we want to pay attention and be grateful! My post, today (on which you commented) came about because I was thinking of people deep in grief, almost paralyzed by it or feeling great pain. But we have both been thinking and feeling, and I am thankful for that along with many other aspects of my life, so thank you, Kathy! And I hope Barry is as comfortable as can be today after yesterday’s surgery.

    • Kathy says:

      You are right, Pamela. There are many more dimensions than two sides. Perhaps I meant to say “Pay attention and be grateful” but, in reality, I’ve said that six dozen times in the past three blogging years. I wanted to say something that would bring attention to the polar opposite, and therefore, perhaps, illuminate the ordinary side.

      Thanks for your well-wishes for Barry.

  12. P.j. grath says:

    P.S. I forgot that I meant to say also that your photographs today are very striking!

  13. Sybil says:

    Thank you Kathy, for a wise and thoughtful post. All the best to you and yours.

    Peace. Sybil

  14. Susan Derozier says:

    Thank you Kathy for this beautiful post. You said what was in my heart with such clarity. I spent my morning calling people I care about and telling them that I am grateful for them in my life. Sometimes that seems to get lost in our busy life and I really believe it needs to be said.

    My afternoon with family was lovely and I found a new gratitude in the Packers 11th win of the season!!!! (Green Bay was my home town so I’m hopeless on that subject.)

    My best to you and Barry on this beautiful day. I am certain you both are grateful his surgery is over. I, too, am grateful for you and your meaning-filled blogs!

    • Kathy says:

      How utterly sweet of you to call people you love and express gratitude. You are such a special lady! (OK, I don’t know about watching the Green Bay Packs. We may have to split company there…LOL! I am not a football fan. Not since my brothers & Dad sat in front of the TV every Sunday since childhood watching a game. My mom & I read books.)

  15. Karma says:

    Thank you, once again, for the gentle reminders. I am one of the many who all too often forgets to find the gratitude in every day things and wishes too often for something more.
    I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving day.

  16. Susan D says:

    Feeling thankful for getting to sit and read your last 3 blogs! How I miss them when I don’t get to them … every day IS Thanks. Giving. Thank YOU for all that you give … to us ….

  17. bearyweather says:

    Thanksgiving … Is a good time to remember how precious each day is. There is something to be thankful for every day … even the bad ones. Thanksgiving is a reminder about what life is really about.
    Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving this year.

    • Kathy says:

      I like your words, bearyweather. “Thanksgiving is a reminder about what life is really about.” How true! Wishing that you, too, felt thanks in your deepest heart. I know it’s been a rough year.

  18. Reblogged this on cindyricksgers and commented:
    My friend Kathy, who writes from the woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, shared these wise thoughts a few years ago. I think they’re well worth sharing again.

  19. You read – and “liked” – one of my recent posts, which caused a message to be sent to my inbox, with a selection of your posts that I might like. That led me to this post, which is wonderful! I just re-blogged it, this Thanksgiving Day, with this introduction:”My friend Kathy, who writes from the woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, shared these wise thoughts a few years ago. I think they’re well worth sharing again.”
    By the way, once I was there, I spent about an hour reading things you’ve written over the years. I felt my heart swell; I laughed out loud; I smiled in recognition of my own struggles in your words. By the time I got up, I had tears in my eyes, for missing you, and your once frequent entry into my days through your writing. I hope you’re well, and happy, and continuing to spread joy and insight through your life, if not through your written words. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Kathy says:

      Cindy, what a thoughtful comment to write! You made this Thanksgiving Day so much brighter here in our Little House. I do sometimes miss writing and connecting the way that happened for so many years. It felt so beautiful to share the joy and insights which popped up. It was such fun! (except those times when it felt compulsive or addictive). A mixture of sunshine and clouds and winter snow. Part of me always wants to start sharing through the written word again. Who knows, it may happen… Anyway, blessings and gratitude for your kindness and Presence this Thanksgiving. May light shine through and around the cracks and crannies of your life on Beaver Island every day of the year. Love, Kathy

Thank you for reading. May you be blessed in your life...may you find joy in the simple things...

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