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Thanksgiving 2021, The Year of Both

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

This year I threw my family of five in the car and we headed to see family a couple of states away to celebrate Thanksgiving. I had just finished co-creating a “Ten Days of Gratitude” social media campaign for the group mental health practice where I’m a clinical master's level social work intern. The campaign was my idea, yet I found myself feeling sort of bothered by the word gratitude. Certainly, I had some. Certainly, I had more than some. Certainly, in many ways I had more than an average amount or my “fair share” of blessings. However, I felt like every time I tried to bring the feeling of gratitude to the forefront of my brain, it somehow invalidated all the anger I was still feeling after living through the second half of 2020 and all of 2021.

It wasn’t that I didn’t understand as a therapist, mother or human that gratitude was important. I understood the science behind “counting my blessings,” gratitude journaling, reframing our negative thoughts and such. I just wasn’t feeling it.

It was then that I remembered one of my “classic Franki” speeches I had given to campers and now therapy clients and even my own kids throughout the years: You can be both.

As the great movie, Inside Out, illustrated in many ways you can feel two or even more emotions at once. That’s totally normal, and on day 620+ of a pandemic, divided country and a spotlight on the hate still so ingrained in this world, both are necessary. It’s important not to gloss over the mad, sad and angry sometimes. Those emotions can push us forward. Those emotions can lead to change and advocacy. Sometimes even anxiety is an important and functional feeling. So, on Thanksgiving 2021, I chose to feel both.

Thankful for science and vaccines, and angry that I needed to worry still about accidentally exposing someone by gathering even if we were careful. If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, please do so. Let’s end this thing!

Thankful for a delicious meal (that my brother-in-law cooked by the way) and exhausted by so many conversations with loved ones the past few days about how the past almost two years will change us forever and fear of what those changes may bring.

Thankful watching my son play with his father’s cousin’s son and realizing they don’t remember ever meeting because distance and pandemic life took so many holidays, months and celebrations away from us.

Thankful for a career that is changing, challenging, successful and fulfilling and wondering how it could have been less of a struggle if I hadn’t had to constantly build myself up again after the unpredictable public health crisis blew my business model over time and time again.

Enjoying pictures of gatherings from my friends so thankful to finally be together again yet noticing people that are missing because either Covid took their lives or Covid separated them through vaccine hesitancy.

This year I will be both, but right now I think I will still fall asleep dreaming of marshmallows perfectly roasted on top of sweet potatoes and the giggles of my children with their cousins.

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