Gratitude from the Perspective of a Vegetarian American Expat Yogini

I first must begin today’s post by wishing all of my fellow Americans, expat or otherwise, a VERY Happy Thanksgiving! Every year at this time, a flood of memories come spilling into my mind of the lifetime of American Thanksgivings had before my husband and I jet-set to NZ 10 years ago. Thanksgiving Day at the Quail House (I was Quail before I became Allen!) always began with the smell of cinnamon rolls in the oven in the wee hours of the morning…they had to go in early in order to make space in the oven for the epic meal that would follow! My family and I would flop in front of the TV, cinnamon rolls in hand, to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, except for the year that I was dancing IN the parade, at which time we froze our buns off on the streets of New York City! My Mom and I would banter on about which Broadway Show performances were particularly stellar in between hopping up to begin the preparation for the big feast! It is hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t sat down to an American Thanksgiving, but it is less of a meal per say, and more of an EXPERIENCE…one that generally requires a few days of fasting in the lead-up and a reasonable detox on the end…whew! Of course, by American standards, Thanksgiving also marks the kick-off of the Holiday Season, a tradition that I have carried forth amongst my wee little family : )

For a few reasons I suppose, I haven’t really managed to uphold the modern traditions of Thanksgiving with my husband and children, in part due to the fact that we don’t have the entire week off to plan, cook and digest the huge meal! Perhaps another reason would be that I haven’t yet managed to find a replacement meal to the ‘star of the dish’, the Turkey, and the idea of molding a lump of tofu into the shape of a Thanksgiving Turkey doesn’t tickle my fancy. And Lastly, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade doesn’t air in New Zealand, so my favorite of all of the traditions was lost amongst the airwaves.

However, as has happened with SO many holidays and traditions, the meaning behind Thanksgiving has been partially swallowed up by supermarket mayhem, American football madness, and the absolute chaos that is Black Friday! The true meaning of Thanksgiving lies within the principles of family, community, and GRATITUDE.

For me Thanksgiving is an apt time to reflect on the big and small joys in my life. It is a time to gain perspective on just how fortunate we are, even when sometimes we are easily clouded by the haze of first world problems. Sadly, today, it is also one of those times in the year that I am painfully reminded of the thousands of miles that separate me from the Quail Family.

This year has been really hard, on the Quails and the Allen’s, monumental actually. My Mom’s battle with Cancer has brought us all to our knees, but her strength has shone an incredibly powerful light within the darkness. Watching a dear friend suffer greatly the loss of the love of her life has reminded me that life is so damn short, and SO damn precious. The emotional ups and downs this year have left me feeling like I am on a perpetual theme park ride, I do hope that 2019 brings a steadier energy, and it seems that many people have had similar experiences this year…big life moments that have asked us to tune in to the small things that remind us that even though darkness has an insatiable hunger, the call to lightness is audible if we find stillness and open our ears.

So, as I sit reflecting on the true meaning of Thanksgiving, despite the mountains that 2018 has built for myself and those closest to me, what AM I GRATEFUL for today? My Mom, who is about to ring the bell and begin the new phase of her cancer-free journey! My Dad, who has been her rock, her mountain through it all. My husband, for never giving up on me, even though I have handed him a doozy of a year. My children, for seeing the light, ALWAYS, and filling the house with so much Aroha. My TRIBE, the YAY Brigade, for standing strong with me, or at the very least, not leaving me on the roller coaster by myself! My extended family and friends, whom have all made a presence in my life in special ways this year. My amazing Yoga community, for trusting me to lead them along this phase of their journey. My gorgeous wee pug, for being an unconditionally loyal and faithful friend. And lastly, I am grateful for the tiny moments…the walks on the beach, the warm cups of tea, the beauty of this land, every moment of light that has shone brightly in my heart this year, as a reminder of how sweet life can be.

My beautiful wee family, The Allens, we will sit together tomorrow for a meal, it may be Dahl and rice rather than turkey and stuffing, but regardless, we will talk about Gratitude. I will ask my children what they are grateful for, and remind them that we have food in our tummy’s and love in our hearts, which is all that we really need. So whether you are American or not, or Thanksgiving is a ritual in your world or not, perhaps this is a time of reflection for you. What are YOU Grateful for? Many Blessings to you and yours, and Peace to all beings.