Gratitude and Thanksgiving—2020—Honoring Vicki

A couple of weeks ago I had a bad hair day. If you are a living, breathing female you get it. Usually, even when we’re tempted to obsess we can take a beat and get over it. I suggest you follow that coping strategy instead of what I did. Trust me on this. Otherwise, you too could end up looking like Amy Klobuchar or Elizabeth Warren—who for despite any political savvy are not our favorite fashion gurus. There was definitely a glitch in the dialogue with my beautician, who whacked off a bushel of hairx in a matter of seconds. In her defense, she did give me fair warning. “Are you ready?” she inquired. Turns out my affirmative spelled disaster. 

During my pre-teen days, my mother insisted on dabbing me with Tony-perms, a-curly-version-pre-curser to the Elizabeth Warren/Amy Klobuchar look. Of course, anyone under the age of 65 will not recognize the reference, but if you want a great laugh, click on to this one-minute clip of a 60’s vintage “Tony” do:

You’ll either relate to my anguish or recall the shock and awe when your mother did this to you.  

In high school I rebelled and have sported Rapunzel locks ever since—right up until my pivotal appointment. I’ve already researched how long it will take to grow back those five or six inches: one year. Maybe you dislike the expression, “It is what it is,” as much as I do, particularly when your mirror has no mercy. But after taking some deep breaths, I remembered a couple of lines from Self Belonging, my second book, due out in February: “What’s being asked of you in this situation? What would happen if you didn’t resist it? As you continue to step back in the moment from whatever is disturbing your peace of mind—without a need to fix or change it—you build emotional resilience.” 

Well…here’s to my “emotional resilience!” I gotta admit, I am a work in progress. Nonetheless, once I pondered the situation and dove in a bit during this Thanksgiving week, I was taken back to eleven years ago when I spent my last Thanksgiving holiday with my dear sister-in-law, Vicki, who died a few months later. She was beautiful, vivacious, loving, and kind—a very brave and damned near perfect woman. Watching her slowly slip away from metastasized cancer, was one of the most sobering experiences of my life. A few years earlier, a tumor was discovered behind her eye. Though successfully radiated and contained (at the time), it still caused her to lose her sight in the treated eye. As it happens, I have an infection this week, blurring the vision in one of my eyes—another vivid reminder of Vicki’s incredible valor.

Reluctantly, I left Vicki for a few weeks during the course of her grave illness, to come home and regroup. She called me just after she’d watched her gorgeous, sable-colored hair (all of it) drop to the floor, shaved off in preparation for chemo, which would cause it to fall out in clumps. She chose the quicker version of that disaster, while sucking up her anguish at a hairless head, staring back at her in the mirror. Vicki Lynn Hull was a saint. All she said to me about the experience was, “I didn’t like it.” Toward the end of her life, with chemo suspended, her hair did start growing back, forming tiny little ringlets, which delighted her. She’d learned to take such pleasure in simple things—like feeling, seeing, and sensing those little stubbles. 

Dear Hearts, these are pretty challenging times. No doubt about it. We have all been inconvenienced in one way or another by this invisible, lurking “thing.”  For some, the challenges have been extreme: there are people out of work, others are sick, and depression is on the rise. Many of us have decided or been forced to change our holiday plans. It is never more evident than now that those of us privileged to live in the U.S. are dispersed over wide swaths of the country—great distances that now separate us from our loved ones. We’d been so used to hopping on a plane to get here or there, that up until earlier this year it never occurred to us that most travel would no longer be an option, even if we did have the time and money. It’s all so strange. Can we actually find things to be grateful for in the midst of it? Here’s my own best shot:

  1. I still have hair—which is actually a little bit longer than Elizabeth’s and Amy’s. 
  2. I can smell and taste (an acquaintance recovering from Covid still cannot).
  3. I can see—with both eyes (even if one is blurry).
  4. I can hear with both ears, so I can talk to my loved ones and even enjoy “face time” with them—even as we won’t be sharing our traditional Thanksgiving meal.
  5. I can breathe easily.
  6. I can get outside and walk, daily.
  7. Though the days are starting to get shorter and shorter, the solstice will happen in less than a month, and spring will come—eventually.
  8. I have paper towels and toilet paper (even if it isn’t Charmin).
  9. The electricity is on. (It was off a couple of weeks ago). 
  10. The plumbing is working.

I know, this stuff seems pretty basic, but what I find in creating a list like this as often as possible is that it’s honestly a lot easier to get to gratitude when you realize how much the basics really matter. And I don’t know about you, but if I can discipline myself to do this the minute I feel myself “going south,” I get a noticeable upsurge in my energy. This year, I delight in going a bit beyond the basics in noting my full-on enjoyment while seeing a smile (minus a mask). And when there is a mask awkwardly affixed to someone’s face, I really like exchanging gazes with them (often strangers), smiling myself (with my own mask on) and watching their eyes light up and crinkle with a smile back (even if it is underneath that awkward face covering).

Happy Thanksgiving, dearest Friends and Family. I love and appreciate you all!

Luann

Thanksgiving, 2020