Life is Beautifully Messy (& So Is Thanksgiving)

One Thanksgiving, my niece — then about 8 — looked up at two framed photos on the wall in my parents’ dining room. She glanced curiously from the picture of my sister and brother-in-law on their wedding day to a portrait of me. And then, without hesitation, she announced:

“Look. There’s Mom and Dad at their wedding. And there’s Aunt Jen … allllll alone.”

There was the year that I was so lonely that the mere fact that it was Thanksgiving made me even more lonely. And, even though I was spending the day with family, I was inconsolable.

And let’s not forget about that memorable Thanksgiving 13 years ago. I was eight months pregnant (going on 800), about to become a single mom (and rather terrified by this) and feeling like I may quite literally explode as I attempted to stuff in the tiniest bite of pumpkin pie.

Little did I know, I’d be a new mom less than 24 hours later. (We won’t even talk about how I nearly had to take a cab to the hospital that night, because all of my “people to call” were dead asleep.)

Last year, my mom flew across the country to spend the week with us. She taught my daughter — then 12 — how to make her signature stuffing and cranberry relish. I cried when she left.

And this Thanksgiving? This year our blended family is missing all three of our kids. It’s not “our year”. We’ll be having our traditional feast tomorrow.

Tonight, we’ll gather at a tiny, dimly-lit Old Hollywood lounge and celebrate Thanksgiving proper over Vespers and truffle fries.

Through all these years — sad years, happy years, giantly pregnant years and vintage cocktail years — I’ve come to learn something very important:

Life is beautifully messy.

You envision how it’s supposed to be. You pine for what it ought to be. You assume that everyone is having some Norman Rockwell style day or existence, as you’re eating takeout Chinese in your sweatpants. You don’t have your dear ones around you when you really, really want them around you.

You drink Vespers instead of eating turkey. (Hell, yes.)

Wherever you are today, tonight, this weekend or this year — I hope you are embracing it, in all of its messiness. The chaos or the solitude, the heated dinner table debates or the Netflix movie marathons, the pining for something else or hoping the moments will never end.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to learn how to do this. To learn how to find beauty in the holidays, even the ones that didn’t exactly unfold like a Hallmark holiday special. (Let’s pause for a second and think about how disastrously funny it would have been had I spent my Thanksgiving night 13 years ago giving birth IN A CAB.)

I work with so many people who fear their lives aren’t unfolding as they should be. That they’re not doing enough. That they’re not becoming enough. That they aren’t enough.

I have been there. I have felt that. I have felt it most particularly around and on the holidays.

But now I get it. I get one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned, and that’s this:

Out of the ashes of what life was supposed to be, you can create a life that is.

And that’s pretty damned incredible.

I’m beyond grateful that you have found your way here. Your attention, your kind words, your business and your friendship continually make my beautiful mess of a life worthwhile.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.