Recent Splats according to Miz Yank

The right way to talk turkey on Thanksgiving

Commentators discussing the 2016 presidential election have said things like, “The people spoke.”

Really? That strikes me as an overly euphemistic turn of phrase. From where I sit, we didn’t so much speak as let loose a big, ugly, collective hurl, one whose nasty contents spilled far beyond our polling places.

Frankly, we should’ve seen it coming. For more than a year our information diet consisted of gut-roiling junk, much of it doled out 140 characters at a time or in Facebook posts, because we didn’t demand anything of substance. After eating all that garbage, of course we got sick.

It’s going to take a long time to clean up this toxic mess, of course, but we shouldn’t let it touch Thanksgiving (or “Yanksgiving,” as I like to call it). This holiday should be about community, kindness, gratitude, and charity, and a meal that celebrates those things. My family will be celebrating the fact that I’m not cooking the turkey this year, for example. But I digress.

Right now a lot of people are asking how, if they’re surrounded by turkeys, they can make sure the only turkey that gets the stage on Thanksgiving is the bird on the table?

I offer two pieces of advice, the first of which was given to me by a dear friend: “When you least feel like giving is when you most need to give.” The friend in question said this when we were in the middle of an argument and the only thing I felt like giving him was a knuckle sandwich, but you know what? He was right then, and he’s still right. I forced myself to give, he forced himself to give, and slowly but surely, the giving created a positive loop and things began to get better.

What did we give each other?

  • The benefit of the doubt
  • Our full attention
  • Smiles
  • Gratitude
  • Calm
  • Kindness

We checked our snark at the door, ate humble pie, and generally acted like the adults in the room. And that’s what you should do, too.

HAHAHAHAHA! I’m sorry, I just cracked myself up, there, with that whole “adults in the room” thing. Who am I kidding? The only room we’re in right now is Romper Room, and the lone adult, Miss Sally, has gone on the lam.

Which brings me to my second piece of advice: get ready to channel your inner Mad Libber. No matter how hard you try to avoid it, someone might bring up one of those other turkeys, and when they do, you’ll need a diversionary tactic. You can’t just get up from the table – what if the pie hasn’t been served yet? – but you can change the subject, and this construction works well:

“LOOK, a [absurd noun]!”madlibs

For example, “LOOK, a UFO!” (I have another friend to thank for that one – it was his default response to any declaration of love.)

Speaking of alien life forms, “LOOK, Kanye West!” would probably work too. The more absurd, the better.

If you really want to sell it, as you’re mad-libbing, be sure to gesticulate wildly in the direction of the nearest door or window. And then steal the last bit of stuffing while no one’s looking. Go ahead, you earned it.

So you’ll survive Thanksgiving just fine. But unless you’re aiming for a career in politics, you can’t hide behind Mad Libs and diversionary tactics forever.

If you want to feel better in the longer-term, try that first piece of advice, and also consider cleaning up your information diet. Go out and get quality content yourself; don’t rely on others or social media to feed it to you. Find out where your information is coming from before you consume it. Check not only your source but your source’s sources. Not all purveyors of information are purveyors of fact, and even reliable sources get it wrong sometimes. Make your diet balanced, eat slowly, and take time to digest. And for Pete’s sake, if someone hands you a Twinkie, don’t let ’em tell you it’s kale.

Thanks, and Giving

[On this day meant for giving thanks, the regularly scheduled splat has been hijacked by sincerity. What can I say, maybe Philippa is rubbing off on me.  But don’t worry, the splatting will resume tomorrow.]

When I made the decision to end my marriage after just ten months, I knew my friends and family would have questions.  I braced myself for, “Are you sure you tried everything?” and “Did you really give it your best shot?”

Sure enough, as soon as I made my news public, questions came pouring in.  But not a single person asked me if I’d tried hard enough.  Instead, the people who love me flooded me with countless variations of one simple question: “How can I help?”

It came to me in forms like:

  • Do you need a place to live?
  • Would you like me to listen?
  • Can I remind you that you’re special and wonderful?

The very people who didn’t wait for me to seek their help didn’t wait for me to answer their questions, either.  They simply gave.  Their acts of generosity showed up as:

  • A finished basement to live in and the world’s best (and youngest) roommates to keep me company
  • Shoulders that shook as we cried together
  • A hilarious getaway to Gettysburg to ride horses and scramble for a place to stay when the TraveLodge turned us away
  • Ears that listened without fatigue and with complete faith in me
  • Lovingly prepared dinners
  • A lockbox and real estate advice that helped me survive For Sale By Owner
  • Couches and guests rooms in all kinds of places
  • Phone calls
  • Letters and cards
  • A “Do-Over” 40th surprise party
  • Laughter, in unlimited quantities

When I tried to express my gratitude for this unsolicited outpouring–the thing that made the worst time of my life somehow also the best — my loved ones told me they were thankful for me, for our relationship, and for a chance to give back.

As a result of that experience, I’ve begun to equate gratitude with generosity.  The best way I, or anyone, can show appreciation for what we have –walls and a roof that shelter us, clothes that warm us, food that fuels us, and, most important of all, relationships that sustain us – is through generosity, especially of spirit.  Give things that no one could ever have too much of, like smiles, the benefit of the doubt, encouragement, your full attention, and your gratitude.  Give whatever you can, however you can, as often as you can, simply because you can.