Clair and I weren't able to sit together this weekend as usual, she was off being superhero mom running marathons and carting her athlete children to the far ends of the state while I was cleaning a house in the middle of a kitchen floor renovation and traipsing with my kids all over Williamsburg. That in and of itself required a quick, four-mile run detox afterward if you remember my shopping aversion. But we've both been sitting daily on our own, not skipping any, and we've begun the book above, The Way of Zen by Alan Watts, a real eye-opener.
Thanksgiving is coming (duh) and upon realizing this, old habit told me to panic. Had I invited anyone? Had I planned the menu? Had I thought about it at all? Nah. And then I remembered a few things that helped calm my little self down. Maybe some will help you do the same.
1. We have the same meal every year. Okay, not entirely the same, only because I like to change things slightly for variety, just to make things interesting. But I'm just talking about steaming some pretty green beans from Trader Joes and putting a little butter, salt, pepper and slices of almonds on them instead of a gloppy green bean casserole with onions on it that I don't eat. Or maybe throwing in an interesting salad for a vegetable to surprise everyone because that's what I want to eat that year. But really, it's basically the same meal year after year, how hard is that?
2. I learned how to cook a turkey. Yes, somehow, somewhere along the way I learned how to cook a turkey. I realized the basic premise is you buy a bird, you thaw it if it's frozen, you turn on the oven, take anything in the middle of the bird out, but some butter on top of it and cook it till it's done. Really that's all there is to it. Of course it can get a little more complicated, like we brine ours overnight, cook it breast side down and flip it part of the way through cooking, baste it, etc., but it really is as simple as "stick bird in oven and cook until done". I'm not going to say mine is the best turkey ever but it is edible and not bad. Some years are better than others. No one throws up and no one skips it. I call that a decent review.
3. Everyone brings something. And there you have it, at least a third or half the meal is made and delivered.
4. No one stays the night. I realize we might be one of the lucky few here, but everyone is in town. They come over, eat and leave. It leaves very little time for drama, and the lack of alcohol doesn't fuel any fires.
5. I get the kids involved. As much as I can I let the kids help. They clean, make interesting place cards, help set the table, do prep work or just go play outside. Every little bit helps, at least that way I don't feel like I'm in it all alone.
But the above genius was helped along by this excerpt from the aforementioned book, or at least I stretch to relate the two and note the contrast in my inclination for panic over Thanksgiving and my new found practice of daily meditation:
"From a Buddhist standpoint it [meditation] is simply the proper way to sit, and it seems perfectly natural to remain sitting so long as there is nothing else to be done, and so long as one is not consumed with nervous agitation. To the restless temperament of the West, sitting meditation may seem to be an unpleasant discipline, because we do not seem to be able to sit 'just to sit' without qualms of conscience, without feeling that we ought to be doing something more important to justify our existence." ~Alan Watts from The Way of Zen