Thanksgiving Shadows

This is a day of giving thanks, and there’s much to be thankful for, as I’m reminded every time I pick up a newspaper or make the mistake of tuning into CNN or MSNBC. But a call from my son this afternoon reminded me of my mother’s favorite saying: “There’s always something to take the joy out of life.” She had it right, and it’s important to remember that we’re never immune from what’s lurking on the dark side of the moon.

I’m using the moon as a metaphor. We all cast a shadow and have a shadow: those negative qualities in ourselves we don’t like to recognize as ours and usually project onto others. For democrats, it’s the republicans who don’t get it and vice versa. Day’s shadow is night, and it’s in the night, in dreams, that the parts of ourselves we cast off can appear, reminding us that we’re multiple.

But getting back to Mum’s favorite saying, life is always reminding us that we’re mortal and that bad things can happen at any time. So when my son called from Canada where he now lives (he was born there but grew up in California and still thinks of the American Thanksgiving as the “real” one: Canada’s happens mid-October and doesn’t have so much hoopla around it. The event really did focus on celebrating the harvest more than the American version’s origins), he mentioned his recent physical. He cautioned, “It may not be anything, but the doctor had some blood on his glove after he examined my rectum.”

It’s true: the blood may not be anything serious. There are more causes for internal bleeding than cancer. Yet it’s the word that first comes to mind and lingers, always hovering in the shadows. It seems appropriate to be reminded of our vulnerability on this day when we pause to give thanks before plowing into the Christmas season. Joy is such an elusive state. We need to be thankful when it is present because the other is never far away. Nothing is constant.