Updated: Dec 1, 2020
The Thanksgiving tradition in America, as practiced, is a time for family, joined in gratitude for life's blessings. It is only over time that I came to appreciate the realities and controversies over the roots of the tradition, which make me cognizant of how history unfolds for victors and losers. These two articles are good summaries that provide a perspective I value.
I deeply respect the need for recognition of the truth, and whereas I might have reservations about the genesis of this tradition, I feel many of our cultural traditions are rooted in some sort of human discord. If something positive comes out of it, I can choose to focus on the positives without needing to whitewash the prices paid to get to them. I will want my children to know the truth and understand how movement of people have affected cultures and traditions, especially those of indigenous people, but maybe historical accuracy doesn't need to take away the wonderful outcome that makes us slow down in our regular lives and make an effort to connect with family. A time that makes us reflect on our blessings, and be thankful for the good things despite our challenges, because sometimes such reflection can change the trajectory in our lives in ways we might not have imagined.
In 2008, as part of a Thanksgiving meal with friends and family, a few years after my move to America I finally fully accepted the immigrant journey we are on, isolated from our own roots as we establish the lives we will build for our children. When we went around the table full of immigrant families, sharing our own pearls of wisdom around why we were thankful, I silently observed all the platitudes that came from the ones who seemed more settled in their way of lives than I was. Still trying to conquer inner storms that questioned love, meaning and purpose, while struggling with finding the light from the darkness of depression, I remember saying, "I am thankful for the ability to think and assess, so that I can address my challenges." Somehow, declaring it that day set in motion an indomitable spirit that is unwilling to cower to anyone trying to shape me in their vision.
Growing up in a patriarchal, conservative society had conditioned me to adapt to narratives that are unfair and sexist. This is reinforced the most by the female elders, many of whom lack the financial independence to question the status quo. In my mother's immediate family, I have the highest academic credentials among all the women. Even though I was pushed towards academic excellence, I was also expected to defer to male preferences despite such credentials. Surprisingly, I came upon this mindset from highly educated, professional women as well, when it came to weighing in on their son's marriages. More than anything, the barrage of detractors create doubt in oneself as we suddenly strike out on our own.
It has been a journey, to say the least, and at that Thanksgiving dinner in 2008 my statement was my first vocal stance to put a stake in the ground. It started the process of introspection where I decided where my boundaries are, and the path forged has only continued to grow, starting from protecting my personal spaces to having strength in my professional convictions. I started photography as a way to capture visions of the kind of world that inspires me and I journaled my experiences, which encapsulate a hard fought passage through peaks and valleys as I seek to be kinder to myself.
In 2014, I posted my first bit of writing that felt lyrical enough to be akin to a poem:
"Today, I choose #love to light my way.
I know it will be incredible;
A heart full of mirth, laughter comes easy
Colors in bloom, life is joy." - mh
And this unleashed a storm of words that had been silenced for years prior, with no place to go. From publishing on Facebook to various attempts at blogs eventually brings me to this website some 6 years later. Writing has now become a necessary ritual that feeds my soul. I am not a trained writer but merely someone who loves to observe the Universe as it passes us by. I like to understand my place and purpose in this ever evolving Universe, and be able to articulate realities that make sense to me. When the real world gets overwhelming, I turn to the Arts to find frameworks that give shape to understanding the human condition, and ergo my own.
It has been my most incredible discovery that so many share my passions and have chosen to follow my posts, which brings me to my post about gratitude today. I am beyond grateful to my readers, who take time from their day to browse my string of ideas. They are sometimes the loudest thoughts in my mind, or something that may have been teasing my reflections at quieter moments. I am grateful to you for being my strength in ways I can never express. I have never met you but, through this virtual connection, I have come to know you. I have come to feel your pulse, your energy, your desires through the notes many of you have sent to me and it is wonderful to know that I am not alone in this journey. That, perhaps, I give a voice to many others who seek a life of meaning and purpose.
As I take this day to express gratitude for my loved ones, I wanted to make sure you knew that you are all included. Without you, my musings would have remained a scream out to the Universe while I waited for an echo. Thank you for being there to catch the soul of my contemplative thoughts.
Wishing you all a blessed time.
- mh, November 25, 2020