Heintz will be making my gravy for Thanksgiving this year accompanied by his friend Stove Top who I hear makes a mean and quick stuffing. Ocean Spray is bringing the cranberry salad, and Libby’s Easy Pumpkin Pie will fill the Pillsbury shells quite nicely. This holiday will be a breeze and I am not feeling the least bit guilty for failing to peel potatoes, dry bread crumbs or suffer with making a pie crust by hand.
Like many middle age women, I remember my mother and grandmothers slaving for days to crank out a Thanksgiving meal – which tasted wonderful – but seemed to exact a pretty heavy toll on the chefs. And I also remember some of the men in the family sitting in the other room watching football. It seemed a “good” wife and mother was really not supposed to have fun on Thanksgiving other than making sure the masses were fed. Hence, the birth of guilt for the working women of today who want more than standing in a kitchen all day from their holiday, but deep inside continue to play the comparison game with how a mother/wife “should” perform these traditions.
Now I will acknowledge that many women do enjoy and derive pleasure from cooking for their families. For some women, cooking is just an extension of love and mothering. For me, cooking is a hated chore only second in revulsion to cleaning the commode. I mother by spending lots of time with my kids, but that time is usually not spent next to an oven. Over the years, this produced quite a reservoir of guilt compounded by the legacy of guilt/shame associated with being a trauma survivor. I recently became very aware of how I was being swallowed up with guilt and decided it was time to let it go.
With my minister’s help, we spent the day doing a purging of all the events in my life that still contained guilt. For me, guilt is also heavily connected to self-forgiveness – or the lack thereof. For many of the events in my life, I felt I had the forgiveness of God, but I never allowed that forgiveness into my heart. I never drank it in. Therefore, my minister and I created a ritual where I spoke my guilt aloud and then drank from a chalice of blessed water. Sometimes it was more of a chug than a sip and I made sure I trucked a half-gallon into the woods where we found a quiet bench to do our work.
I was able to drink from the cup of forgiveness and have found compassion for the woman who looks at me in my reflection. This Thanksgiving I gobbled up my guilt, and I am most thankful for this freedom and the minister who could hear this raw pain and be with me in its transformation.