The reality is: Those days are gone (presumably, if you've truly left home). But perception and reality are two resources we often have to separate in "special" times such as these. If you feel anxious, depressed, angry, resentful, or confounded, instead of lighthearted, hopeful, grateful, and uplifted, then let's look at what is actually going on in the present. And let's separate it from the family traumas of the past. In other words, if you're feeling messed up over this year's festivities, chances are you've got a big, ol' sack of something to set down and walk away from. In other words, to quote the famous counseling axiom, "It's not about what it's about." There's a Zen proverb that says it in a slightly different way:
"The thought of a tiger is not a tiger."
I know someone who comes from a family of over-thankers. I don't know if this phenomenon was covered in a "Seinfeld" episode, but the importance and timing of a regular thank-you certainly was. Attention to this detail from a "show about nothing" might seem insignificant, but isn't it the little things that add up and make our neuroses what they are? It would be hard to measure the psychic damage caused by the stress of being thanked repeatedly for small favors, in person, on the phone, and in writing, and by being required to respond in kind, thanking over and over again, for anything and everything, no matter how great or small, and not knowing when enough thanks has been enough. Was this overcompensation from missing gratitude in this family's past or was some other passive-aggressive mechanism being played out? Who knows? But this is just one example of the pitfalls surrounding our society's relationship to gratitude.
Appreciation is a wonderful thing.
It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.
The quote above exemplifies the depth of meaning that can be derived by spending a little time thinking about the implications of such a simple act as giving thanks. He mused further about a similar subject, about another of our stubborn attachments to ego when he commented on the way we cling to counterproductive, "tried-and-true" ways of going about our lives--either alone or in our various groupings--as follows: "It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere."
Regardless what "Thanksgiving" means to you, or what spirits the holiday or the concept might conjure up, now or any time of year, why not do a little rethinking? Check in and see where you stand today on the subject. If you find yourself reacting to bygone times, then contemplate if your attitudes could use some updating. The exercise can only help you, and it could do some good for those in your circle. When you let go of expectations and resentments, see if the air around you clears. Here's hoping the newness you create around you will be cause for celebration!