This year has been hard. Is it over yet? Almost. Perhaps this Thanksgiving we need to dig deep to remind ourselves what we’re all thankful for. Some of us are just barely hanging on. Some have done fairly well, all things considered. Some have lost family members or close friends over political conversations. Some have lost family and friends from the pandemic…

Wherever you are in your journey this year, there’s likely lots to give thanks for. Such as, well, there are vaccines coming very soon, an antibody treatment too, the election is over (or many people think so), and every day we have thousands of choices of good, positive, and uplifting messages to fill our minds and hearts, as our tanks get empty.

If you don’t feel quite normal, I hope my recent breakdown and manic episode helps. I thought I was doing just fine: “I can make it through Thanksgiving without our children with us. No big deal.”

I was telling my husband Rod in my typical (probably annoying) morning optimistic/upbeat voice, “It will be fun to cook our own small turkey and watch the Thanksgiving Day parade.” He looked at me and cautiously, slowly and calmly, as only a veteran elementary principal (or prison guard or mental health care worker) can do, “Elaine, there won’t be a Thanksgiving Day parade this year.”

“What?! No!” Well that was it. The last straw! I designed my remodeled kitchen with a big TV screen primarily for that annual event, to watch the Thanksgiving Day parade while popping the turkey in the oven and sipping the first Bloody Mary! Okay, now all my resilience and happy thoughts are gone. I am resigned to the most miserable holiday ever.

I tell myself, “I don’t care. It’s only one day, right?” That lasted 24 hours. Rod calmly waits for my next move.

Plan B. I’m an incorrigible optimist. “Let’s make a reservation at a good restaurant and eat outside. This will be even more fun. We can take off our sweat pants and get dressed up and go downtown. Wear lipstick and heels. Be served. Done. What could go wrong?”

Until my youngest daughter — an anxious joy-kill, practical and fiercely protective — voiced her concerns, “Mom, now I know it’s your choice…” (Who does she get that from?) “All you need is a waiter with Covid and all your good quarantining goes out the window.”

Damn her loving concern… I don’t care… It’s my life. I am going to be happy and do whatever makes me happy, even if for just a few hours.

Sometimes the darker, deeper feelings about all this sneaks up on me. Ever happen to you? I know people say, “Don’t watch the news,” but we enjoy watching the national nightly news while we prepare dinner. We cook every night… never go out to dinner… but that’s another misery story and I won’t go there. I know you relate!

So, we usually watch CNN — a little negative, repetitive, and slightly condemning of a certain politician or two, until dinner is prepped then move to a lighter/gentler dose of reality. Lester Holt and the Nightly News helps us cope. He gives a more balanced perspective. We are going to get through this. He always signs off with “Take good care of yourselves and each other.”

That evening they featured that adorable little owl found in the big tree at Rockefeller Center. Now, I have to admit, as a native New Yorker I sometimes feel a tiny swell in my throat when I see the tree going up at Christmas time. Not a lot, just a teeny bit. Not noticeable at all. Well, of course this year it became a political thing as some balked at the idea of putting up the big tree this year. I’m not sure why.

However, our friend and personal spiritual guide and counselor, Lester, said how much we need that tree this year to give us hope, the promise of more good times ahead… That did it! I don’t usually do this, but I burst out in tears, sobbing as I pictured my parents taking me to see the tree as a little girl. I wanted to be there. I wanted to be back there with them, with my parents, now gone for over 40 years…

What is going on? A little breakdown over my salad. Or maybe just a tad bit of grief. “Breathe.” I remind myself it’s good to feel my emotions. It passes. It honors those I loved. It shows how much I valued them. This sucks. My chest is tight, and I just don’t want to go there.

Have you noticed that grief is this year’s most prevailing emotion? Kind of like each year has the most popular color, or skirt length. We suck at grief. It eeks out sometimes and then we tuck it back in. In a weird way I think this is one of the blessings of this time in our world. People are acknowledging deep feelings and sharing it. There is so much vulnerability publicly and privately, and much less posing and pretending that life isn’t hard. Life has actually always been hard. We have just kept it to ourselves more.

So, after I had my moment, I could hear a coach from years ago telling me, “It’s okay to fall apart sometimes. Do you have people to fall apart with?” Thankfully yes I do. Now I do, anyway. Then, I did not. In addition to my kind and sensitive husband, I have a whole two hands full of precious people in my life that I can call on to fall apart. Some of them are waiting for me to take my turn. My growth work is more about feeling my pain and sharing it authentically and not always tending to others’ pain. Many leaders focus on others to avoid their own issues. Let’s face it — it’s less painful. Optimism and resiliency can be a  mask and keep us isolated and in a false sense of happiness. Real joy comes from facing and being with the reality of a whole range of emotions. Thank you to my friend and mentor John Townsend: “Reality is your friend.”

Okay, but what if the reality is that I want to have a good time? I want to make the very best of this that is possible! That’s my default and may always be… I accept that. And happily, reality was on my side for this one! I found out the Macy’s Parade is not canceled after all!

That changes everything! Okay, Plan C. (Rod told my daughter there would be several more plans before we talked to her next.) Now we’re cooking. All is not lost. This is more normal, more fun. Shop together, cook, drink a little, go off the strict diet, and pull out the larger stretch pants.

Do you have these roller coaster events? Have I made you dizzy with mine? Does it help you feel a little more normal? Or are you bored and unsubscribing to future monthly blogs? Worse, are you judging me and asking yourself why would anyone pay good money for this person to coach you? Ha! I wouldn’t blame you a bit.

So, as we celebrate, or commiserate, take huge risks with Covid dinners, get on a plane, stay home by yourself, hunker down with those you live with. Whatever you do, I wish you freedom from self and other judgment. Do what your heart tells you and enjoy it fully. And if you don’t enjoy it, don’t judge that. Give yourself a compassionate pat on the back for getting through this holiday in the best way you know how. Call a friend and be real. Offer love, acceptance, and shared misery, a piece of joyful news and a laugh.

As Lester says, “Take good care of yourselves and each other.” And as my mother Kitty Siciliano always said, “This too shall pass.”

And don’t forget the Bloody Marys!



Elaine Morris
Executive coach and positive intelligence expert

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Elaine Morris is a master-level emotional intelligence and executive coach who brings more than 30 years of experience to upper level executives and their teams.

Elaine Morris