No More Pretending

23 Nov

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I’m expecting a large crowd at my house. I’ve been baking and cooking and chopping since last weekend, and have made at least five trips to the grocery store in the last three days. The refrigerator is so full of food I can barely get the doors closed. All four of my children are home, along with three of their cousins, and they’re all downstairs making a racket that could wake a dead pilgrim. A few years ago,  under these same circumstances, I would’ve already had a headache with all of the stress. I would’ve worried about the house being a mess; I would’ve been panicked about all the food I had to prepare for so many people; and I would’ve felt resentful about how I’m the only one who does any work and that no one ever appreciates me.

I would not have been thankful.

For many years I pretended to be thankful on Thanksgiving. I sat at our festive dining room table set with sterling silver, ironed cloth napkins and my great grandmother’s floral china heaped with delicious food and I pretended. I spoke the traditional words of gratitude which easily flowed out to those around me like melted butter basted over the browning turkey. I expressed aloud the words that were expected of me and tried to believe that what I said meant something. As I stared out across the table into the candlelit faces of the people I hold most dear to me, I tried to believe that my words of thankfulness were true and heartfelt.

But they weren’t true and they certainly didn’t come from my heart. They were lies—because there was no honest feeling behind them. Over the years I had learned to shut down emotionally and hadn’t allowed myself to feel joy or gratitude anymore. Even with a lavish Thanksgiving bounty laid out in front of me, I couldn’t shake the buzzing sense of dissatisfaction that lingered in my head like a thick, despairing aura. What I had just wasn’t enough.

Then four years ago everything changed. I’ve written about this pivotal change many times in my blogs but I felt that in light of tomorrow’s celebration, I need to talk about it again.

I was lucky enough to be given a gift by my youngest child: her diagnosis of cancer. It was a gift many would consider a curse; something so horrendous and evil that no good could possibly ever come from it.  I watched Isa suffer so much during those two years of chemotherapy and I suffered along with her, never imagining how this experience would turn into something so miraculous.

But I’m on the other side now and I can see the wonder of my transformation. I look back on those first days in the hospital and remember that within one day of Isa’s diagnosis, the change in my life became apparent. The darkness that had consumed me started to dissipate like a blindfold had been gently untied from my eyes. The ensuing gratitude I felt toward all of those who helped me and my family began to seep in and metastasize into something lovely and tremendous in my heart.

Through the pain and fear I began to feel again. I began to feel real thankfulness.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I will be sitting at the same dining room table, eating off the same china plates, staring into the same faces of my family as we gather to share our traditional meal together. I will speak the same words of gratitude that I have in the past, but this time, everything is different. My words of thankfulness will be earnest and genuine and heartfelt.

I won’t have to pretend anymore.


I am grateful for all of you and I wish you all a joyful Thanksgiving filled with love and gratitude!

6 Responses to “No More Pretending”

  1. Becky Green Aaronson November 23, 2011 at 4:23 pm #


    The power of your honest writing knocks me over every time. Truly. So flippin’ strong!

    I love this: “The darkness that had consumed me started to dissipate like a blindfold had been gently untied from my eyes. The ensuing gratitude I felt toward all of those who helped me and my family began to seep in and metastasize into something lovely and tremendous in my heart.”

    Thanks for sharing! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family.

    • Allegro non tanto November 23, 2011 at 8:08 pm #

      Becky, I hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving, too! Thanks for being my rock.

  2. Cyndi Gilbert November 25, 2011 at 7:34 am #

    I LOVE YOU JESSICA and am very, very thankful for your whole family. Lots and lots and lots of LOVE this holiday season.

    • Allegro non tanto November 25, 2011 at 10:13 pm #

      Oh, Cindy–I’m more thankful for you and all that you did for us and continue to do for us! Love you back!

  3. Erica Storm November 28, 2011 at 11:30 am #

    I hope your Thanksgiving was nice. Thank you for the great post, I read it at the perfect time. Always good to be reminded of what is important!!

    • Allegro non tanto November 28, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

      Erica, I hope your Thanksgiving was also filled with thanksgiving!

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