On Thanksgiving, a Letter to November

When I was little, the looming of November always excited me. As a Nov. 1 baby, I considered the entire month to be mine (can you blame me?). I welcomed it and owned it. At the beginning of the year, I liked to flip through calendars at the store to make sure I was okay with the chosen image for November. The details of the month were important. It was my month, after all.

When I married Sean on Nov. 27 just a day shy of three years ago, I had even more reason to love November, to claim the month as my own, from the first week to the last. Throw the Thanksgiving holiday into the mix and the best Florida college football rivalry into the lineup (go Gators), and my month was turning out to be what birth-month dreams are made of!

…Until my mom passed away on Nov. 24, just three days before Sean and I celebrated our first anniversary on Thanksgiving week. I knew November would never be the same.

I considered the ironies, the juxtaposition of life and death and new beginnings and gratitude — was this a joke? Could I pick a new month, please? Could I start over? Could I just make November go away?

Nope. November rolled back around. I turned 30. Sean and I turned two. My mom was gone. Again, it came. I turned 31. Sean and I are approaching three. She’s still gone.

I’m unsure of how to give thanks. Last year was experimental. I was guarded in showing happiness (could I be happy? should I be?). I certainly have lots to be grateful for in my marriage, in another year of life, in accomplishments and good health and memorable moments — but how do you show gratitude and happiness when your heart is in mourning, when you’re grieving so deeply, you’re not even sure gratitude and happiness can be a thing anymore?

I cried. I laughed. I celebrated and mourned. I wrote and talked. Then, I cried some more. And I smiled when I felt like smiling, and I sulked when I felt like sulking. I embraced the full spectrum of my emotions, the full swath of highs and lows that could be crunched into one month, and I accepted the vulnerabilities and inconsistencies that came with it, with allowing myself to embrace the entirety of November — from its happy beginnings and sad endings, to new promises and stories cut too short — and accept the reality of what November symbolizes now, to the kickass testament of strength and resilience it has the potential to be.

Today, on Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful to be able to look November in the eye, and say, “You’re still mine. With all of your joys and your disillusions, with all of your beginnings and endings and lessons. You’re scarred and tried but true. Thank you.”

Today, as the month wraps up, I feel not the need to write a post about gratitude or about grief or about age or marriage. This post is about Life. I’m thankful for life and everything it entails. November, by that definition, is full of it. Today, I embrace it, I succumb to it. I’m made stronger and wiser and kinder because of it.

I’m thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

LifeValeria L. Palmertree