I watched this TikTok the other day that was making fun of Thanksgiving because it came in between two amazing holidays like Halloween and Christmas. In this video, they basically say that Thanksgiving has some yams and it’s pretty much forgotten between the two, flashier holidays. And in many ways it’s true. There’s a lot of hype around Halloween. There’s months of planning for the costumes. There’s traditions like trick or treating and pumpkin carving and plenty of events from haunted houses to dog costume parades to celebrate all month long. And don’t even get me started on Christmas which seems to start the second Halloween is over and goes until New Years. Then in between, usually after you’ve even decorated your Christmas tree, there’s Thanksgiving. Let’s put it this way, we had a Friendsgiving this year November 13th and I went out a week prior to find some decorations and I couldn’t find anything other than some on-sale cocktail napkins and some pumpkin salt and pepper shakers left – everything else was Christmas.

And it’s no surprise. Thanksgiving was supposedly a dinner between colonists and Indians which we all know how horribly the US has treated Native Americans throughout history. Also, it’s turned into this capitalistic holiday where it seems like people care more about trampling someone for a big screen tv at midnight than spending time with family. While all of this is true, the thing I love about Thanksgiving is really just a time to pause and think about the things in your life you’re thankful for. I don’t know if it’s the past two years through a pandemic or if it’s getting older, but it feels like we are hearing more and more about a gratefulness practice. Back in Episode 29, I interviewed Michael Ian Cedar who is a life coach that specializes in using the power of a gratefulness practice to find purpose in your life and at work. At the onset of the pandemic, I really started to dive into this practice as I looked for things to stay positive about when it felt like the world was falling around me.

The act of being grateful can be a powerful tool in your back pocket. It got me through some real rough spots in 2020, and so I’ve tried to keep up with it moving forward so as to not just focus on it when I need a pick-me-up, but to help me remain grateful and keep things into perspective every day. With this renewed sense of gratefulness, this Thanksgiving meant a bit more to me. The last two years has seemed like a lifetime – so much as has happened in our lives, and all around us. Professionally and personally. As we were prepping for Thanksgiving this year, taking that pause to say thank you became so much more important to me. And I found myself taking a moment when sitting around the table, both at Friendsgiving and official Thanksgiving, looking around and feeling my heart filled with gratefulness.

First, gratefulness for my partner in life, my love and finally my husband after 10 years of dating and multiple pandemic-related wedding dates – Christian. When you’ve been together with someone for ten years, you’re way past the honeymoon stage. You’ve had experiences that have made you laugh, but also almost broke you. You’ve celebrated success, and mourned loss. They’ve seen you at your best, but also at your worst. I’ve always looked at Christian’s and my relationship as healthy and strong. Definitely more healthy than any of my past relationships ,that’s for sure! But over the past two years as we’ve navigated a global pandemic, getting married and personal and professional struggles – our relationship has risen to a whole new level of love, support and patience. I honestly can’t imagine the last two years without his support and couldn’t be more grateful to have Christian in my life as his love and support has helped me develop more self-love along the way, the greatest gift of all.

My friends, or the family I’ve chosen – also extremely grateful for this bunch. Over the years, the numbers have dwindled as they do as you get older. Friendships naturally evolve and change and sometimes just end. Sometimes it’s because you no longer have anything in common. Sometimes it’s because they get married, move to the burbs and they might as well moved to outer space because for some reason a suburban address usually means they’ve disappeared forever. Whatever the reason, it’s normal to have less, very close friendships as you get older. I don’t have the energy to have like 50 acquaintances to keep up with all the time like I did in my 20’s. So as you filter through your friends and create a compact unit – those you invest your time in become so much more important. COVID seemed to be the biggest filter of them all. When you had to decide who’s in your bubble, you really start to evaluate who you want in your life enough to go through all the bs you have to to hang out during a pandemic. When you plan a wedding? Another big filter as you think about who do I really care says yes? Especcially if you have a COVID wedding – you have no choice but to prioritize to a whole new level. At this point in my life, my friend group truly is like the family I chose. They are very important to me as I can be myself around them and they accept me. When people say the family you were born with and the family you choose – that’s what I believe they mean. The family you were born with you hope will love and support you no matter what. You hope they won’t judge you and treat you how you would want to be treated. But that’s not always the case. Unfortunately, it’s less common than we want to believe. That’s why your friends are so important. It’s the family you would choose if you could. Each bringing something special to your life and something to be grateful for.

Somehow, in my almost 40 years of life, I’ve been blessed with finding five best friends. I know that sounds like bullshit, but somehow I have been lucky enough to not only find them, but hold onto them for in some instances 20 years. There’s my best friends from college, Faith, Michelle and Alecia who I know I can call at any time, with anything – funny or sad. They will never judge me. They will always pick up the phone. I can always count on them to build me up when I need it and to talk for as long as I want so I can just get it out. We’ve been through so much together over our past 20 years of friendship, they know me better than most people in my life at this point, and they still love me. They’re extremely important in my life.

Then I have my best friend Catherine – who also officiated my wedding. Catherine and I have been friends for over 7 years at this point and are two peas in a pod. I’ve never met someone that is so similar to me yet so different at the same time. I don’t know how to explain it but we compliment each other in a way that I don’t quite understand but can’t imagine living without. She is one of the only people in my life I never get sick of. You know what I mean – even people that you love most in your life, sometimes you still appreciate a day to yourself. With Catherine, I literally have never felt that way. Even when we’ve traveled together and spent every minute of every day together – I never needed a break. Our relationship is easy, supportive and probably one of the most honest relationships I have which I truly cherish.

And of course, Geoff. Geoff and I instantly connected over ultimate frisbee over a decade ago, and even though he’s now moved out of state – we’re still close. He and I have a friendship that picks up exactly where it leaves off each time we see each other. Like no time has passed, until you think about our friendship a decade ago, vs. now – and boy have our lives changed! Friendships that can be flexible like that, grow with you and never feel like an obligation as your life changes are very special.

Then, as if that wasn’t enough – I have been lucky enough to add two more very good friends in my life that I have grown to love over the past 5 years or so, Pam and Tiff. Both, strong-minded, passionate, driven, badass females that I’ve grown a connection with that I truly appreciate. Pam and I are in the exact same lifestage. We are both about the same age, both got married this year, both career orientated women looking ahead wondering how the heck we’re going to find time to start a family. Tiff and I met at work – the best gift my current job gave me. While we joke that we didn’t get along at first, I believe her words to her boss at time were “It’s Jen or Me.” –  we have developed a bond that truly is special. Especcially once we found out, how similar we are. These two women hold me accountable and give me the honesty that I need to continue to be the best version of myself.

When I think about these people, they are what I’m most grateful for. Grateful that this woman who has been told her whole life that I can be “too much” or “you either love me or you hate me” or that I could be “intense” or I “talk too much” – This woman was able to build eight relationships that appreciate me for my strengths and my flaws. These people have seen the good in me, push me to always try to be better, support me when I fall and genuinely want the best for me. This is what matters in life.

When I think about my gratefulness practice, while I could focus on the things in my life – like my career, that I’m successful, not scraping by like I was when I was younger. I could focus on my health that at 39, I’m doing good, externally and internally. But what always comes to my mind first is my relationships I’ve cultivated throughout my adulthood. You hear all the time that as you get older, your friends change and you have more quality than quantity. And that’s true. You realize your time is more valuable the older you get. You literally have less time left. And therefore you get more choiceful on who you spend it with. And your priorities change. When I was younger, it was family first no matter what. As I get older and relationships evolve – it’s still family first, but who I consider my family is what changed. Now I focus on those in my chosen family that bring me peace and love and support and just positive vibes to my life. Because if age and the pandemic taught me anything, it’s that life is too short for bullshit. And I’m so grateful to have filtered most of the bullshit from my life at this point so I have more room for the parts that bring me joy. My hope for anyone that is listening – is that if you don’t feel like you are there yet this Thanksgiving, that you have the strength to get there by next. Thank you for listening today. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and were able to find some time for some moments of gratitude between the stuffing and the shopping. Please like, review and share this podcast and follow me on Instagram @jennifermathisvillamil or you can get the blog form of this podcast delivered to your inbox by subscribing to Until next time!

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