A Thanksgiving Poem

This is dedicated to all the healthcare professionals out there who give, give, give all year long.

I’ve had two friends tell me they are spending Thanksgiving alone. Not lonely, simply alone. These two friends spend their time giving to others. They are healers and creators. They are empaths and, I’m guessing, introverts. Each of these friends has family and friends they could be spending their holiday with, but in a radical act of self-kindness, each of them has made the controversial decision to go it alone.

Both conversations were so similar, I’m going to mix them together. Plus, this way the details will be changed to protect the rebellious. The conversations went something like this:

  • Me: What are you doing for Thanksgiving?

  • Friend: I’m staying home.

  • Me: Great, I think—

  • Friend: Don’t worry, I’m not going to be lonely. I just really want to put on my pajamas and have some time to myself. I’m not going to work. I’m not going to make Thanksgiving dinner and I’m not going to worry about anyone else. The kids are with their dad and I will be having some unapologetic alone time.

  • Me: That sounds amazing.

  • Friend: I really won’t be lonely. I had several invitations. My sister invited me to her Thanksgiving dinner, but I really don’t want to spend all weekend traveling. I’m tired and I just want to turn off my brain. I’m giving myself permission.

  • Me: That's a great decision.

There seemed to be two ugly threads weaving through the conversations: pity and guilt. First, I got the feeling my friends were trying to avoid being the subject of pity for spending a holiday weekend alone. I’ve spent some holidays alone and it is a little weird. There is something about those days that is filled with a palpable energy of should. You should be with family. You should make a feast. You should decorate. You should dress up. You should reach out to other people and make sure no one spends the holiday alone. And there it is. The pity isn’t about the other person, the pity is about our own guilt.

That brings me to the second thread of the conversation: guilt. There is a pressure at the holidays to “give back.” When my friends told me they would be spending time alone, the cultural expectation is that I should try to talk them out of it. That cultural expectation is ingrained so deeply it is hard to identify, but the message is this: “If I don’t convince this person to spend the holiday with a group of people, I have failed in my duty to “give back.’”

There is another part to this guilt. My friends were probably experiencing a should of their own. The same one that pressured me. You see, when they decide to stay home, that means they are not living up to the “give back” expectation either. They aren’t worrying about anyone else and this flies directly in the face of our cultural norms. This is especially true for those of us for whom giving is a calling.

The thing is, I am SO PROUD of them for taking the time they need this holiday. They have different reasons for taking a time out, but it comes down to really nurturing themselves. To me, (a highly introverted introvert) spending four days alone also sounds like heaven. If you have been toying with the idea of taking a self-indulgent holiday weekend, do it! Claw your way out of the cultural norms and “give back” to yourself.

I don’t think givers realize that not everyone thinks the same way we do. Not everyone is concerned about other people all year long. The holidays may be the ONLY time some people stop and think about someone else. Here’s the deal: If you are giving, giving, giving all year long, this whole “give back” thing doesn’t apply to you. You don’t have to ramp up your efforts. Just be your same awesome self and maybe even do the radical thing and take a time out altogether. Tell the holidays to take a flying leap. There’s no rush because your giving season extends all the way through next November.

In honor of all the healthcare professionals out there who give, give, give all year long, I wrote a poem. Enjoy.

A Thanksgiving Poem

For Healthcare Professionals Who Avoid Self Care Like the Plague

By Jamie Wyman

Each day you bring yourself to work,

Come hell or high water you’ll soothe some hurts.

Tuck your patients into bed with care,

Dodging visitors here, dodging visitors there.

You weave between them to get the job done,

And pretend to care about each one.

Where do the days go?

What happens to the night?

Thankful for a job and thankful for life.

You make your way home each and every night,

To comfort your kids before you turn out the light.

You listen intently to your sweetie’s travails,

As you put up your feet and slug back some ale.

When your best friend calls, in crisis again,

You dole out advice and a prescription for gin.

Where do the days go?

What happens to the night?

Thankful for a job and thankful for life.

You rise again at the butt crack of dawn,

and take a cold shower to stifle your yawn.

These twelve hour shifts leave no time for fun,

no time for meditation, no time for a run.

On your day off, you wanna to go to the gym,

but instead you succumb to the Netflix binge.

Where do the days go?

What happens to the night?

Thankful for a job and thankful for life.

Your brain is spinning, your heart is heavy,

with all the things you didn’t have ready.

You tried to get all your paperwork done,

But you couldn’t escape from patient 301.

Does any of it matter, does anybody care?

The HIPAA police are everywhere!

Where do the days go?

What happens to the night?

Thankful for a job and thankful for life.

Thanksgiving sneaks up with your in-laws in tow,

cross your fingers and hope the dust doesn’t show.

Then somebody tells you it’s the season for giving,

a time to imagine how others are living.

Don’t let them go hungry, don’t let them be cold,

Tend to their wounds and pray for their souls.

Where do the days go?

What happens to the night?

Thankful for a job and thankful for life.

Here is my prescription for those of you

Who are worn out and weary, who have lost your oomf.

There will be another day to find the spirit of giving,

and time to be thankful when the world stops spinning.

Tell that smug do-gooder to shut their trap,

You’re gonna spend Thanksgiving taking a nap.

Need more irreverent prescriptions?

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