What we forget to say
I wrote a long post last weekend about deciding to stay home for Thanksgiving, and how to talk to your family about hard decisions. The decisions we’re making right now are impossible and exhausting.
In the Wise Women’s Council (a group of 30 women I mastermind with for the year), we’re talking all about boundaries, about how to make decisions about childcare and Thanksgiving and Grandma, and about the impossible decisions we are in.
One of the things that comes up time and again is how hard it is to clearly tell other people what you need and want from them, and what affects their behavior has on you. No one is at their best right now, so making hard decisions + exhaustion is a recipe for fighting and misunderstanding.
Here’s the TL/DR: tell people as clearly as you can what you need, and then don’t forget to tell them that you love them.
Don’t forget to tell people you love them, you miss them, and you care about them. We sometimes forget this step of communication, so other people hear us say “We’re not coming for Thanksgiving,” and what they think we said is, “You’re not important,” and “We don’t want to be with you.”
It’s worth going above and beyond right now to tell people how much you love them and how much this all sucks. Everyone is hurting, somehow, and we are carrying this collective pain, unclear what to do with it.
Going to Thanksgiving won’t solve the pain.
So what do you do?
We don’t get an escape card from sadness. That’s the thing that’s so hard about right now: no matter what you choose, grief comes with it.
We don’t get an escape card from sadness and grief. That’s the thing that’s so hard about right now: no matter what you choose, grief comes with it. I carry grief in the fact that my parents will never meet my two-year-old, who is a well of pouts and hugs and joy, who claps on my back to help me cough, who says “soweee mama,” when he bumps into me, and who is so much like my mom and grandma I feel I’m staring back up at my family tree.
Going to Thanksgiving won’t solve the grief. In my family, a few family members tried to gather already (a month ago, 20 people), and they are still dealing with the fallout from one asymptomatic person who spread coronavirus to two brand-new moms and the grandparents.
We can’t run forever from our grief, and sadness is a part of life.
What I’ve learned is that grief wants to be paired with attention, with companionship, and with creativity: when we spend time with it, when we listen to it, and sometimes, when make art from our sadness, when we spend time with our stories, and when we reconnect with other people, we can find a way through.
Yes, I’m deeply sad and grieving the lost time on my business from full-time parenting and switching. Yes, I’m tired from the constant changing decision-making. And yes, I’m deeply sad not to be seeing my family over Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is a wreck (and so is the U.S. right now, with our abysmal case rates and failure to respond to parents, people of color, marginalized communities, or do anything meaningful to stop the pandemic spread). I’m trying to feel all the feelings about it: sad, frustrated, mad, and weirdly relieved that I don’t have to travel anywhere. Getting two kids onto an airplane is hard, so yes, a part of me is glad to be skipping that.
During times of sadness, I sometimes think that I’m not allowed to feel the other feelings—the belly laugh of a surprise joke, the bemusement at the patterns I find in nature, the awe of hearing my four-year old tell me about all the moons that are on planets and how the big bang started. But if I take my sadness and I clamp down on all the other feelings, I’m adding fuel to the fire.
It’s okay to feel all the feelings. Feel your sadness so you can also feel your joy.
Despite and alongside of all of the hard things, I will cling to my joy.
— Sarah Peck
CEO & Founder
PS. In the wee hours of a rough night, I wrote a draft of a children’s book about sadness. It’s still a mess of words with no pictures, but if you’d like to read it, send me a note and I’ll send you a link to the sketch. I don’t know what to do with it, but making things has been a balm against all the crap that’s out there.
PPS if you need things to talk about over Thanksgiving, here are some recommendations for conversation prompts and new traditions, below.
CONVERSATION PROMPTS TO GET YOU THROUGH THANKSGIVING
- What if any hobbies do you enjoy?
- What was that like for you?
- What’s the last book you read and enjoyed?
- What do you secretly love about being home all the time?
- What do you miss most from pre-pandemic life?
- Do you wear pants? Does anyone wear pants anymore? Do you have a favorite brand of cozy pants?
- Wanna play a game? (You’ll have to make a game)
- Let’s write a story together using the story spine framework.
- If your feelings were the weather, what’s the forecast and why?
- What was your favorite Thanksgiving growing up as a kid and why?
- Tell me your life story in five minutes or less, using one of the following filters: education, geography, romance, travel, cities, or friends.
Just because we’re not getting together doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate and spend time, money, or thoughtfulness on each other. Make staying home an adventure to look forward to while we get through these tough weeks.
- What if you decided to mail presents to each other each day, for two weeks? Play “Secret Santa” or rather, “Secret Turkey,” and mail a letter, a present, or a surprise to each other every day for fourteen days.
- Create photo albums for each other, or create a video movie together.
- Play games on Zoom, or complete the entire NYT 36 questions with your family members in a series of Zoom calls.
- Take the time to interview your parents and record memories for your kiddos by capturing their histories in a time capsule.
- Maybe you decide to each invent a new Thanksgiving dish—from the comfort of your own home—and get on Zoom and describe what you made and how it turned out.
If you’re creating a new tradition, a great way to start is to begin by identifying the pieces you love about the holidays. What are your favorite parts? Games? Snuggles? Being cozy? Movies? Food? Break it down and figure out what your favorite parts are. Do something, if you can, to capture the part of the holidays that you love the most.
The Wise Women’s Council is back for a fourth year
If you’d like to join our annual leadership incubator for professional women navigating career and family, submit an application by February 15th to be considered for the Class of 2021. The program is March — December.
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Sarah K Peck
Founder, Startup Parent
Sarah Peck is a writer, startup advisor, and yoga teacher based in New York City. She’s the founder and executive director of Startup Parent, a media company documenting the stories of women’s leadership across work and family. She hosts the weekly Startup Parent Podcast and Let's Talk, her second podcast. Previously, she worked at Y Combinator backed One Month, Inc, a company that teaches people to code in 30 days, and before that she was a writing and communications consultant.
She’s a 20-time All-American swimmer who successfully swam the Escape from Alcatraz nine separate times, once wearing only a swim cap and goggles to raise $33k for charity: water. She’s written for more than 75 different web publications and and has delivered speeches and workshops at Penn, UVA, Berkeley, Harvard, Craft & Commerce, WDS, and more.