Listen to this post
To adapt means to make something fit or ready (as for a new use) often by modification. It’s another word for change. That’s a scary word to say aloud (or in print) around here, but all living things are in a constant state of change. Emphasis on “living things.”
Doesn’t sound like a Thanksgiving theme, does it? But it is, and it’s not just applicable at Thanksgiving.
Holidays, with all their emphasis on tradition (cue Teyve from “Fiddler on the Roof”), are rife with opportunities to adapt.
Our first Thanksgiving with a new baby we were supposed to go to my in-laws for the traditional dinner. Our 7-month-old woke up with her first ever case of the stomach flu. We were stuck at home on a major holiday, just the two of us and our infant. Woefully unprepared, I scrambled to create some kind of festive Thanksgiving meal that resembled what I had grown up with. We ended up with a chicken instead of a turkey, but I figured out how to make my mom’s stuffing that year. The point? We adapted, and we thrived.
We’re officially “empty nesters” now. We’re fortunate that our eldest (the one with the grandkids) lives across the street, but the other three have opted to make their way in Glenwood/New Castle and one of those three is married, so we won’t see all of them this Thanksgiving. We also have a kitchen that’s not terribly well suited to cooking for more than about three people, so my daughter makes the majority of the holiday meal. After years of hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas, and having everyone around our table, breaking with those holiday habits is difficult. It’s forced me to loosen up on having it “my way” and to learn to rejoice and be grateful that my adults have their own lives and extended families with whom to celebrate.
Last year was our first Thanksgiving without my mother-in-law. Loss requires us to adapt, as well.
Unexpected, but completely normal, life situations can force us to modify holiday plans. Bad weather might trap a family member at the airport, illness might keep you stuck at home, sometimes work gets in the way, or the turkey doesn’t cook because the oven decides to die, or someone forgot the green beans, or… When those things happens, and they will, we have a choice: we can pout and whine and bemoan the fact things aren’t the way they’ve always been, and probably give everyone indigestion, or we can adapt. We can make the best of a new and different situation.
And it’s not just on Thanksgiving that we have that choice to make. It’s trendy these days to clamor for the return of the “good ol’ days.” (Which means something different to everyone, dependent on your generation and experience…) Unfortunately, those “good ol’ days” are romanticized in our minds to the point of unreality, partly due to television and books and movies and partly due to the joys of selective memory. Do some actual historical research: there has never been an era, or even a civilization or a society, where life was all sweet and safe and innocent. There is no perfect period to which we could return and make everything better again.
There is no going backward in life, there is only now, and now requires us to adapt. This is true as individuals, as families, and as communities. The demands to “adapt or die” are either coming, or they’re already here. We can either willingly modify, or we can become the cranky old relative griping about how things were so much better before “these dratted cell phones” and “the Facebook.” Even if you tend to agree, let’s not be those people. Let’s look at where we’re at (again, individually and as a community) and instead of trying to roll back the decades and live in some romanticized, false history, what we can do to make the future even better? How can we adapt so that we thrive, flourish and improve ourselves, our towns, our state and our nation? That’s the cool thing about change: there’s always room for improvement.