The Best Way to Enjoy Thanksgiving (From a Girl Who Can’t Eat)

Me with my TPN on the left, a picture of me at the table with an empty plate on the right

Grampa is thankful for Trump. Uncle Lou is thankful he’s not a Trump supporter. Aunt Sue is happy she doesn’t care about politics. Also, she’s deaf. It’s a blessing in disguise.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other celebrations become a different thing if you minus the food. The Conversation. The drunk dancing uncles. Anything that you normally associate with holidays, especially food.

I’m on IV nutrition right now because of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Gastroparesis, so eating a normal holiday meal is out of the question. I could always blend up the Turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes and infuse it into my veins, but I don’t want to die. And that’s a good way to die.

Food punctuates special occasions. Birthday cake for birthdays. Champagne for weddings. Finger sandwiches shaped like your dead uncle’s fingers at his wake. The perfect dessert or entre signifies a thing to be celebrated. Not only is food essential in keeping us alive, it’s a bonding device, an entity over which relationships become stuck more readily than Velcro with dead horse in-between. So, it’s pretty sucky when the thing that makes everyone else happy is making me sick. Or is it?

One of my good friends is on a feeding tube. I recently asked her if it was hard having to skip out on the food during the holidays:

“Not really,” she replied. “The hardest thing is watching other people eat like it’s nothing. They have no idea what a privilege that is. I really wish I had enjoyed my food more when I was able to eat it by mouth.”

Gut. Punch.

It’s true. Despite being on IV nutrition, I’m still able to eat 300-700 calories orally. From a small variety of foods.  You better believe I enjoy those calories. I take an average of 15-45 minutes to consume a single food item. Even if it’s just a half cup of applesauce. I savor every bite, and my life is so much more enjoyable because of it. Not being able to eat much has given me a great thankfulness for the small amount I can.

It’s the same with everything. Conversations. Playing games with family. A trip to Wally World. Those are all things which can be enjoyed on a far deeper level than “just another shopping trip” or “just another conversation.” The less we get of those things, the more thankful we are when we have ready access.

“You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” We don’t have to be completely deprived to learn to appreciate what’s around us. We can all choose to examine our lives more intentionally for things that we’re grateful for. The best way to find little thankful things is to imagine our lives without them. If we do this, we get complete enjoyment from the thing while we have it, so there are no regrets when it’s taken away.

Honestly, this post has aided me in thinking about all the things I’m thankful for during this unconventional holiday season. It’s pointed out my own ungratefulness and stupidity in whining and worrying about the small things. Stop it, Brooklyn.

Even though I can’t eat this year, I think I know how to turn that into a positive: I don’t feel obligated to eat pie. Pumpkin pie. Any pie. I hate pie.

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