Thanksgiving Anxiety: The Stress I Secretly Love

Thanksgiving is a holiday that many of us look forward to. For starters, it comes with a restorative 4-day weekend (unless you work in retail – I do feel bad for you guys). Though the following Monday sucks more than usual after such a long break. But mostly, we look forward to the feast enjoyed with family and/or friends.

For years, I’ve said that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I like to eat. I’m one of those people who would  ask my co-workers “What should we eat for lunch?” at 8am. I’m always looking forward to my next meal. And nothing beats the Thanksgiving smorgasbord. So why does Thanksgiving give me anxiety? Because I’m the one who does the cooking in our house. Will has many talents, but cooking is not one of them. So, if I want a Thanksgiving feast, I’m responsible for making it happen.

Though I blog, I don’t typically read other blogs. However, there is one particular blog that I follow – The Everywhereist. Just last week, I read a brilliant post titled Invisible Pie Labor. In it, Geraldine, the author, discusses the process of baking a clear pie. Yet the post is really about the pressure women put on themselves to do it all (cleaning, cooking, shopping, hosting, keeping up appearances, etc.), and to do it well. I was previously unfamiliar with the term ‘invisible labor,’ but familiar with the concept. And I believe all women can agree we take on extra duties, and added stress, during the holidays. For Thanksgiving, we do the majority, if not all, of the planning, grocery shopping, prepping, and cooking. We do it again at Christmas, plus we procure and wrap (all) the gifts.

The overall point of the post is that we’re not obligated to do all this extra work for Thanksgiving. We don’t have to bake pies from scratch; we don’t have to make grandma’s famous cornbread dressing. If you enjoy doing it, then go right ahead. But if you don’t want to, it’s perfectly fine to call it in. I agree with this wholeheartedly.

I don't feel obligated to cook for Thanksgiving - it's more of a compulsion....

Personally, I don’t take on these extra duties, this added stress, due to outside pressure. When I start planning a lavish menu for Thanksgiving, I don’t do it because my loves ones EXPECT me to prepare a feast from scratch. My family doesn’t care where their food comes from – I could order the entire meal from Cracker Barrel or IHOP; they wouldn’t bat an eye. I take on this task because I like home-cooking. I like MY home-cooking, in particular. Admittedly, that sounds conceited, but it’s true.

Also, if I’m being totally honest, I enjoy the anxiety that comes with preparing the Thanksgiving feast. If you’ve read my post Battling the Scattered Mind, you know that I’m in a constant state of anxiety. My mind is going in a million different directions at any given time. It’s hard to focus. But. Prepping and cooking the Thanksgiving meal allows me to focus ALL of my anxiety on the task at hand, rather than being anxious about a myriad of things.

That being said, we did Thanksgiving a little differently this year. Normally, I host and cook most of the dishes. However, this year, we gathered at my dad’s house. Rather than doing turkey and all the sides, we had gumbo and potato salad. The only dish I brought was my homemade pecan pie. And it was refreshing to be responsible for preparing a single dish. No need to wake up, fix my coffee, and immediately fire up the oven and start cooking. I could just take it easy and enjoy the day, like a typical dude.

Most people would enjoy this break from the planning/shopping/prepping/cooking frenzy that accompanies Thanksgiving. Not Laura. I could not accept having a simple Thanksgiving. I’m accustomed to spending two days cooking tons of food, and having leftovers for days. I personally know a few people who don’t eat leftovers; I am not one of those people. Cooking is a task I enjoy, but I don’t want to do it every single night. I felt the need to fill my fridge so I wouldn’t have to cook again for several days.

So, I planned a small post-Thanksgiving meal on Friday for us to enjoy (no guests). My ‘small’ meal snowballed a wee bit – I made a spiral glazed ham, turkey drumsticks, gravy, cranberry sauce, cornbread dressing, green bean casserole, carrot souffle, rolls, and another pecan pie.

I NEEDED my focused anxiety. And it was glorious. Will said it may have been his favorite Thanksgiving ever. Mine too.