“If you’re reading this then, you’ve made it through Thanksgiving just fine.” This email from Richard made me laugh and laugh. I did indeed make it through Thanksgiving just fine, as I hope you all did, as well. Holidays, for me, have not always been the joyful events they’re intended to be, and honestly, I think many of us find ourselves stressed out during large family gatherings. Some of mine have been more difficult than others, last Christmas being one of them. That was when I decided I’d rather spend time with my loved ones when there isn’t the onus of a big to-do, and enjoy their company without feeling strained, on alert, resentful, or just plain crazy. When my grandmother, whom I love very dearly, asked me over Labor Day weekend if I was coming for Thanksgiving, I was caught off-guard; I hadn’t expected to have to address it so early. But, rather than be noncommittal or evasive, I told her very plainly and apologetically that I would not, but that I hoped to  visit her and Kayla sometime during the holiday season so we could have a nice dinner and spend some time together. She was disappointed, but understood perfectly, and from the sounds of it, everyone had a really lovely holiday.

As with other times in my recent life when I have made choices not based on my fears of what others would think, say, or do, but based on my own needs, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy the whole thing was. When I stick to stating my Truth simply and plainly, with no attempts to placate, no self-flagellation, and it is received with understanding and acceptance, I feel stronger in my conviction that direct, clear, loving communication leads to healthier relationships – and that I am capable of engaging in that kind of communication with every person in my life without losing anything worth having. Every time I am afraid of what I will lose if I state my Truth, and so keep silent, I am cheating myself of the best relationships I can have. Remembering this doesn’t mean I always push past this fear, but I find myself doing it more often as time proves it to be a tool for happiness.

That being said, my Thanksgiving was truly wonderful, from start to finish. Erika got a turkey from work as a holiday perk (the 16.5lb beast is nearly gone after 24 hours in the house with Joshua, while I thought I’d have to make turkey everything for a week. Silly me), and invited me to cook a traditional dinner at her place. I gave Joshua the option to come with me or to visit with mom, her boyfriend, and his son Alex, who is just Joshua’s age; he went with them to Doug’s sister’s and had a great time, as well. Erika and I invited a couple of people to join us for the meal or after eating with their families; three of us enjoyed a simple but ginormous (and delicious, if I may say so) dinner, then were joined by a fourth and shook off our sleepies by karaoke-ing along with J-Lo radio on Pandora and playing a few rousing games of Scattergories. Despite having been up since 8:30am to get the turkey going and cooking for the better part of 6 hours, I got my second and third and fourth winds as our celebration continued into the wee hours, with a combination of silliness and quiet appreciation for the love we’d surrounded ourselves with this Thanksgiving.

I’ll leave you with a few highlights of the day for your visual enjoyment. Be well!

New Kid.

I’m going to take a moment to pat myself on the back and not care too much if anyone thinks I’m an arrogant prick.

I am a smart kid. I catch on quickly, I multitask like nobody’s business, and people like me. Genuinely like me.

These are, apparently, super helpful things when one is starting a gig as a patient services representative in a busy medical specialty office.

Today was my first full day on the job. I spent a few hours with my colleague yesterday before computer training, learning a bit about the chart prep process we’ll perform each morning (well, hopefully completed in the morning). I had to scoot out before ever actually touching a computer or filing a piece of paper or placing a chart in the appropriate spot, but I arrived ready to jump in this morning. And, from the sound of it, I did okay. Better than okay. My coworker and my manager were both effusive with praise about how quickly I settled into the tasks I was learning, while also greeting and processing patients at the reception desk.

It felt really good. REALLY GOOD. To be reminded that I am not solely a drone who is great at performing those job functions that pretty much any literate person with a working knowledge of computer peripherals can master. I have skills – both learned and innate – that make me ideal for a position like this. We’re responsible for attending to lots of tiny details that would take most new hires time we don’t have, which need to be addressed with each patient at check-in and check-out; being attentive and kind and helpful while simultaneously doing data entry and collecting paperwork and keeping in mind that Dr So-and-So needs to know when Patient LadyFace pops in for a specimen; remembering that this insurance is quirky and that this hospital doesn’t use contrast dye so I have to give it to the patient when she leaves; and this doc hand-writes his follow-up requirements while this one enters hers in the computer database, so I have to check each accordingly.

These things stick in my brain like it’s my job. And guess what? It is. And I’m gonna be damned good at it.

I hate a learning curve. I want to be good at what I do from the very minute it’s on my plate. But when I really stop to think about it, my favorite thing is this training period – a time that, for me, is shorter than for most, because I have been gifted with a quick mind and a willing spirit. I enjoy those offhand comments about how it seems like I’ve been working in this office forever, or how I’ve caught on more quickly than anyone they’ve had in years, or from that one wonderfully fun patient who said I remind her of her cousin’s daughter, and that makes me special.

Sometimes I don’t remember that I’m special. But you know what? I am. And it’s okay for me to accept that from virtual strangers who come to me when they’re at their most vulnerable, checking in at the Oncology office. Know what else? It’s okay for me to accept it from people who have known me for months or years or decades, too. They aren’t biased – they know me. There’s a difference. And when I tell someone, “When you discard my compliments, it tells me that you don’t trust my judgment. You trust it about other things; why not about you?” Well… That goes both ways. And what a slap in the face for me to preen under the praise of someone like a coworker who has known me for eight hours, but to shrug off the kindness offered by someone who has spent hours and days and weeks in my company.

Just a lil food for thought.