By Jim Herbert
This week, the featured post is authored by MenLiving facilitator, Jim Herbert. Jim is a father, husband, yogi, mystic, storyteller, author, coach, teacher and student who sees himself as a spiritual being having an amazing human experience.
You may be sitting out there thinking, “Oh great. It’s Thanksgiving week and here comes another post about the importance of gratitude!” I wouldn’t blame you if you felt that way, because frankly, I get a little tired of constantly reading and talking about gratitude as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches. Mind you, this feeling of mine has nothing to do with the importance of gratitude. I think that living a life of gratitude is quite possibly the single most important thing a person can do to shift their mindset and open their heart.
I just sometimes get a little sad when I think about how much more grateful people tend to be for a few days in late November than they are for the rest of the year. Every single time in my life that I have sat downfor a Thanksgiving feast, no matter where that feast has been held, the host or some other pre-ordained speaker has offered a blessing before the meal. Seldom do I see that same ritual of grace performed at mealtime the other 364 days of the year. I can’t help but notice that there is never a shortage of volunteers to work at the food pantries and the soup kitchens for one week in late November, but there can be massive shortages the other 51 weeks. I get a kick out of stories about people who pay for the coffee of the person in line behind them at Starbucks during the holidays, which then sets off a chain reaction of people paying for somebody else’s order. By January, many of those people are brusquely rushing in to grab the latte theyordered from the mobile app off the counter without so much as lifting their eyes from their devices to make eye contact and acknowledge the barista or anyone else in the place for that matter. Technology like mobile ordering can certainly make things convenient, but at the same time it can also seduce us to be distracted from making a connection.
I could go on and on, but I’m not here to teach a course in gratitude or to make a laundry list of the things that frustrate me about the Thanksgiving holiday, which in the past has typically been my favorite holiday of the year. I’m just sharing what is in my heart and on my mind in this exact moment with the hopes that likeme, you might take a look at your own little world and see how you might be less grateful during the holidays by being more grateful for the entire year.
With that in mind, instead of producing a neat and tidy, bulleted list of ways that you can practice gratitude in your own life, I offer you a stream of random thoughts that are in some way tied to the Thanksgiving holiday for me. If you want to, you can find that bulleted list of how to practice gratitude in a thousand other posts out there. I’ll stick to sharing my four random thoughts. I’ll also try to limit them to a paragraph or two each, but I can’t make any promises. My words, much like a typical Thanksgiving meal, are usually served with abundance. They can sometimes be a little over the top: when it’s all digested though, my hope is that you will feel both satiated and nourished. Here we go!
Charlie Brown Needed Firmer Boundaries
Peanuts, the comic strip, has been one of my favorite things ever since I was a little boy. I have fond memories of watching the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and the Charlie Brown Christmas with my mom and dad. In fact the first airing of the Charlie Brown Christmas was on December 9th, 1964 when I was only five months old, so the show has literally existed for my entire life. My dad LOVED snoopy. I can still picture him chuckling as he stood at the top of the family room steps and watched along. My dad never sat down much. I definitely got that trait from him.
My five year old daughter Emma has taken a shine to Peanuts ever since she was two years old, so this past weekend we sat down (yes I did actually sit) at the end of the night on Saturday and had our first ofwhat will be many viewings of the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving this year. My heart was full while I watched Emma chuckle as Snoopy tangled with the lawn chair. Emma has a lot of my dad in her and I see more of it with each passing day. I also marvel at the questions she now asks, like “Why does Charlie Brown’s Grandma sound like she’s in a tunnel?” or “How do they have so many toasters?” The inside of a child’s mind is a beautiful thing to get a glimpse into on an everyday basis. I’m so blessed that I got to become a dad.
As I sat there enjoying the moment, I also couldn’t help but think, “If Charlie Brown had a good coach, hewould know more about boundary setting and this whole mess could have been avoided!” I certainly never thought about that when I was Emma’s age! The truth is though, we are all better served when people are skilled in setting good boundaries and asking for what they need.
Please Don’t Bring Any Side Dishes
Through the years I have had the pleasure of hosting Thanksgiving a number of times. I love playing host and frankly, I am an excellent cook so the years when the Herbert family has hosted have been some of my favorite Thanksgivings of all time. One thing that is a little weird about me though, is that I don’t prefer to have other people bring sides.
I’m okay if you want to bring an appetizer to pass before the feast. By all means bring wine, bourbon or craft beer. Add a pie to the dessert buffet, but please do NOT bring any side dishes. One way to view thisidiosyncrasy would be to label me as controlling, unwilling to receive help and/or a bit of a perfectionist. I must admit, all of those labels at the very least partially fit, but the truth is that I have an exact composition in mind for what the Thanksgiving meal palette should look like in order for it to tantalize your palate. Do you like what I did there with my words? Fun, huh?
Well anyways, I don’t want candied carrots and sweet potatoes on the same spread. That’s too much orange! It’s okay to have both green beans and brussels sprouts at the same meal even though they are both green, but if you do, one of them should be prepared simply and the other can be in a casserole or cream sauce of some sort. It’s mandatory to have two dressings. One of them should be a simple, traditional sage dressing and the other one can be more creative with chestnuts or apples or sausage or all three!
To ask me to make the turkey, but let everyone else bring the sides seems no more ridiculous to me than asking Picasso to paint a picture, but leave out the blues and the yellows for somebody else to fill in. Call meweird, but if I ever invite you to dinner, which I hope to do someday soon, please don’t bring a veggie or a starch!
Miracle on 34th Street
Most people think of Miracle on 34th Street as a Christmas movie, but I actually think of it as a Thanksgiving movie. When you consider it, the movie is built around the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the rivalry between department store legends Macy’s and Gimbels. As a side note, my dad started his working career at Gimbel’s when he was a young man back in 1950, so the movie takes on special meaning for me.
Even before my daughter Emma turned two, she became fascinated by the Macy’s parade. It was probably the balloons, but whatever it was, she had me pull up that parade on YouTube hundreds of times so she could watch it over and over again. That year when she first sparked an interest in the parade, I started todream of the day that I could take her to New York and see the spectacle in person. A few months later, March of 2020 happened and the idea of travel, ever leaving the house again, spending money and even having fun evaporated from my energy field entirely. In many ways, my scarcity mindset continues to be at an all time high and there are parts of me that feel like it would take a miracle to be able to take Emma to the Macy’s parade in person.
I used to be a manifestation magnet. I have countless stories of how I used my thoughts and actions to co-created concert tickets, free dinners, limousine rides and even a three day stay at a seaside private villa in Nice, France that was once owned by the Czar of Russia. These days I often feel like I am in survival mode,and even though I know that I am far better off than most, I spend a lot of time feeling anxious and living in a scarcity mindset feeling sorry for myself.
Thankfully, I have lots of tools that I have learned from a multitude of brilliant teachers and mentors who have been a part of my life. Things may at times feel overwhelming, but ultimately I know that I already haveabundance in my life in so many ways and that more abundance is trying to find me each and every day.
Open The Floodgates
Having grown up in Detroit, I am a lifelong, suffering Detroit Lions fan. Aside from the Chicago Cubs, fewteams in sports lore have been more lovable losers than the Detroit Lions. I have sat through far too many years of watching my Lions get drubbed on Thanksgiving Day, only to hear people say that the NFL should take the annual Thanksgiving game away from the Lions because they are unwatchable.
All of that has changed in the last year, thanks largely in part to a man named Dan Campbell, the Lions current head coach. Dan Campbell is a salt of the earth, hard working, everyman who wears his emotions on his sleeve, gets choked up in TV interviews and at times can be so intense that he makes some people uncomfortable. He reminds me a little bit of the guy I see in the mirror each morning when I wake up andbrush my teeth; hardworking, emotional, intense. To be honest, I’ve already gotten choked a few times in the short amount of time I’ve been writing this piece thinking about my dad, thinking about how fast my daughter is growing up and noticing how much I love life in general.
At a recent Path to Spirit Men’s Warrior Weekend, I was told by my friend Steve, who served as my mentor on my first weekend, that I was the odds on favorite to shed the first tear of the event. I can’t imagine what the parlay odds might be at Draft Kings of Jim NOT balling relentlessly if the Lions ever win the Super Bowl.I’d put those odds at 5 trillion to one and I still wouldn’t recommend anyone bet a single dollar on it. Prepare for the floodgates to open if by some Miracle on 34th street, the Lions wind up at Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas next February.
I wear my big emotions as a badge of honor. My guess is that Dan Campbell does too. In a recent interview with ESPN’s Michelle Beisner, Campbell got choked up when talking about all the players who helped build the foundation that has transformed the culture of the team while they were busy losing 20 of the first 25 games that Campbell was head coach.
In the same state of Michigan, acting head coach of the Michigan Wolverines Sherrone Moore, who was filling in for the suspended Jim Harbaugh, wept openly in the post game interview after his men went into Penn State and knocked off the hometown Nittany Lions. Say what you will about the cheating scandal that the University of Michigan is currently involved in, but I saw Coach Moore’s show of emotion as a beautiful, cathartic release after an extremely difficult week of holding space and carrying the emotional load for the entire team. That’s what mature masculine leaders should be doing to model the behaviors we need to seemore of if we ever hope to help men feel safe to be vulnerable and authentic.
I was stunned to read articles later that week written by prominent national sportswriters, calling CoachMoore melodramatic and too emotional. We’ve come a long way in the last decade or two in understanding that it is possible to be masculine AND emotional at the same time, but shame is so ingrained in our culture that it shows up in the most subtle and normalized ways. One of the many reasons I’m so involved in Men’s work is because I’m committed to being a part of changing that!
So there it is my friends. Your four course serving of a Thanksgiving peek into the recesses of my sometimesunusual, but mostly entertaining brain. As always, it is a delight to be part of the team of men who craft this ongoing blog. My hope is that the rest of your year is filled with reflection, growth, connection and abundance in all aspects of your life. Many blessings, Jim.