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Finding the Sweet in the Bittersweet

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Finding the Sweet in the Bittersweet

In a few short weeks, many of us will be traveling to friends and family for Thanksgiving.  Some will be hosting the holiday and yet others may eschew the holiday entirely.  No matter which camp you find yourself in, each induces its own set of challenges.  I have fond memories of watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and, as a young professional, spending the eve of the holiday in New York City watching the inflation of the floats.  It is a remarkable experience.

With all the warmth of being surrounded by loved ones, the holidays can also feel isolating, depressing, or challenging.  Our world feels a little out of control right now.  Very out of control for many when you see the news from around the world, from our hometowns, and from college campuses.  I feel like, more than ever in recent memory, people are walking on eggshells, not sure what to say, how to say it, or if they should say anything without the risk of unwanted backlash.

Put the Thanks Back in Thanksgiving

My kids, no longer kids really, started the tradition in our family of going around the table and giving everyone an opportunity to reflect on something they were thankful for.  Large, small, personal, or professional – the act of giving each person a moment or two to voice some gratitude seemed to bring us closer.  There is always time for bickering and arguments, but I relish the opportunity to voice my gratitude for another trip around the Sun – even if accompanied by a few tears.

Live to Fight Another Day

Someone, over the next few weeks, will try to draw you into a discussion on a topic that may feel uncomfortable.  When are you getting married?  Are you planning on having kids?  Who is the “friend” you brought to Thanksgiving?  Can you believe {insert politician of your choice} said that?  I am right there with you.  Prepare for what and who you may face.  I am a big fan of deflection and anodyne responses that allow me to enjoy the holiday.  After a few “that’s an interesting perspective that I will have to think about” responses without engaging, you will have sent a clear message.   

Our annual trek back to New York has become bittersweet.  I love my family and enjoy seeing them.  It also reminds me that we are emblematic of the family in the movie Avalon by Barry Levinson (it’s worth watching).  Our table has gotten smaller, and we no longer have the full extended family.  Mostly though, I miss my mom who we lost five years ago.  In her own quiet way, she was the glue and kept us all on our best behavior.  And I am infinitely grateful for the example she set, the skills she taught me, and for challenging me to be the best version of myself as a father, husband, son, brother, and friend.

You can reach me at

Michael Riegel


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