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  • Jenny

29. My Vegan Thanksgiving in San Diego

When I decided to open my mind up to new opportunities, I really didn’t hold back. I went all in. So when the chance arose to take a trip to San Diego to meet a dear friend, I jumped on it.

Every other Thanksgiving, I alternate having the kids for the holiday with my ex. When it comes time for them to be with him, I will admit it is a little hard. Although I am so grateful to have the pleasure of spending almost every day of their life with them, and that is a much bigger blessing than celebrating one “designated” special day of the year with them, when it comes time to sit down at the holiday meal, and go to sleep alone in an empty house afterwards, I feel the pangs of missing them.

So one year, I decided that I wanted to do something different. I wanted to change up how I celebrated Thanksgiving, and break away from tradition.

Although it was hard on my family for both me and the kids to be missing that year, this trip to San Diego turned out to be divinely timed in many ways. I was already feeling uncomfortable about the prospect of being with the family since I was estranged from one of my cousins and they were considering having individual family holidays to begin with because of it. My leaving actually gave them a huge gift: they all were able to come together for a beautiful family celebration without me, which would unknowingly be their very last Thanksgiving with my cousin. Had the shadow of my presence and family disunity been there, they would not have had that opportunity to enjoy the holiday as much as they did, and for that, I am forever grateful for the universe’s orchestration of that event. My cousin needed it, and my family needed that memory to hold on to.

Being away from the kids for a few days can be hard, but it is also very welcomed. Single parenting (any parenting) is not easy, so I do enjoy my chances to go off on my own and take a break. It’s just who I am, and it has nothing to do with my kids, who I absolutely cherish and adore.

I had never been to San Diego before, and my friend was hosting a Thanksgiving feast where a few other of my friends were invited to join. I didn’t tell the other friends, because I wanted to surprise them. I was so excited to see them all again, and couldn’t wait to hug them.

But nothing went according to plan; a week before the holiday, there was a huge falling out and none of my other friends could make it down. I was devastated.

At the time, I took it personally, and really hard. I was coming out from across the country to see everyone, and they just needed to travel a few hours south—even if not on the holiday itself, in the few days after that when I would still be there. Holidays were supposed to be a time of peace, togetherness and gratitude, and it was starting to feel like anything but.

Luckily, the friend I stayed with is a positive, upbeat kind of person who really can make rainbows out of anything. Although I had this huge disappointment, I was here to spend time with her and was looking forward to expanding my horizons in this vegan household. Arriving on Thanksgiving Day itself, I tormented her a bit in the car by having a turkey sandwich on the way to her house from the airport. (Hey, some traditions I just can’t break!) But I spent the rest of the day helping her as best I could to prepare a vegan Thanksgiving meal, which was pretty darn delish!

After all, I came to realize that it wasn’t the turkey that made the holiday meal, it was actually all the yummy sides. (Oh yeah, and the company!).

Her friends who joined us were absolutely sweet and welcoming, and I felt right at home with them. Yet at the same time, I felt shy, still a little upset, missing my kids and fighting an allergic reaction to her cats. I was to spend the night at a neighbors house to begin with, so once I got there, I was able to clear my breathing and spend some quiet time reflecting on everything that had happened. It was a very nice—and very different—holiday, and I found myself enjoying breaking a bit of tradition in a search for my own. I declared then that I would spend my “off-years” doing something completely different, because it felt right for me.

The rest of my time in San Diego proved to be pretty powerful. The next day we headed down to the beach. It was absolutely breathtaking. We sat and talked for hours, and I used that time to really pull myself back to center (as I always did whenever I spent time at the beach). So peaceful and warm, once again I felt at home with my feet at the very spot where the ocean meets the sand. There, I asked that the tide take away all that does not serve me in my life, and then wash onto me all of the possibilities for

new opportunities to fill that happy, open space.

After my little therapy session with the ocean, I went back and sat down in the sand next to my friend and just started playing around. Next thing I knew, my little sandcastle attempt looked like a shell and I felt like making a turtle. I sculpted a little head, then gave him a tail and some legs, and then I thought he needed eyes and a cute smile. I then felt the impulse to draw a heart on his back. So then I laughed and called him my little love turtle.

Slowly, but surely, love was on its way.

I also stuck my finger in him and made a circle and wondered why I did that. She said it was an easy button—but later we would come to see its prophetic meaning.

So after the beach, we decided to go to a Meditation Garden. It was so calm and beautiful, overlooking

the ocean. I felt so at peace there. I meditated and received some answers I was looking for, then we

headed to the gift shop. I always love to bring back something to remind me of where I’ve been, and

usually it’s just some trinket. But this time, I asked my guides to let me find something of great value and meaning to bring back.

In less than a minute, my friend came up behind me carrying this little turtle incense holder…and there was the hole, in the same space as I drew it in the sand. You bet I bought it, and it now proudly has become the center of my altar in my bedroom.

I clearly took the turtle as a sign. My initial instinct was correct; to slow down, to be patient, to allow, to not always be in a rush.

With the drawing of the heart, I took it to mean have patience about love, for it is on its way and slowly being crafted just for the both of us. But when I read up on the turtle totem, I came to realize not only how much more it meant, but how eerily accurate the message was for me then and how in tune it was with my own heart’s warning. To this day, I continue to see my turtles and messages, and have associated the turtle as my official animal totem, which is perfect for someone always trying to live life faster than she needs to.

But that was not the end of the healing to be done on this trip. I also had the honor of receiving a craniosacral session from my friend, who had so much insight to provide about me from simply reading my body. I had ignored the message then, but I was told that my body rejects wheat and dairy, and that I should consider eliminating them from my diet. Although it took me a few months to accept that possibility, I did eventually come to find that in fact, my body does reject those kinds of foods, and the moment I stopped eating them was the moment I shifted my life in many ways—my energy, my health, my weight, even my skin.

To say that I learned a lot on this three-day only trip is an understatement. But it was exactly what I needed.

I needed to explore and accept that it was okay for me to break tradition, and that there was a higher reason for it. I needed to experience some disappointment to get over myself, and realize that not everything happens to me on purpose. Sometimes, it has nothing to do with me at all; life just happens and we have to roll with the punches.

I needed time for self-reflection, and to get in touch with the message of my totem, and the message of my body. And I needed to do that within the safety of a dear, dear friend who inspires me daily to live life to the fullest with curiosity and openness.

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