In the Time of Gathering, Some are Better Off Alone

By Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

This is the week of the mass American pilgrimage. Thanksgiving, more than any other holiday, is the day we Americans travel home. It is the one holiday we all share, no matter what our religion. The day when we gather as families.

Some of us will have genuinely happy reunions. The stuff of Norman Rockwell.


Image from Office of War Information, 1942, wikimedia commons.

Image from Office of War Information, 1942,
wikimedia commons.


Most of us will have mixed days. A bit of hassle and a family fuss getting out the door. Then we will roll our eyes at Uncle Freddie’s bad jokes and Aunt Marge complaining that the dressing is dry. But once everyone settles in for the football, it will all be good.

For some, though, Thanksgiving will be a gut-wrenching ordeal — an endurance test of dysfunctional abuse that demoralizes and convinces us that we deserve nothing from life but the crumbs of inadequacy and failed expectations.

Most people who persist in that brutal existence do so from habit and from the fear of change. But a brave few walk away into the unknown with the conviction that whatever lies ahead, it cannot be worse than the hell they left behind. They quit showing up for the beatings.


Canstock 2014 Girl Alone with Suitcase

If you are having joyful reunions this week, we celebrate with you. Such family experiences are the source of strength that sustains us through life’s turmoil.

If you are biting your tongue in between hugs and laughter, we admire you for your tolerance and commitment. Such commitment is the foundation of civilization.

If you are suffering, our hearts and prayers go out to you in the hopes that one day, you too will get out.

And if you are one of the ones who walked away, we salute you. You will be alone this week, or with close friends, or with people you barely know who have unfamiliar traditions. If you have persevered down your lonely path, you may even be with a new family by now, making Norman Rockwell jealous.

We know what it took for you to walk away, and we count you as our family. Your “not being there” didn’t come for free, and we honor the price you pay each day. It never gets easy, but it does get better. This song says it all.



Wherever you are in Life’s pilgrimage this Thanksgiving, we wish you peace.

Happy Thanksgiving!

5 comments on “In the Time of Gathering, Some are Better Off Alone

  1. Lin Bee says:

    Thank you for the honesty of this post. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve endured “Oh, but you should forgive them!” from well-meaning, unimaginative idiots. Sometimes, it is not merely best to walk away, it is the only possible course to retain one’s sanity. And after that, yes, it does get better.

    So thanks again. You two have this knack for telling it like it really, truly is; please don’t stop.

    • Piper Bayard says:

      Thank you, Lin. Your comment means a lot to me.

      What most people don’t get, I think, is that it’s not about forgiveness. It’s about loving yourself enough to give yourself permission to not be abused. Our past is not required to be our future, and the pain ends when we decide it ends. We don’t owe anyone our pain. Thank you for your comment.


  2. Don Royster says:

    It’s Uncle Freddie’s complaining and Aunt Marge’s bad jokes. I have to tell you that is my job. And they both want to leave me unemployed.

  3. Don Royster says:

    Just wanted to stop by and wish both of you a very Happy Thanksgiving.

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