Two weeks ago, my mother called me during lunch. Same time everyday. She's asks where I am, even though she knows and she asks when I'm coming home... Even though she knows. But this conversation did have a new topic: Thanksgiving.
Given that I was preparing for a trip to Minneapolis and November had just begun, Turkey day seemed too far away to discuss. And it has arrived. Since I didn't want to think about it, she mentioned how the neighbors were doing a huge dinner and we were to bring only our famous side dish, Samboosik (Ground beef wrapped in Filo dough and fried.)
I have to admit, it was a relief not to worry about Thanksgiving dinner this year. As my holiday week started, I occupied myself with writing and spending time with my mom. Now being less than two days away, I'm starting to sense a void.
Every year, I own the day. The grocery shopping, the prepping, the cooking and even the cleaning. My alarm is set for five and before the sun comes out, you see me standing in the kitchen bonding with my Turkey. Only the necessary lights are on, as the rest of my family are still in deep sleep.
I control the order in which I prep the dishes and how I prep the dishes. Every one knows this is my territory and my day and they only converse with me to try the mash potatoes or to compliment the smells. And through this reflection I was reminded of a comment that was said to me a few weeks ago.
"Admit it- you like to be in control." At first I tried to deny it, but who doesn't like to be in control?
For the last eight years, I have prepared and hosted Thanksgiving for all but two occasions. It has become the norm that everyone expects. There's a taste in my Turkey that everyone craves and there is a traditional setting of side dishes that is familiar. Breaking the norm can be difficult. Of course it is good to celebrate with new people and try new foods, but that's for other days in the year- Not Thanksgiving.
Not only are those around me used to the norm, I've developed a routine where I wake up early and take a break once the Turkey is in the oven to watch the Macy's parade. Everything is timed perfectly. No matter if I add a dish or two, the meal is always ready no later than three in the afternoon.
Ultimately, I love providing for people. The joy in cooking has always been fulfilling. Whether I'm feeding my immediate family or extended relatives and friends, I get a sense of pride for being the one who cooked. I could have stood on my feet for 12 hours but the smiles and compliments are worth it.
Too often I question my contribution- to my family, to my work mission or even to my society. When it comes to cooking, I can easily map what I'm contributing and how it's benefiting. And yes I get a little egocentric when I receive a mass wave of compliments, but it's the whipped cream on top of the entire experience.
So as I sit back and reflect on Thanksgiving Eve, these three points hold truth in other elements in my leadership role. The sense of control is the manager in me seeking to own rather than let others flourish. The consistency is the standard work that is set to help leaders guide their team and see deviations when they occur. And above all the feelings is the core why.
Although I can't be a leader of the day, there is more than prepping and cooking. I could go to a soup kitchen to feed the needy. I could enjoy a nice hike in the beautiful Valley of the Sun. Or I can just sit back and be grateful for another year passing, still surrounded by those I love. Leadership is about balance. If I can't demonstrate it in one area, there are always other elements to stay whole.
Cooking Thanksgiving is no longer about about making lots of food, eating it and then falling asleep from the tryptophan... Well sort of. But, to me it has been about bringing people together, providing joy and getting a sense of fulfillment from it all. I guess all this time my leadership traits live in the kitchen as well.