We’re in charge of bringing Thanksgiving dessert to my sister-in-law’s this year–and I’m considering indulging a childhood fantasy: Bringing boxes and boxes and piles and piles of Twinkies. Cause, you know, this is it. The last time we can enjoy a good Twinkie.

This “last time ever” thing– it really grabs our attention, doesn’t it? We sharpen our focus, find more openness, acceptance even. Same principle with the first time—like that 80’s Foreigner song –“feels like the first time, like you’ve opened up the door”–the excitement of newness, the thrill, the hope that this time it will be different. The first, the last–they open our eyes in a new way.

But, when it comes to our repeated and ritualized holidays—like Thanksgiving—it’s easy to get into the same-old-same-old rut. We can get lost in the obligations, the lists, the burdens of the holiday season.

Actually, though, the real truth is that this is probably not our last Thanksgiving, and its certainly not our first. But, Thanksgiving 2012 is IT. In a very real way, it is the only Thanksgiving with your children/parents the ages that they are, with you the age you are. The particular configuration of people at your table may or may not reoccur, you know? Most of us have experienced some loss in our lives and may be missing some faces at our table, so you know what I’m talking about. Even if all the same faces are there, well, they’ve all changed.

So, when that well-meaning relative makes you feel that you are as mashed as those potatoes, stand tall in this moment of Thanksgiving 2012. Hold your healthy boundary, take a full breath in, feel your core, and then deepen your compassion for YOURSELF. It may be counterintuitive at first, but by feeling more compassion for ourselves, we stand a chance to feel true compassion for those around us. Yes, even those that irritate us. A little more forgiveness and tenderness towards yourself. And, that kindness begins to radiate out.

This is it. This is the only Thanksgiving we really have. If we don’t make it count, well, our peace of mind might just go the way of Hostess’s Twinkies.