It’s not been a “holly jolly” kind of year. In this season, the struggle to maintain without being overwhelmed can be particularly difficult. Some of it is of course the darkness. For those of us who live in more extreme latitudes the difference in the length of days between midsummer and midwinter is considerable.
North of the Arctic circle (or South for the Antarctic) We have the land of the midnight sun. At the summer solstice the sun never sets. That means at winter solstice it never rises. Think about that for a minute. A day where the sun doesn’t rise. It’s kind of creepy.
I will tell you truthfully that even here on the 45th parallel there are winter days when it’s so dark and overcast it feels as though there is no sun. The snow helps. It reflects what little light there is and bounces it so things seem brighter. The holiday lights help. They add not only brightness but a little color to the black and white photo landscape.
The darkness can also be emotional. Birthdays during the season that get “lumped in” with everyone else’s celebrations can be great. They can also build a lifetime of resentment. A death during the season can bring people together. It can also be a wound that gets reopened every year. Being overwhelmed with Christmas Cheer, especially when that’s not part of your religion, can be an opportunity or an oppression.
Then there is the demand. There is a huge demand on time, both socially and for many people, because of year end, on the job. If you work in retail or in the food industry you can wave goodby to days off for awhile. There is a demand on the pocketbook. All that socializing costs, as do the expected gifts. When the bills are already scary this time of year can be devastating. Despite all the seasonal sales, somehow it seems that expenses still go up and up.
I lean heavily on just do it. Daily Practice becomes focused on small nitty gritty things. Cleaning up the kitchen before I go to bed is not always easy, but better to do it than not. Making my bed in the morning when I get up (even if I might want to go back) makes it less likely that I will go back. Even paying the bills is better than the alternative.
So I put my head down and write the blog, clean the kitchen, make the bed. I make the phone calls and appointments. I meet the obligations and shop the sales with an eye on my budget. I put in a few extra hours where I can hoping for some extra padding on the weekly income. I wait in eager anticipation of the Solstice. Because after the longest night each day has a little more light.
I’ve started to write today’s blog several times over the course of the holiday weekend. I had a follow-up post about gratitude. I had a post about family and relationship dynamics. I always have the option of a post about food, and this year in particular with the huge Thanksgiving meal a challenge after my bariatric surgery. I had a post about the weekend and going to see comedian Josh Blue.
I don’t want to finish any of them. In fact the only thing I really want to do is crawl back into bed under the covers. It’s Monday. It’s COLD outside (the windchill is hovering near -15 and the temps are just above Zero). I didn’t get to sleep in all weekend. It’s the post-holiday let down.
There is some comfort in returning to routine. The problem is that between Thanksgiving and Christmas/Chanukah/Winter Solstice/Kwanza all routine gets thrown in the trash (along with the excessive packaging). There is a LOT of cleaning to do. There is a LOT of cooking to do. There is a LOT of decorating to do. And then there’s shopping, and wrapping, and writing out cards.
Since Thanksgiving was so late this year I’ve been able to keep my head in the ostrich hole for almost the entire month of November. Now I’m somehow surprised that it’s December and I’m not ready! Somehow I don’t think going back to bed will help.
It seems that I forget to allow joy into my life. Oh, it’s not that it’s not there. I am just very quick to nod at it and dismiss it. I move on to the next thing that needs to be done rather than allowing myself a moment to experience pleasure.
I came to this rather surprising insight while talking with a health coach. We were talking about exercise. She was hoping I’d find something I really like to do. I told her that historically, as soon as I find something I actually like to do I stop doing it. Something else takes precedence, especially if I might be having fun.
I also mentioned that even when good things happen to me I am reluctant to take the time to gloat. Isn’t that an interesting word choice? If I celebrate, delight in the moment, allow myself to experience joy the voice in my head accuses me of gloating. Unpacking the old baggage is a significant part of the work of exploring spirituality, but sometimes it feels like reaching blind into a bag of mousetraps!
Dare I admit that if it wasn’t for my dear friend Kate (THANK YOU!) I probably wouldn’t have even celebrated having my book accepted at the publishers? It’s true. She called me up beaming for me. She had a beer in her hand and insisted I get myself a drink and toast across the phone lines. She gave me permission to actually take some time and bask in the moment. Yes, as stunned and pleased as I was I needed permission to be joyful.
So now I have taken up a daily practice of actually looking for things that bring me joy. I find myself singing along more to the radio. I find myself turning off the TV and reading a trashy novel. I find myself thinking about flowers.
I used to fill my house with flowers. Every month I’d spend money at the florists for an armload of blossoms. I’d fill in with flowers from the garden or my blossoming plants. I know I stopped the florist because of the budget, but when did I stop bringing flowers in from outside?
Every time my hibiscus blooms it makes me smile. It’s like a present for the day. I delight in walking past the flower displays at the grocery store. I even enjoy the little flowers at the top of my chives. So I’m going out to the grocery store and getting myself a bouquet along with my milk and eggs. I deserve all the joy I can get!