Winter Solstice

Ah, the shortest day of the year. The darkest. I have been struggling with finding the meaning in solstice this year. Generally, my mood plummets between mid-November and mid-January; like many in New England, I’m a winter-bluesy folk. Which, among other things, can make things like cultivating hope challenging, especially in the end of December.

I’ve been lighting Hanukkah candles all week, and other candles, too. Bring on the light, bring on the warmth. We are always in need of a light in the dark, symbolically and otherwise. I’m slowly getting better at handling the winter depression. Some days it still has that knock-you-on-your-ass tendency, but I’m finding that sometimes my body does things anyway. I say I’m going to stay in bed all day and not move; my body gets up and takes a shower and goes to the bank and gets me a cup of coffee. I say it’s hopeless; my body goes on autopilot and takes care of me. It’s not always like this. This is, in fact, progress.

I used to think a light in the dark was metaphorical only; I have been terrified of fires and lighting candles since we had Fire Prevention Week in first grade. I get so shaky and nervous lighting matches, I just don’t.

Which leaves me dark. And anxious.

So this November, I bought a lighter. Problem solved. It was such a simple solution, I couldn’t believe it took me years to put it together. Candles are so lovely, and I refused them in the past because it meant I would have to deal with lighting a match. Not necessarily true. So I have candles, and I have light, in this darkness.

I think this is symbolic and also literal. I have been feeling more hopeful, overall, in the past year or so than I have been before. Ever.

But today, on the Solstice, I didn’t really want to hear it this morning. It was a dark week and Saturday felt like the pits. It was a lay in bed, eat popcorn and soup, watch TV for hours kind of day. Which was okay. It felt like self-care, but it also felt like other times in my life when I did that type of thing for weeks on end. So when I woke up on the Solstice today, still feeling in the pits, I didn’t really have the heart for Solstice. I was stuck in the dark and wasn’t in the mood to just suddenly shift toward the sun.

And then I read this article. Instead of focusing on the light that will now come, this article just acknowledges that today is the darkest day of the year.

Amen. I needed some validation of the darkness before turning to the light. I didn’t realize at the time that’s what I was looking for, but there it was: It’s dark.

I reflected: Since the summer solstice, I have been in pain, grief, and sorrow more days than not. I lost a job I loved and the related community; I lost my beloved Rabbi; and though their deaths happened in March and May, I lost two beloved family members and emotional supports. This has been a season of loss and transition.

On the same hand, these losses have allowed me to be more present and I have found parts of myself I thought were long-lost. I have developed a closer relationship with my father; I have gotten to know other family members in a new, adult way; I have maintained friendships throughout the year; I have discovered a way to light candles and take care of myself in ways I always thought were theoretical, or applicable to anyone but me; I have actively participated in intense, trauma-focused therapy and will continue to do so; I have found the light inside of myself on the darkest days.

I am excited to move forward into the next calendar year. I do not expect many things to change on January 1, 2015, but the symbolism of moving forward is necessary right now.

I am turning to the light tonight.

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