by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
Even in the earliest days of civilization, people realized that something happened this time of year. There was a change, a literal hesitation and then a swinging back in the natural world. As religions developed, each put their own stamp on this time, their own observation and celebration of the solstice - perhaps with a different name and focus, but recognition nonetheless. With the adoption of our modern calendar, the somewhat arbitrary beginning of the year was added. This hesitation time, between solstice and the start of a new year, is a natural time for what I'm calling some re- words.
Some memories are as fleeting as the time it takes to address and sign a holiday card. Others are more long-lasting. Traditions from childhood, even if no longer observed, are still there somewhere inside. This time of year is naturally full of memories of family, friends, and seasons past. It's an emotional time, and some of the memories brought back can be very powerful - some even painful. In a season everyone around you is calling joyful and wondrous, it can hurt to admit, even to yourself, that you might be feeling a bit down instead.
For some, the absence or loss of loved ones can be especially pronounced. I lost a parent not too long ago, and sadly, am old enough that I'm now starting to lose friends and peers. It's a consequence of growing older that you will outlive others - some now gone due to age, but others under more tragic circumstances. Especially poignant to me are those lost by their own hand. It's so hard to understand the depths of despair that can lead someone to undertake such a permanent solution to what might have been a temporary problem.
There are progressive stages one goes through in processing loss, whether bereavement or other significant life events, such as divorce, drug addiction, infertility, or unemployment - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. But the process is not of smooth transitions, nor accomplished in an orderly succession. The memories and emotions brought up during this time of year especially can bounce one back to an earlier stage, and this is completely normal. Humans developed as social animals, and there's nothing noble about suffering in silence. Please, find someone to talk to - a trusted friend, maybe someone qualified to give counsel, your pet, or even your version of a higher power - if the memories brought up by this time of year become painful.
As the year comes to a close, it's a natural time to look back. Years like this one, ending in 9, can also call up recollections of the past decade. A lot has happened in the world, and in your own lives in this time, so it's a good time to think about how you and your life have changed. Maybe it's time to reassess your goals, and certainly a time to celebrate your successes.
But there are bound to be some failures too, and possibly even regret. Figure out what went wrong, and maybe even come up with ideas to fix it. Feelings of regret mean there's a lesson there to be learned. Think about why you're feeling regret, and figure out what that lesson is. If it's something that you can remedy, take action now - apologize, make amends, change your actions - and then move on. Regretting something done in the past is wasted time and emotion; continuing to do something you regret is just plain stupid. Learn the lesson, and strive for a life without regrets.
'Tis the season. This year, I'm gonna get every bit of clutter out of my house, lose 50 pounds, grow all our own food, cook every meal from scratch, make all our clothing, run a marathon, never eat fast food again, go to the gym every day, never yell at the kids, save the redwoods, save the polar bears, save the planet . . . this year, I resolve to be PERFECT!!
Ok, whoa! Anything sound familiar? To save yourself lots of frustration and disappointment come the end of January, go ahead and write out your entire list. Then, pick just one, maybe two at the very most, items that are the most important to you right now. That is your ultimate goal(s), and it might take all year, maybe even more. Now, stash that list away for now (at least until the equinox - you can reassess your progress then, and maybe decide on something new to address). For now, figure out just one little tiny baby-step action to take. Bad habits are hard to change - the best way is to consistently substitute some other action every time. Commit, really commit, to just that one little thing for at least three weeks. Maybe then, but maybe longer, you can figure out the next tiny little baby-step to take.
Take a really deep breath - really, right now, do it. Hold it a sec. Now, slowly, gently, breathe out. It's an emotional time of year - looking back, planning for the future. Every once in a while, take a minute to just savor what's happening right now. Indulge all your senses, devoting complete attention to each one in turn - stop and notice what's happening in your world, right now, and just breathe. It's nature's little hesitation time - that perfect equilibrium before the earth starts tilting back, swinging back around the sun. It's the perfect time to find your own equilibrium too.