Hello and welcome to this glorious Friday, December 6, 2019. Today is a rare and precious day that will never come again.
Maybe it’s just the crowd I hang around with, but it seems to me that many people I know struggle this time of year. Even though the causes and conditions vary, this seems to be a time of darkness.
I volunteer at a local assisted living facility and one of the residents sadly shared with me that she can’t wait for the holidays to be over. She misses her kids. Her despair broke my heart! In our meditation group last evening, quite a few of us reported that things are tough right meow. I perceived a sense of longing – a yearning for something different than what is actually happening.
I obviously have no idea what the actual conditions are for others, but for me, this holiday time of year tends to bring about memories of “home” - a place (and time) of comfort and safety. Warmth. Conviviality. In the innocence of my childhood, ignorant of worldly concerns, this time of year was a tender reprieve to the mundane. There was just something very special about it. I feel like a lot of this specialness has been lost in commercialization. And, growing up. Maybe this is your experience too, maybe not.
Though many of our struggles this time of year may be born out of remembrances of the past, expectations or driven by the commodification of holidays, I feel like there is more to it than that. I sometimes forget that I’m a creature of the natural world and I’m subject to its forces. If I look around, for almost every other living being, winter is a time of slowing down, hibernation and regeneration. Yet here we are ramping things up. Many of us are having to work more to pay for extra time off, buying gifts and traveling. Traveling alone can create a huge amount of stress and tension for many of us.
I feel like I should stop here.
I could go on and on listing all the different causes and conditions that give rise to the struggles that so many are affected with. The fact is, as humans, we will always be met with difficult times. Much of our struggle comes from our belief that we shouldn’t struggle. I feel like it’s especially true in our society where we tend to believe that we should always be happy and joyous and if we’re not, there must be something wrong with us!
We tend to make our struggling worse by struggling with our struggling. Unfortunately, it gets worse. As we struggle with our struggling, we tend to look for reasons for our struggling. And guess what, we find them. We find them all over the place. Everywhere we look, we find reasons for our struggling. The more we pay attention to conditions that are responsible for our struggling, the worse it gets. The more we attach to and identify with our struggles, the longer and more intensely we struggle.
So, what do we do?
Well, we can stop struggling. We can accept the fact that we are prone experience difficult times. We can allow ourselves to be human and know that there are no good nor bad emotions. It’s ok! It’s OK! It’s ok to hurt now and then. If traveling is hard for you, why wouldn’t you feel stressed? If you have contentious relationships with family members, why wouldn’t it be difficult to sit down with them at a holiday dinner? If we have lost the meaning of the holidays through their commodification, why wouldn’t we experience disgust? If you’re displaced from your family, why wouldn’t you feel sad? If every other life form is taking a break and you’re ramping it up, why wouldn’t you feel exhausted?
Regardless of the causes and conditions, we are going to experience what we tend to refer to as negative emotions. Our aversion to them and yearning for happiness makes it worse. I realize that it may seem contrary to our culture, but we can actually learn to welcome these negative emotions. Maybe ‘welcome’ is too strong of word for some. How about, we can ‘allow’ them to be part of our life?
I feel like it’s important to remember that it’s through the dark times – the times of difficulty and struggle – that we grow.
Like winter, the dark time is a time of shedding what we don’t need; a time of reflection; a time of inner work that informs us of who we are; a time that affords us the opportunity to define the kind of person that we want to be. In these dark times we can sit down and face our struggles and learn from them. We don’t have to push them away. There is only one way through these times of struggle and that is through. And the less we struggle, the sooner we emerge into the light. A light that actually never left us – we just tend to close our eyes to it.
Just as we can make our life harder by looking for reasons to struggle, we can create hope and find the light by looking for all the beneficial things in the world. What we pay attention to becomes our reality. In these dark struggling times, look for the light. Look for the beauty. Look for the people helping one another. If you can’t find meaning, bring some. If all else fails, try writing a gratitude list.
Most important, remember, it’s temporary. This too shall pass.
I love you and there isn’t anything that you can do about it.
Sitting in the dim light,
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