Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Back of 2009

I'm looking forward to the back of this year. The first six months were hell. I spent them in misunderstood grief, anxiety about the future and resentment toward people I counted on who failed me. I spent those months adjusting to separation and considerations for my future and figuring out how bad things were and if they were bad enough to bring an end to a nearly 25 year marriage.

On July 4, Independence Day in fact, clarity came in the form of a short phrase: Growth is not health. Standing on the dirty sand beach in Avalon, Catalina, I realized that what I needed in my life right then and forever was a context of health. I needed to know that I could depend on my life—that it would be nurturing and supportive, filled with kindness and compassion. I had no more nerve-endings left for unpredictability, for one step forward and two back, for failed promises, for "mostly good except..." But how hard to muster the courage to let go!

I read a tweet by a friend later that day and have saved it (perhaps it was a talisman, but it certainly articulated what I was feeling): Choice is rarely the real issue. It's usually the consequences that seem unacceptable. Happy Independence Day.

The consequences. I had to think about that. No matter what one chooses (stay with the status quo or upend the status quo and make radical changes), there are consequences. But usually we feel most comfortable with familiar consequences—the ones that are hidden from public view or the ones we internalize. I'd played it that way for 25 years and where had it gotten me? Too many memories of how it never should be and no more heart or energy to hope or believe for the best. When you put on public display consequences you choose for yourself, you must also contend with the opinions of others, with change (which no one likes), with adjusting to an unfamiliar way of living and being, with requiring others to also make changes that they didn't initiate or want. It means, in short, reinterpreting your life both emotionally and logistically.

It also means taking responsibility for choosing, for giving up hope, for saying "This is how I want my life to be and I'm going to ensure that it is this way."

I wrote on January 4, 2009 that I wanted a whole new life. It's taken a year to figure out what that meant.

2010 looks like it will be the start of that new life. Unfamiliar, but welcome. Goodbye 2009. I don't wish you back.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The darkest night is coming....

but then we move toward the light steadily, every day brightening second by second, imperceptibly yet irreversibly. What relief!

I've spent time researching the winter solstice this month. Many of our Christmas habits find their origin, in fact, in solstice traditions. The lights on our houses and trees, our varieties of candles, pine wreaths, the Yule log, wassail... all of these are related to the quieting of nature, the dimming of light that reaches its depth on December 21. Christmas bears these transported symbols well enough, since Jesus Christ is often compared to light, even the stumbling-over-themselves-with-awe hyperbole offered by the Gospel writers: "Light of the World."

Solstice holds a lot of potential for creating a metaphorical framework of darkness giving way to light. While we still love our Christmas, it felt like a good time to re-up, to take that "longing for light" feeling and do something practical with it. So we're celebrating solstice on Monday night this year. A few of the things we're doing excite me:
  • Giving handmade gifts to each other
  • Creating a huge bonfire with last year's Christmas tree
  • Tossing notes into that fire (one set: regrets from the previous year; one set: hopes and wishes for coming year)
  • Making lanterns out of food cans (using hammer and nails, you puncture the cans in decorative patterns, glue gun a tea light to the bottom and light them, lining your drive and walk ways)
  • Making beeswax candles from Hearthsong
  • Rolling pinecones in peanut butter and birdseed to create ornaments on our pines and firs for our visiting backyard birds
  • Drinking wassail
  • Turning off the electricity for the evening and living by candlelight
  • Reading poetry about light and dark, nature, hope over regret and loss
  • Painting tea light holders for candles
Of course, one of the traditions is to clean your home thoroughly and a friend of mine uses lavender water to make the indoor space sweet-smelling. My kids ka-bashed this idea, saying you don't clean on holidays. :) I'll take care of it for them since my idea of putting away darkness and inviting light includes ridding the corners of dust bunnies and cobwebs.

Since you can't join me, feel free to list your regrets (if you feel inward permission to do it) and your hopes and wishes for the coming year in the comments section. I'll type them up, print them out and toss them onto our bonfire for you. I have been ruminating about both for some time. Even the process of contemplating regrets balanced against hope has been cleansing.

Thank you for being a source of light in a dark year for me (all of you who have been especially supportive). In case you wonder, we are well enough (all of us)... we're coming through the hard part and moving into what feels like release and hope. There's something to be said for going through a passage of dark waters. None of us wants to. We don't volunteer for it. But when you go through, you learn about yourself and about others which promotes awe, compassion and love. So much better than hiding or pretending. (In case you were wondering...)

May you move gently into the womb of darkness this weekend.