The cold starkness of winter has arrived far too early for me. My cuddle duds were pulled out of storage in October, and on the days I resist wearing them, find myself standing at the bus stop with goosebumps of regret.
When dark and cold descend quickly, I am caught off guard. At first I might deny it is happening, hoping for a turn around, praying for a southern breeze to blow it all away. With less time to plan my wardrobe, I grasp at whatever layers are available. This can often be followed by a shake of the fist toward the sky. I then, of course, feel bad for shaking my fist, realizing anger is not going to bring spring along any more quickly and so I relent, fall into a brief depression, realize it is indeed winter and I eventually slide, not only down the sidewalk, but also into acceptance and hope that it will not last forever.
Life brings change, often appearing in the form of an abrupt descent into the metaphoric dark and cold. Quick changes happen in our health, job, relationships or finances. One day we are walking along, whistling a happy tune, and WHAM, we spiral down in the vortex that so often accompanies change. We deny, react in anger, a depressed mood, or isolate. We feel hapless and hopeless.
What we are feeling is loss: loss of control or of dreams, loss of what was, and may not be again. Some loss can be easily noted and acknowledged, allowing us to move on. Other times loss comes to our doorstep and we don’t know what to make of it. We attempt to slam the door in its face, pushing the blame for our pain to some external source. In the malaise, we forget to look inside to see what we have lost; what we are grieving.
As our planet gently tilts, we see less and less of our glorious sun, and experience more and more night. Just as the changes of life can impact us, so can these dark days. To fight them, does no real good because they will come, regardless. So what can we learn from our dive into the physical darkness that can help us with loss? Here are a couple of thoughts…
1) Acknowledge the darkness. In an effort to ward off the night we often turn on all available lights. What would the experience be like to actually allow ourselves to “sit” in the darkness? To allow the rhythms of our body to change? To sleep more, read by candlelight, to slow down? How best can one lean into and welcome the challenge and all that it brings?
2) The dark time of the year has a quiet energy. It is a time of going inward, and going deep. As you descend into change, what emotions do you notice? How does your body feel? Grab a journal and a pen. Try free-flow writing. Pen to the paper and write whatever comes to you about your change challenge. Allow whatever comes up to be placed on the paper. Don’t filter out the less-than-lovely thoughts. See what shows up on the page.
3) Many northern countries have rituals, habits and ceremonies that usher in and intentionally welcome the dark days. Light a candle, or take a walk in the dark evening or early morning and relish the beauty of this time of year. Find an action that uses your senses and reminds you of that for which you wait.
Loss is all around us, inviting us to itself. Care deeply for yourself as you acknowledge the bleak. Reflect inward, and move forward with intention to welcome the night. After all, it is always darkest before the dawn.
Waiting together in the dark,
Photo: Scottish Forest Frost