Stop Fighting the Lesson

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The holiday season is a huge time of highs and lows for me. I honestly have a love/hate relationship with it all. I come from a family of overachievers, and Christmas is no exception. It took a long time for me to be ok with enjoying the season for the sake of what I could learn from it. Focusing on the perfect placement of ornaments, the house “just so”, the perfect Currier and Ives snapshot at any given moment, and creation of the ideal family Christmas experience left me with such a deep anger and resentment. I felt unappreciated by my family for my efforts, exhausted at the thought of going through all of the schlepping back and forth to the attic for decorations, menu planning, and gift shopping.

Then I learned about waiting for the light. And it changed everything for me.

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The dark months are always difficult for me. My energy level drops drastically, my motivation to accomplish, well, anything, is nonexistent, and this is a direct inverse relationship to the demands of the season. I was always unable to source that excitement that everyone else seemed to have, and felt extremely guilty about any efforts of personal self-care when I was already wallowing deep in those shadowy depths of self-preservation.

Sometime in the last two or three years I read about the ancient celebrations of the winter solstice and other rituals of welcoming the season. I was certainly aware of these things, but had never really mentally engaged in how they played a role in my own experience of the season. Then in a sudden “Duh!” moment, I realized that our celebration of Advent is exactly what I needed during these times. As a highly spiritual person, I finally understood what was missing for me- I needed to intentionally welcome this dark time of year for its unique gift: a forced time of slowness. And really, this gift of settling into quiet, of awareness, is exactly what I always seem to need right about now. My mind and body have been running on high-octane since April. I think I deserve a time to slow down and rest.

Up until my ah-ha moment, I was forcing my mind and body to work out of tandem with the intent of the season. Whether you are a practicing Christian or completely agnostic, the work is the same. We all come up against pressure this time of year. And the Earth and Spirit is calling us to pay attention to our needs now. It’s asking us to settle and listen. The darkness makes us yearn for some light. And the wait is a lesson in patience.

So I’ve begun to embrace the lesson. I intentionally settle into methodical decorating, enjoying the way the ribbons feel between my fingers, the scent of the ornament box of smell memories, the candlelight that creates that warmth in the darkness. No more throwing decorations up wherever they land, but a thoughtful look at what is meaningful and brings joy. And I wait. And I slow. And I light another candle and give thanks for this gift of self-awareness. And I arrive once again in my home, present to my own life’s work. My home, my family, and my soul is better for it.

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Michelle Blades