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The Longest Night: How To

First of all, let go of all expectations.

The theme is the Longest Night: Finding Light in the Darkness, and is always, always, always held on the eve of winter solstice (December 21).

1)Send out invitations however you like – I use social media and the occasional email.

Given the theme, invite friends whom you feel you can be spiritually naked with.  The more the merrier, or not. It’s up to you. Personally I love having an eclectic group of friends who are intelligent and kind.

2)Each person is encouraged to bring a piece of writing, poetry, artwork, music or visual art to share with the group.  Have them bring copies to give out if they can.

3) Pot-freaking-luck – this not only takes the pressure off of the host, but it offers everyone a chance to bring a special dish that honours the spirit of the evening. Sharing food is an intimate act of friendship.

4)Offer a place to sleep should anyone be enjoying a few beverages or, if you’re in Canada, cannabis.

5)Offer all of the seating you can; couches, chairs, cushions, stools. Basically, form a cozy circle where people can relax.

6) Draw numbers to see who shares first, second and so forth.

7)Begin the evening with a toast, or reading appropriate to the theme. Light a candle as a symbol of the season of mystery and hope.  The joy of the evening is to share, discuss and share some more, taking everything at a leisurely pace.

8)Enjoy one another’s company.

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The Longest Night: Your Invitation

Like most adults, the magic of Christmas wanes with each passing year. This year I’m struggling to grasp that spirit at all, even a tiny shred of it.

I absolutely love getting out for Christmas dinners with my friends, I enjoy strolling the markets, and listening to Christmas music.  I realized just how un-Christmasy my life is this year after reading an update from my cousin this morning about having his first Christmas dinner in the books.

This after waking up and staring at the ceiling of what used to be my writing room, and thinking just that…this does not feel like Christmas.

When I was a young mother, doting on my son, baking, cooking and inviting friends into our home made the season so very special. Long past having a big wish list, I have always used Christmas as an excuse to connect with the people in my life whom I don’t get to spend time with often enough. It’s a special part of the year that carries me through, having reinforced the bonds of these precious friendships.

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But not this  year. This year I am bound to the house, run off my feet, and honestly, feeling lonesome for those friends.

Loneliness and isolation can make a pathetic woman, and I am anything but that. So this year, albeit late in the season, I’m going to begin my efforts to connect with the special people in my life. The sustenance of kindred spirits during times like this is essential to anyone’s well-being.

In years past, I used to host an event on the eve of winter solstice called, “The Longest Night”, where my friends would gather, bringing a piece of art (writing, music, visual art) to share with the group. The theme was always sharing light in the darkness. Celebrating the darkness where mystery was waiting to be revealed, ideas were ruminating, and reminding everyone that there is beauty even in the mystery of the dark.

So this year, once again, I’m hoping more selfishly than ever that my friends arrive in the darkness, to be received into the warmth of a circle of friends.

 

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Always Say YES!

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During a quick lunch with my Mumster the topic of keeping oneself vibrant while in the midst of feeling stuck became a theme. I like to think that our conversation was inspiring to us both. Just having a quick visit with a kindred spirit, helped my sense of well being.

As some of you may know, my day-to-day life has changed recently. I now find myself in the position of stay-at-home-caregiver. It’s the longest time I’ve ever been away from work, and frankly, it’s like living in a thick fog.

Anxiety has its’ natural place during times of transition and healing. I wish I had someone here to give me a hug, offer me a passionate escape, or a giddy drunken Christmas date night.  But that is not so.  What I have is myself; the stalwart, courageous, positive, kick-you-in-the-ass-just-enough-to-keep-you-going-all-day fabulous woman that I am.

The first thing I reluctantly gave up being here doing what I’m doing, was my sleep pattern. I’m a natural night owl, and later nights are always the first thing to come galloping back into my life  when I’m not on my work-home routine. If  I could force away the anxiety of wondering how I’ll adjust when I do go back to work, late nights aren’t a bad thing.  Mostly because just last night, head on the pillow, I was lulling myself to sleep, silently re-telling the stories of my literally ‘shitty’ day,  and it came to me! Novel number 3! Late nights are a breading ground for creativity, and that’s heady stuff.

Quietly, I got up in the darkness, crept past the orange-pink glow of the salt lamp, and made my way to my notebook, scrounging a pen from the medication log on the nursing cart in the makeshift hospital room that is now the living/dining room.

I curled up under my favourite wool blanket from Ireland, and wrote a basic outline, including main characters, and a handful of their personality quirks. I then pounded back a piece of lemon cake, the crumbs at the bottom of a bag of dill pickle chips, swigged back a hot cup of tea, and then went back to bed. Inspired.

That’s the same way I woke up.

Not only do I have a full novel to edit, I have another one ready to be born, and butter softening on the counter for a batch of sugar cookies which I will decorate in layers over the next two days for the sole purpose of doing something other than letting my brain rot. I have a list of books to read, and have managed to finish 3 of them, and I”m slowly grinding my way through the fourth (  a dense book of essays).  I also have wine. And whiskey. And tea.

These things are enough.

Enough to keep me motivated, creative and vibrant (under the circumstances).

Yes, I miss my yoga classes. I miss taking my time and poking about my favourite shops. I miss even going for a flipping walk! But these are not things I have control over right now. I can control what I manage to do while I’m limited to the house with brief periods of respite and so can you.

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As I’ve written many times, the spirit of Advent (waiting with wonder in the darkness) is one that resonates deeply with me. It reassures me of an idea that I believe in; out of the darkness and the muck of life, sprout the most fruitful of ideas and experiences.

If you are feeling stuck, take a few minutes to yourself. Grab a notebook and pen; jot down unfinished projects you’d really like to finish. Maybe it’s a new skill you’d like to learn  or  a book you would love to tuck in to read from start to finish.  Just let yourself relax into some kind of stillness of mind that will accompany you on a journey of wonder and discovery.

Most importantly if you have friends out there who offer a different perspective, a couple hours of respite, a moment of escape, always, always, always say YES!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How Are Your Christmas Lights?

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In the darkness, the Christmas tree lights are a true symbol of advent. Mystery in the darkness. A sense of wonder.

Advent is my favourite season of the year, even though November is my least favourite month. Layers of grey permeate every hour, and the dampness makes everything, even the ethereal heavy. Besides being a Scorpio, November sucks.

Alas my friends,  then there are the Christmas lights! They’re the first thing that I attend to in the morning, getting down on my knees to find the plug and make the connection. As a young mother, I wanted my son to have the same sense of wonder that I did upon waking and seeing the tree illuminated in the dark, chill morning.  As the mother of a young adult, I want to continue that sense of wonder, the feeling that something wonderful can come of the darkness, that stillness can be a time of self-discovery and that there is joy in silent reflection.  As a partner and caregiver, I hope that my darling wakes up to the lights and feels the very same things.

Realistically, I live in a house with people whom I’m not sure have such a deep, symbolic appreciation of this season as I do.  Whatever.

‘Whatever’ has become a word that pops  up more and more in my silent thoughts. It’s the 80’s baby version of WTF.

The reality is that Christmas has changed for me. I’ve gone from a child waiting for Santa, to being Santa.  I’ve gone from a young woman excited about the romance of the season to an older woman who has officially let all hope of Christmas romance go. I do however find joy helping in any way that I can to fan the flames of that excitement in the life of my friends and family who are in the midst of that, ‘Hallmark Romance’ period of their lives.

This morning I woke up to an email from my Mumster about the energy of the fuss and muss of Christmas, and how this year, her sister will be hiring a cater rather than doing the cooking herself. In her wisdom, Mumster  has deduced that age 55 is the age at which you pretty much get tired of the foo-fur-ah (foo-fur-ah def. bullshit) of the Christmas season.  I’ll let you know if I agree when I reach the spritely age of  55.

Inevitably life changes as you know darlings. Our energy levels ebb and flow, as do our priorities. Health remains our  biggest asset, and it becomes more valuable the older we get.

Although I’m not the marathon baker, wrapper and Christmas-party-throwing woman I was ten years ago, I like to hope that I can keep my own sense of wonder alive through the season.  Sometimes it’s just wondering where the wine went, and how my ass got this robust.

Humor and wonder is what will keep me young. It’s what will keep my eyes open to the little twinkle of light in life that brings happy surprises, belly laughter and passion. This is the stuff of a youthful spirit. Let humor and wonder be your own Christmas miracles, regardless of your age or circumstance.

 

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The Season of Mystery & Light

street lampI’m early, I know.

Advent is not officially upon us, but the shitty greyness of November sure is.

We are smack in the middle of the time of year when everything is bare, grey, and tired.

Not quite officially Advent, the season of mystery, of waiting, of germinating in the darkness so that we may blossom in the light is definitely upon us.

What better way to embrace it all than to try some new stuff?

This year, it’s all new to me; my home, my relationship status, and most significantly, my role as a mother.  Whatever you call your celebration of light in the darkness that you celebrate, the reality is November is often a month of feeling less than sparkly.

As always, I’m embracing it. All of it.  Well, at least I’m trying to. Trying ‘new stuff’ may help ease the doldrums, but is it the solution? I’m not so sure about that.

Being able to be still in the darkness takes incredible strength of mind and spirit. Allowing yourself to feel it deeply without running from the discomfort may be the secret to rising into the light refreshed and enriched. It may also send you to the psych-ward for a few weeks. Chacun son gout.

I try to remember the significance of the tiny lights twinkling in the cold and the darkness. They are the symbols of hope when we are not sure of our place and where we belong, and sometimes that’s all we have.

 

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Advent Challenge: The Life-Changing Power of Small-Talk

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What better place to start a conversation than in a long Christmas-shopping-season line-up?
The season of Advent is upon us. A season of darkness and stillness, awaiting the mystery to unfold.

 

Hell, if that’s what it’s about, I think perhaps I’ve been living a lifetime of Advent!

It’s strange and wonderful how conversation and communication work.

I remember being a little girl and hanging off my grandmother’s shirttails, head thrown back, eyes lolling at a great and dangerous sarcastic angle, whining, “Come oooooo-ooooon! Mom!”, while she jabbered away to someone.

When I was younger I used to think that long, winding conversations were pointless.  Much like advent, impromptu conversations can be ever so revealing about our own hopes and dreams.

Exposing your ideas and dreams to concrete language can be the first step to creating a new reality for yourself.

Once upon a time a poet-mentor of mine asked if he could read some of my poetry aloud to me. I felt reserved and shy at first. He knew that hearing my own words spoken would be a very powerful experience. And it was.

More than once I’ve had a conversation with someone I don’t know so well and then ask myself where the heck that came from. Engaging in conversation with a diverse cross section of ages, genders and intellect is a wonderful way to get to know yourself.

For instance, tonight I had an unexpected and rather lengthy conversation with a gentleman who worked with my mumster (he thinks she’s the cat’s meow). We discussed his career, the professional acquaintances we have in common, his semi-retirement and subsequent move. That lead to a review of my C.V., and some of my dreams for the future.

As only perspective from someone older, more experienced and wiser can do, the conversation really shed some new light on what my future might hold. If only I have the courage to pursue it.

One thing that I’ve learned in my lifetime is that you have to ‘put it out there’. In other words, whatever it is that you want, that you crave, that gets you excited to get out of bed in the morning; you need to talk about it with everyone and anyone who will listen.

It’s not what you know darlings, it’s who you know. The person next to you in line at the coffee shop may know someone who knows something about what you’re dreaming of.

Put it out there. Give a friendly hello, and start with the dreaded small talk. Just talk to people.

Wake up with intention and do something about it. Research. Ask Questions. Go do it.

This Advent season, let the mystery of what’s holding you back from the life you desire, unfold in your every-day interactions with the people around you.

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When Christmas Isn’t So Merry

ADVENT WREATH

“Christmas makes me sad, ” one of my colleagues said in passing this week.

Sad was a theme for me in 2015, so her comment caught my attention.

My head jerked up from what I was working on and I listened to what she had to say.

“I still put up the tree and decorate. You know, for the kids.”

“Me too.” I said.

We were speaking with a younger lady who is still a starry-eyed romantic like we used to be. I hope she never loses that magic, because once you lose it, you can’t get it back the same way.

Loss during the holidays spreads a pall over the joy of the season. Loss as in a you’ve experienced the death of a loved one during the holidays, you’ve experienced another type of loss during the year (relationship, job, ability).

As you get older, there tend to be more people and more things to miss. There are deeper elements of life to reflect upon, and joy comes less and less from what is under the tree than from the quiet moments you get to spend with people you love.

When I was a child, the season of Advent was not a spiritual experience. It was a season of ribbon candy, clementines, chocolate galore and lots of toys. As a young woman, it was a season of party dresses, romance and giddy fun.  As a middle-aged woman, I realize the meaning behind the season of Advent; living in darkness, anticipation and mystery, meditation, and the cultivation of patience.

For those who find the Christmas season emotionally challenging, please try and remember that you are not alone. Our silver-bell-and-city-sidewalk-smiles hide a multitude of sadness.

For those who still find Christmas deliriously happy, don’t be afraid to share your enthusiasm. We love it, and are happy knowing that although we may bring peace and love to the season, there are others who bear the burden of bringing the joy.

Wishing you peace this Christmas. Wishing you love. Wishing you the joy of friendship, romance and the thrill of experiencing some of life’s  unfolding mystery.