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.
“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.
Have you been reading about ‘Red Cup Christians’, and seen the conservative Christian memes about how terrible, evil, and abominable Starbucks is? You can hardly glance at a social media site without seeing some sort of preachy meme.
Normally I would link to some articles, etcetera, etcetera, but it’s been a long week, and you can google it yourself if you wish. If you are wise though, you will simply trust my judgment and carry on reading darlings. Cheers to that!
The gist of this latest major brand attack is two-fold.
First of all, being a ‘Red-Cup Christian’ means that you’re Christian on the inside but not courageous enough in your faith to stand out from the crowd. Second of all, there is a Starbucks-customer shaming about how much people spend on their delicious and delightful-every-day-caffeine treats, versus how much we should be sharing with the homeless, the less fortunate….blah, blah, freaking blah.
Let me let you in on a little secret; the preachy red-cup hating, finger-pointing-wanna-be-self-righteous meme-making arseholes had better start putting their money where their mouth is.
In my vast experience, people who drink Starbucks are not ‘Red-Cup’ anything. They don’t necessarily hoard their money and spit in the face of the less fortunate. So, to all of those preachy-gotta-have-something-to-bitch-about whiners, just shut up.
I love, love, love my Starbucks. As a matter of fact, my squishy pink bits are getting warm thinking about my next praline-chestnut-eggnog-rum-santa-kissing-hot-and-whipped-cream-laden-over-priced-first-world beverage. My mouth is watering and I’m generally moist all over just thinking about it.
And you know what? I’m the lady at the red light who rolls down the window for the homeless guy at the corner and gives whatever she can. I’m the lady who volunteers her time to charities, donates to the foodbank on a regular basis and also lives on a single income. You know what else? I don’t go around judging people based on the colour of their coffee cup.
….because life just ain’t that simple folks. If you think it is, you’ve been steered drastically wrong.
Just because someone buys a take-out coffee does not mean they are selfish, evil or satan-loving. It means they are treating themselves to a coffee beverage that they enjoy. Get over it you big, hypocritical Proctor and Gamble, big-pharma, Wal-Mart shopping twit.
Have you unconditionally opened the doors of your large, spacious and warm churches, temples and mosques? Have you gone out in the cold and handed out food, blankets and offered your time to clean toilets and counsel those very people you think just need the money we’re spending at the coffee shop? Likely not, because that is a heck of a lot more difficult than sitting comfortably at home and clicking on your social media sites.
A grande, non-fat no-whip eggnog latte please, and hold the hypocrisy.
Simultaneously I was voice-dialing my mumster and buckling my seatbelt when I was caught up in a moment.
Not a moment of city-driving-get-the-hell-outta-my-way. It was a moment of, “Ahhhhh…..” As in; big sigh of relief. Big sigh of, “I feel like I’m starting to pull myself together“.
After a long day, feet-throbbing, and 5:00 a.m. starts, I felt good. Satisfied, content, like maybe, just maybe I was ok.
As you all know, life has a way of knocking us around, and shaking our confidence. It also has a way of forcing you to surrender when the only fight you have left in you whispers, “I give up,” and then rolls over, gives your broken heart the finger, pulls the blankie over its’ head and goes to sleep.
Tonight, tired but happy, I gave myself the moment.
I let myself be grateful for just being where I was, simply in the moment. Grateful that I had a mumster to call, a kiddo to go home to, and especially that I have enough courage to keep moving forward.
We can only ever be certain of change, that our emotions can carry us to the most dark, frightening depths of the human condition and the loftiest heights of elation.
When we are in the moment; not anxious of the future or analyzing the past, we realize that it’s ok. We’re ok. Life is ok; As it is. Nothing less and nothing more.
Heartbreak leaves us utterly spent, hopeless and longing for connection.
It is a form of grief left to work its way out of your heart, struggling against every difficult, dark emotion that was hidden by the light of what you lost.
Our hearts break when our children suffer, when we witness injustice, when we lose a lover, a friend, or our family.
Our hearts break and our worlds change. To survive, we adapt, adjust, stretch ourselves to get through just one more minute, an hour, or a day.
I don’t know about you my darlings, but I’ve been heartbroken and stretched thin for far too long. I’ve wept morning, noon and night in between parenting, paying the bills and carrying out what-must-be-done-to-get-by.
Standing in front of the mirror wondering at how I got this damn old, my son said to me, “You look good mom.”
“Like, ‘thinner‘ good?” I eyed my chubby profile before I slipped on my shoes.
“No, like good all over. Even your face. Like you’re not so worried about work and stuff.” I’ve raised quite the diplomat. Instead of uttering the name of he-who-shall-not-be-named, he just left it at, ‘stuff’.
My first thought was, ‘Holy mother of pearl! I must have looked like a bag of old, worn out crap all summer’.
Heartbreak teaches us some of my favourite go-to-overdone-most-misunderstood-Buddhist teachings;
Impermanence. Nothing stays the same and everything changes. In other words; This too shall pass.
Interconnectedness. Our actions have consequences that involve the lives of others; For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Karma. Our thoughts and actions cause conditions which we must live through; You reap what you sow.
Heartbreak and moving on means doing things you’ve never done before. It might be going to bed alone, socializing in ways that you would never have done before, picking up a new hobby, or re-connecting with old friends. It can mean silently letting go, or hanging on.
Heartbreak cracks our lives open, with a painful, receding tide that carries away people, places and things that we love. It washes us clean and floods our hearts with life again, brining back what was meant for us; fresh and mysterious.
Wishing you the strength to open your heart so the pain can escape, making more room for love, whatever that may look like.
Someone I love dearly, a best friend and wonderful person is suffering so deeply that the only caring I can offer is to hope that he knows he is loved as he suffers through what is, I’m sure, one of his ‘Dark Nights of the Soul’.
What my heart tells me to do is to keep reminding him of that, but what I know I have to do is let him find his own way, and hope that during the darkest of times, he knows that he is loved.
I want to call, text, send emails, books, quotes, stories, cards and carrier pigeons. I want to wrap him up and protect him from the demons only he can face and conquer.
I want to stomp my feet and shake my fist at the sky and….
To be honest, I’m not sure, as I’ve been having what I like to describe as, “The Dark Night of the Whateveryoucallit”. In other words, I don’t like to admit that I’m sad, depressed, angry, frightened or broken-hearted.
I like to breathe deeply and remember that whether or not I like it, I will wake up tomorrow and slog through the difficult emotions.
I like to remind myself that it’s ok to come home, cry myself to sleep and let this sadness snake its way through my body until I’m strangled by it.
I like to remember that ignoring it, or raging against it will not make it less painful or faster to go away.
Although it is painful to experience the ‘darker emotions’, the more you allow yourself to feel these in their gruesome fullness, the more cathartic it is. It’s scary as hell, but why use your energy fighting something you must face?
That’s been my experience anyway. Instead of running away from it, I just let it wash over me, seep into my bones, and tumble as tears from my eyes. Whenever we emerge from these darker times, we are a changed person, often with more capacity for love, compassion and empathy. The storms polish us like sea glass that has been worn smooth from being tossed ruthlessly against the rocks, and then gently brought to shore.
I’ll share with you some of the things that I’ve learned about not resisting painful emotions;
1)You have to reach out to people. Don’t roll your eyes and stop reading. Everyone has their own life, but friends are always willing to listen and do what they can.
2) There is alchemy in every human encounter; each person is at the same time giver and recipient. Helpers are gifted the opportunity to help, by those in need.
3) No emotion is permanent, so there’s no point running away from the hard stuff. It stays there until you’re too exhausted from chasing the next item of retail therapy, cigarette, joint, drink, lay or thrill-seeking adventure. Then you’re just left worn out and having to deal with what you spent all of your energy running away from
4)We all screw up. We all stumble backward once in a while when we need to be reminded of why we didn’t stay there in the first place ( bad relationships, addictions, habits…you get the gist of what I’m saying here…).
5)Life goes on, even when you don’t ever want to wake up, it goes on. See #1 and #8 when you really are suffering.
6)Guilt and shame are chosen emotions. They’re tough ones to overcome because they whisper evil things to our ego, and ego is a ruthless critic. Looking deeply and compassionately at guilt and shame can ease a lot of internal suffering.
7)When you are able to, offering your compassion and love to another human being may be emotionally risky, but it’s totally worth it.
8) Talking does help. Language helps us process, but it also invites different perspectives and the occasionally necessary reality check.
For those barely able to take the next step through the dark night of their own soul, I wish you peace.
For those of you who care about someone who is going through this, I also wish you peace.
Be kind to yourself and be kind to one another. Be gentle…and stock up on tissue ’cause you’re gonna need it.