Yesterday, December 21st, 2019, was the winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year. We are presently getting only nine hours of sunlight each day and I think we all feel this in some way. You don’t have to be spiritual to see the significance in the extended hours of darkness. It seems to create a pull to go inward and reflect on the truth about the passing year. Despite the discouraging traffic and the bustle of gift buying and celebrating, I also see this period as a time of quiet energy where we get the opportunity to look inside and focus on what we want and need. How did we do last year? How did we treat ourselves and how did we treat family and friends? Did we have compassion or did we judge harshly? For me, I have to admit that I did some of each.
Judgments can be hard habits to break and I don’t always succeed. But I’m doing my best and I intend to keep on trying. This latter part of the year can be a time of evaluation and change as we let go of the past and look ahead to the mysteries and possibilities of the future. What’s important to me is that I review my life and the way I acted last year with kindness, not blame. With an open heart, not a clenched fist. With a sense of awe, not dread.
I’m glad that I managed to let go of some things that were unwieldy and caused me unnecessary stress. For example, I said good-bye to a couple of relationships that were draining me and I welcomed in some new ones that were uplifting and offered me support. This wasn’t easy but I felt I owed it to myself to be calmer and healthier, to gently release the things that weren’t good for me and embrace new things. And to do it with kindness and compassion, not anger or criticisms.
During last year, I let go of pressure to produce for its own sake. I decided it didn’t matter how much I did but rather, it mattered how I did it and the quality of what I reaped. Did it bring me happiness or pain? Marie Kondo, the tidying up lady, suggests that we only keep around us that which sparks joy. We can do that, not only with things, but also with people and experiences. We get to choose what we do and who we see according to what matters the most to us and what feels the best, so why not choose to do the things and see the people that make us feel good?
One of the things I choose to do is to check up on my friends who are experiencing trials and loss. There are a lot of them, but it only feels overwhelming and anxiety-producing if I try to fix them or tell them what I think they should do. I’m not presumptuous enough to believe that I know best. If I take a deep breath, ask how they are and simply listen, I feel space opening up between me and my friend where we meet in our shared humanity. We all have trials and sometimes there are no answers to our problems but there is always a way to show up for someone and let them know you care. And more often than not, that’s enough.
What are you letting go of this year? What are you embracing? Are you showing up for your friends?