WILLETT WORDS OF WISDOM
21 December 2018 ~ WINTER IS HERE
Today marks the shortest day of the year, meaning there is more darkness than light. It is the winter solstice. In this northern hemisphere where we live, it is the official start of winter which will be here until March 20. For some, winter brings excitement if they are skiers or love snow days and building snowmen. For others, winter brings a time of sadness as they struggle through the dark days. Regardless of whether you step into it or you dread it or you leave it to go to warmer climates for the season, it is something to understand.
As many of you know, I have lived many places in my lifetime including London; Boston; Walnut Creek, California; Portland, Oregon; and, Key West, Florida. And every winter, I experienced the diversity of what the various winters bring – long rainy (dreary) days in Oregon and London – bitter cold very dark days in New England – endless sunny days in Key West and California. Foremost what I discovered is that I came to appreciate the contrasting weather of what I was experiencing. I never would have understood this appreciation had I not experienced such extremes. Take my sunny winters for example. In Florida, my mom sent out Christmas cards with Santa riding in a boat; and, we went water skiing on Christmas day and swimming in our neighborhood pool the day after. Those few years I lived in the abundant sunshine, I realized I missed the snow days off my friends were talking about and I missed the need to go inside and snuggle with some hot chocolate. In Boston, I knew I took for granted the warm (not too hot) summers where I would go to Cape Cod. And in Oregon, I too realized how precious the summers are there – endless days of sunshine and very low humidity.
In addition to learning to appreciate all kinds of weather, I learned to accept the dark with the light. Changing weather and the seasons help us understand the yin and the yang, the balance of life. Nature is beautiful by design and there is much to learn by accepting it. Winter is a time to go within, a time to reflect. Whether you celebrate Advent or another spiritual event, winter is most often seen as a time of darkness in anticipation of the light.
There are things you can do to fully embrace the winter. When I lived in Oregon, my neighbor told me that I must remember that the sun is still out there even if I could not see it; and, that it is important to get outside every day and look up at the sky. I heeded his advice and never stopped taking daily walks, albeit I had a good raincoat and umbrella. I learned about the artificial lights you can get to turn on in your home to help if you experience extreme sadness (they do a lot of the research on SAD - seasonal affective disorder - in the Pacific Northwest). And I learned the beauty of curling up with warm tea and a good book; or, meeting dear friends at Powel Bookstore (claimed to be the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world) for coffee and a good chat before we perused the bookshelves.
Most importantly, I learned to embrace the darkness. With my first pregnancy, my water broke Christmas morning. The next day, around 2:00 AM, my beautiful son Jackson arrived five weeks early. Exactly twenty-one and half years later on June 25 just about the same time he was born, he passed away. Although I now live with a chronic pain to a degree, I am deeply grateful for the transformation I am experiencing. As the dark days of this winter have set in, I allow myself to cry, to feel sad, and to be with it all. I also find that I am awake to the beauty of my time with him and to understanding that he is always with me. I fully embrace life with all that it has to offer. I am profoundly learning and growing from the darkness. And I am extremely grateful. More than ever I am very awake -awake to life, to death, to beauty, to not taking some things too seriously, to stepping away from fear, to not worrying about what people think, to loving on a deeper level, to living in the moment.
It is easy to stay asleep as so many people do when they incessantly pick up their phone or run to work or over-schedule or over-indulge in something/anything in order to avoid. However, each winter gives us a wonderful opportunity. It is a time of contrast, for us to see something new or different. Winter is not a time to go completely asleep - even the hibernating bear gets up each day and does a bit of wiggling of his body. Though it is mostly a time to be quiet and reflect. Winter and its darkness is a time to heal. It is a time to prepare you to wake up …on some level.
So this winter, perhaps you can…
· Get outside for a little bit each day and look up at the sky – the sun is there. Dress accordingly.
· Like the hibernating bear, take time each day to wiggle – to stretch.
· Allow yourself to be present to- and to feel all emotions – even sadness.
· Dial down more. Turn off the electronics, put the phone down. Go to bed earlier, sleep longer.
· Curl up with a good book.
· Indulge in some yummy teas or hot chocolate.
· Go to an interesting or fun movie.
· Meet a dear friend at your favorite coffee shop.
· Quietly soak in a warm Epsom salt bath.
· Say no to that social invite when you’d rather stay home and watch a good movie in your pajamas.
· Work at home in your bathrobe as your schedule allows.
· Shorten your “to do” list. Then shorten it some more.
· Slowly peel and eat those yummy winter citrus fruits packed with vitamin C.
· Practice gratitude. Take a few minutes at least once a week to stop, focus on, and breathe into 3 things you are very grateful for.
· Take more daily time to just sit and breathe.
· Take time to just be. If the just being brings up agitation or fear or sadness, don’t run from it. Through darkness, there is learning and growing. With darkness, there is also light.
Here in Tennessee, we are fortunate to have four distinct seasons. The cold days of winter will soon give way to beautiful flowers; and, it is quite lovely that our winters will have some intermittent days of abundant sunshine.
Wherever you are and however you choose to spend your winter, embrace all that it brings.
Sending you warm thoughts!
©AnneLloydWillett December 2018