I always look forward to the winter solstice. Living with chronic depression is harder when I don’t see the sun because it’s dark when I drive to work and dark when I drive home from work. But once again, we have made it through the longest night of the year, which doesn’t necessarily have any connection with the dark night of the soul. Solstice slipped by me with barely a nod to my pagan sisters.
In my home, we celebrated Christmas with gifts, be they thoughtful, silly, useful or desired; and food answering the emotional longings of different people around the table. Roasted turkey for one, pearl onions for another, stuffing (in and out of the bird). (Mea culpa, I forgot the mashed potatoes! But at least I didn’t have to blow the rolls out this year!) We spoke of those not able to be with us in person, lifting up their health and hearts with a promise to bring some Christmas to them when they are ready to receive it. We honored those who will never be with us in person again, with tears and laughter and happy memories.
When no one else was around, I honored Hanukkah. Singing the phrases along with my “Bare Naked for the Holidays” album. Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tsivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah. (.ברוך אתה יי, אלוהינו מלך העולם, אשר קידשנו במצוותיו, וציוונו להדליק נר של חנוכה). How lucky are we to be able to celebrate a light in the dark.
This year has seemed to be full of “the dark” more than I remember in past years recently. Probably because of the politics here in the good ol’ US of A and interpersonal politics at my day job. I have spent untold hours listening to people hurting from unkind words, unjust rules and justice repealed. I confessed to friends that I “scroll past” their political posts on social media, because I just can’t look at another ranting meme. The faces of my friends superimposed over the actions of this president wound me more than an insulting joke or picture can heal. (Although sometimes a band of chipmunks playing a snazzy jazz tune or a cute kitten video helps.)
And then there are the floods and fires. And no, they were not caused by g-d’s wrath towards the LBGTQ movement, thank you very much. I was reminded of a fire 24 years ago: I was 8 months pregnant and helped friends shovel debris off of the foundation of their house. Inviting them to share Christmas with us, co-mingling traditions again. And I am reminded again of why we celebrate.
We celebrate the love we share with one another. The little things like a smile passing in the hall, the big things like taking care of someone after surgery. Of unexpected gifts, and heart-full hugs. Our presence in hearing some one’s aching story of betrayal. The joy in a healthy birth or the colorblind man seeing true colors for the first time.
These are our candles in the dark, lighting the way when we might otherwise be overwhelmed by daily noise and strife. If you are with me when we turn the calendar page to 2019, we’ll play some silly games, light some more candles, sing Auld Lang Syne, and share our mitzvos. Because we all need more light and love.
So just as the physical nights are getting shorter now, may your dark nights of the soul be relieved by the love you give and receive. Blessings abound!