Darkness as a tool for self-acceptance

“The darkness is so dark, “a friend said. “ And we haven’t even eaten dinner yet. I feel like a bear. I just want to hibernate in bed with a good book.”

As autumn dances with winter it is easy to catch some of the darkness and hold on to it. When the sun disappears, the leaves fall, and we are left with the starkness of bare branches and chilled air, it’s not uncommon to feel rather bleak ourselves. A certain energy is shifting away, including the vitamin D that we’ve been absorbing all summer.

And whether you just want to fall into bed with a good story, or have other strategies, each of us finds ways to cope with this annual navigating of the darkness. Additionally we are marching toward the holidays, which adds an extra dimension to this time of year. Expectations of joy and family-filled celebratory activity are all around us. These expectations can be overwhelming for some of us — “shoulds” for how we celebrate often run rampant. Norman Rockwell illustrations, Hallmark Holiday movies and Christmas carols in stores and malls seem like unobtainable images  for many. This combination of winter darkness, bleak landscapes, and holiday expectations result in a variety of responses and ways of coping.

Some just like to jump into the fray — decorating, parties and shopping. It can be a time for carrying on of family traditions — cookie making, caroling, decorating a tree, lighting candles, telling of stories and providing a certain special recipe of “cheer.”

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There are those who use this time as an opportunity to escape to a warmer climate or a favorite retreat, having a legitimate reason to avoid becoming embroiled in seasonal activities.

Still others, (and my father resided here), choose to make a production out of “Bah Humbug,” and adopt this demeanor for the duration of the season. In his case he seemed to make an art of disappearing when packages were being exchanged or a holiday meal or event was imminent. Appealing to his “team spirit” was fruitless. We just realized that this was something Dad did, perhaps avoiding some of his own childhood holiday memories … and trying to deny that this annual event was occurring.

Some find the spiritual significance that carries them through this time, creating the meaning that elevates them. Others merely tolerate what they perceive as a  “blatant and hyped-up” time of consumerism. Still others choose to inhabit a screen or book for the duration.

There is no right or wrong way to navigate this time of year. Regardless of what feelings may arise during December, it is important to honestly acknowledge them. Often the simple act of doing so allows for a less intense response. Communicating our individual needs to those close to us will help ensure a more harmonious journey through this dark time of year, and beyond, as we shift towards a time of more light. In sharing these needs, we can help avoid any “blindsiding” and unwanted surprises from those close to us.

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Whether we embrace this dark time of year with celebration, or go within to find our own light, any response we have IS NORMAL. The most important tool we have, in order to navigate this time of year is self-acceptance … understanding who we are, what we need and relaxing into our true nature. In this way, we not only navigate our own journey, but give others permission to accept their own.