writer, speaker, founder, Gather Central
Posted: December 19, 2010
Well, there’s less than a week til Christmas — how’s everyone doing out there? The United States is Christmas-crazy, and whether you celebrate or not, it is impossible to escape the effects. Holiday music blares on the radio 24/7, the weather in much of the country is freezing, it is pitch black at 5 p.m., the malls are jam-packed with crazed people racing around, parking lots are jammed, budgets are tight and tempers short.
A friend of mine has an old family motto: “It isn’t Christmas until somebody cries.” So sad, but it is often true. We fill our minds with expectations of elevated family gatherings, anticipate receiving a special gift, become attached to how others will react to our gifts and anxiously try to create an idyllic atmosphere that often takes more energy, time and money than we have.
My friend and fellow blogger Dr. Cara Barker has been exploring the pain of the holiday season in her past two posts, reflecting on the deep pain of unresolved relationships, loss and suffering that the holiday season may bring. Dr. Judith Rich has been writing on releasing the addiction to Christmas consumerism, and the joy of the no-gifts ritual she has created with her family.
As a mother of four, I find this season to be incredibly stressful: getting to all the holiday concerts during work hours, bringing in canned goods, “adopting” a struggling family, baking for the firemen, buying teacher gifts (don’t forget the bus driver), racing to the mall to get the last of the Lego Power Miners before they sell out, agonizing over what to buy for a picky tween girl, remembering that the office party is tomorrow with no babysitters in sight, and groaning when the daily mail brings piles of amazing professional holiday cards of family perfection. So much is truly “inner suffering” of the mind, as the stress is self-created.
On a bright note, this Tuesday marks the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. The solstice represents a time for contemplation, lighting candles and rejoicing for the return of light. Auspiciously, the evening of the solstice is also marked by a full lunar eclipse, another great darkening and re-emergence of light.
The year 2010 has felt very dark for so many. The contrast of modern holiday mania with the soft beckoning of the solstice is palpable in my own body. I simultaneously feel the longing to sink into myself, yet I also feel sucked into the frantic pace of the season.