Let’s be honest: sometimes the holidays are shit. Or sometimes bits of the holidays are shit. Or sometimes complete years are shit and the holidays just happen to be part of that. Or that sometimes people are shit at the holidays. Or sometimes our depression or anxiety or dread or grief or lack of Vitamin D show up to the holidays, uninvited. Or that we can’t be with someone we love or care for or yearn for at the holidays. Or that we feel like our heart is rubble at the holidays. And it’s just kinda…shit.
Because it’s true. Life is just like that sometimes.
And if you’re feeling that the holidays, or parts of them, are kinda shit this year, I want you know that I’m here, in complete compassion and understanding.
Because I have been there, too.
The tough years of the Sex Surge.
The wanting but not having.
The disrupted relationships.
The grief of loss- of those both living and dead.
The pain of change, even when we know it’s for the best.
The fear of what is to come.
The blues for just being an aging adult.
The weighing of choices in my heart.
Wishing things could last longer than they did.
Confusion, sadness, and melancholy.
Every year I write a post about the value of accepting and acknowledging these feelings. (It’s a re-post from 2015, shown below.) I know that we are supposed to be happy and connected and joyful at the holidays, but the truth is that human life contains a variety of emotions and experiences, and some of them are difficult emotions and experiences and they even show up at the holidays.
And it’s okay to feel those things at the holidays. I actually suggest you make space and time to really feel them. Because feeling them is what helps the feelings move through, and moving through them is the only way out of them. I believe this is part of what can make holidays into holy days– the acknowledgement of the sacred dark within us.
I recommend that you set aside a special night for this ritual- it truly doesn’t matter what day you do it (I am sending this a week before Solstice so you can plan if you want to). But I think it’s incredibly valuable to sit in the dark, the dark of the year, the dark of our heart, and let the grace of feeling find us. And in the grace of feeling our feelings and letting the dust settle within our hearts, may we find some peace.
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The house was dark, but warm.
They’d all gone to bed.
I stayed up- finished the dishes, put the laundry away, and tidied.
I moved slowly and felt my whole body move with each task.
I made a cup of tea to wind down.
I turned on the tree lights, but kept the room dark.
Pulled a few pillows together and made myself comfy as I sat.
I put on the playlist.
And I cried.
I let the small, weepy noises escape my mouth.
Felt the big, warm tears well at my eyelids.
And let them slip down my cheeks.
No Kleenex. This was (and is) a winter ritual of letting go.
Letting go is a messy affair, and I respect the mess- it is necessary.
I let the tears fall and my make-up drown and I do not reach for anything.
This is my time with myself.
I let the feelings of loss fill my chest.
I think about words I should have said, or not said.
Unfulfilled wishes (some repeatedly).
Boundaries I did not want to make, but had to (for safety and sanity).
I grieve for what I really won’t get back.
During the Surge years, I spent three of these rituals crying for what I so deeply wanted but knew I couldn’t have. Laugh-crying for stupid things I’d done. Letting myself feel the desire and the connection – fully, so fully I thought I would break – and then letting it go. Letting it go again…again…
I give myself this night, this ritual, every year.
Because it’s easier to feel the melancholy just now.
To find the dark and, instead of running, to be held by it.
I give myself this ritual because sometimes a woman needs the dark and the quiet so deeply and desperately. The dark and the quiet nourish us better than food, sometimes.
I give myself this ritual so that I can honestly wear my joy. If my grief sits atop my joy, well…everyone knows it, don’t they? An authentic woman cannot really hide- those who love her, feel her.
I give myself this ritual so that I can see – as kindly as possible – what I’ve done and where I’ve travelled, and what remains to be held and loved and healed.
I give myself this ritual because sometimes the holidays are a mess. Overwhelm and family expectations and budgets and travel feel like so much paper + tape + cardboard at my feet. It is okay to sit amongst the mess, exhausted, and cry.
I give myself this ritual because I need it.
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I don’t know if you need the dark, or a place to cry during the holidays. But if you do- take it. Find a safe, quiet space. Light a candle, put on the lights, make the darkness such that you can feel held by it. Find music if you like (I wrote my own list below). And let your feelings have the space they need to finally be released, to find their way out of your head + heart + body and out into the night.
Winter Solstice is a great time to do this ritual. But any other night that feels right works, too. I pretty much just wait for the feeling and do it then – different day every year.
We easily forget that this dark time of year is exactly the season for letting go. The next year will arrive soon, and this letting go makes space within us for what wants to grow and guide us.
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:|:|: Holiday Ritual PlayList :|:|:
‘River’ / Sarah McLachlan / Wintersong
‘Wintersong’ / Sarah McLachlan / Wintersong
[This song, composed from the words Sarah McLachlan’s father spoke about his wife’s passing and what he missed, always, always make me weep. If I need to cry, I think of those I miss, imagining them happy on Christmas morning, and the tears roll forth.]
‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’ / Sarah McLachlan / Wintersong
‘Song for a Winter’s Night’ / Sarah McLachlan / Wintersong
‘Glasgow Love Theme’ / Love Actually soundtrack
‘White Christmas’ / Otis Redding / Love Actually soundtrack
‘Prayer of St. Francis’ / Sarah McLachlan / Rarities, B-Sides, and Other Stuff, Vol. 2
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If you’re struggling with this aspect of the holidays, at all, and especially if you’re in the middle of the Sex Surge and struggling with relationships (affairs, FFs, divorces, etc.) please reach out. Try a 20-minute free call for starters. And let me help you clear away some of the weight and darkness.