I’ve had a feeling for weeks now that I needed to slow down in December. This is the opposite of what everything around me is calling (yelling, even.) At the beginning of last month, I distinctly heard a voice say “you’re going to need to slow down. You need to make space. Leave some room at the edges. Allow for silence and stillness.” I listened, as I’ve learned to do, and began the process of saying no to many of the good things this month has to offer. The options in December are endless: parties, festivals, work events, so many ways to spend time and money. When I listened I felt an immediate rush of peace, like a deep belly sigh of release. Yes. This is the solution for my annual anxiety, for the feelings of not doing enough or being enough: stop hustling and live the holiday messages of light and joy.
And then I forgot. The other voices around me got louder. I didn’t mean to ignore my instincts; I just set them down for a few minutes which turned into days. I fell back into ways of being which mirror the culture around me instead of my own, wise heart. I thought maybe I could do both. I let the calendar fill and vowed to make it all work. I listened to bell-like tones offering me promotion, status, success sooner instead of later. I told my heart to stop freaking out. I wished my heart spoke in a language as sparkly as the others. And then, on the last weekend of November, my body demanded in no uncertain terms that I stop. Stop, listen, and remember.
The holiday season for me holds both great beauty and great pain. Since I became a mother I have loved the anticipation and magic with which my children approach all things mysterious and wonderful and it’s been incredibly cathartic and blissful to follow their lead and welcome with wide arms the season of Santa and Hanukkah. We’ve created soulful traditions around Advent and Solstice. This is the good part. The other part is hard. Some of the hardest things I experienced as a child occurred in December. My birthday, which sits squarely in the middle of the month, is more likely to be spent by me in nervous anticipation of what my family of origin will do, than in happiness and celebration. I’ve only known four Christmases in which some family member’s instability or addictions haven’t been the main memory afterward. It’s the difficult part of the holidays which can trigger for me the need to rush and move and hustle. I don’t want to slow down and remember the scary stuff. I want to keep moving until the season is over and I also want to be present for all the new beauty that is my current life. The fight between both instincts often lands me in bed, bronchitis or debilitating anxiety doing away with all of my plans, both peaceful and chaotic.
When I heard my heart ask for a slower season this year, I initially responded in the affirmative because yes, I want more peace. I can always use more opportunities to savor the simple goodness of friendships and sharing meals, books read by a warm fire, the way the tree looks twinkling against the windows. I changed my answer, though, because I also struggle with feeling like I’ve lost so much time. So many years were spent in situations, relationships, and religion which overshadowed or stole the joy from holidays and birthdays. I want the happy bustle and rush of a movie stereotype holiday. I’m getting older and I want to feel like I’m creating something better and brighter than past years. I want to feel the shimmer of gladness in my soul and for once, I want to not have to fight so damn hard for it. It’s easy for me to feel like time is rushing forward and there’s so much to fit in and I can’t possibly stop.
What is your heart saying to you this time of year? What are you longing for? What joy and sadness are clamoring for your attention? The holiday season, while filled with more than ever to do, may actually be the very time our bodies ask for more rest and less doing. At various points in menopause we require more rest and downtime than we’ve ever needed before. We are traveling from one life experience to another and there’s a lot to process and feel. The integration of our bodies, memories, and soul is slow, precious work. There are more adventures ahead of us and it’s imperative that we’re rested for the journey. We’re also processing our experiences and beliefs in new ways. What may have felt joyful in years past may no longer fill us with peace. You might be struggling, like I’ve been, with the feeling of losing time.
Have you ever turned a silver sequin over? The underside is dark. Have you ever held a pinch of beautiful gold glitter in your palm? The edges are sharp. And so it is with our lives and hearts. We are each marriages of shadow and light. We are three-dimensional beings living three-dimensional stories, bravely attempting to reach for the goodness and sparkle of joy while feeling always aware of the weight of our hearts and memories. We’re entering a season full of voices clamoring for our attention. It’s hard not to get caught up in all that we should be doing. It’s not always popular at parties to mention that we’d like to leave a little room for sadness this year, too, or that we’re skipping the big event for an evening spent cozily at home.
Shimmer and Sparkle is our theme this month because it beautifully describes another aspect of our vivid lives. We enter this season full of desire and fear, caught between our longings for bright and festive and our need for stillness and rest. My deepest wish for all of us this month is that we can allow space for a wider range of feelings and being. I want to make peace with my memories and anxiety and not feel like a failure for what I can’t do. I want to lean into the happy, sparkly moments and not minimize them because they aren’t as grand as someone else’s. I want to worry less about how much time I’ve been given and allow my heart to take the lead. Does this resonate with you, too? Let’s spin our shadowed places and our joyful glow into a shimmer all our own.