Ending 2017 With Joy
OK, everyone. Christmas is just behind us. Although it’s supposed to be a holiday filled with joy, giving, and cozy evenings playing checkers with family and friends, sipping hot cocoa around the hearth, we all know that it usually falls short. My family still feels the loss of my Dad most achingly at this time of year, especially my Mom. Christmas just isn’t the same without him, even after 12 years.. Still, I’m a die-hard romantic with the heart of a child. I love Christmas music, decorating the house and tree, finding gifts for the people I love, wrapping them up in pretty paper and bows, baking goodies, and cooking the feast on the Big Day. I believe in “Peace on Earth and Goodwill Toward All”—and I always have, even when times are dark.
And for sure, I can’t do everything alone. I need a lot of help. But I’ve had this crap rheumatoid disease for so long now that I’ve learned my limits well. I’m grateful for my family and friends who help me out, and I consciously look for joy in everything we do together. I believe that being humble with grace takes just as much toughness as doing it all alone. I’m sure it takes more courage.
Solstice falls during the holiday season as well. This year, it was on Thursday, December 21st at 11:28 a.m. EST in the U.S. Solstice is the shortest day and longest night of the year. The ancients celebrated it as the sun’s rebirth and as a time for the natural world to rest before the ribald fecundity of the spring. It gets quite chilly around here by then, particularly at night, and the temperature frequently drops into the low 30s and sometimes even below freezing. Here in Central Valley of California (if we’re lucky and the drought really has ended), the rainy season should start in earnest by then. I love it, but I must admit it ramps my RD joint pain up these days. And of course, sometimes the dreary, overcast weather, coupled with pain and fatigue, are just a little bit hard to put up with.
But there’s an upside to the Solstice, too. Once it comes and goes—that one, auspicious 24-hour-period—every single day gets a tiny bit longer, each night just a wee bit shorter. Sure, it’s just a minute or so at first. But In just a few astonishingly short months, I’ll be back to grousing about the scorching, relentless California sunshine and the almost never-ending Left-Coast summer, which starts around here in late March. For those of you who must wait somewhat longer, I’ll give you free previews of your summer-to-come!
Now’s a good time to start thinking about New Year’s Resolutions, too, if you’re the type that likes to make them. I don’t. I’ve accepted that I’ll probably not be able to keep them, and I just don’t need any more reasons to beat myself up than I’ve already got.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t set some generally hopeful and forward-looking goals for myself. For instance, I want to eat better—I’ve a lot of serious reasons to do that, these days, and keeping my weight under control is just one of them. I want to get more light, daily exercise. I want to spend a little more time out in my community being sociable, maybe doing some weekly volunteer work or taking a local art class now and then. I’d like to try some local day hikes I’ve heard about. I want to see my daughter more often. Maybe I’ll even offer to walk my neighbor’s dog during the days. The poor, lonely pup howls mournfully while they’re at work. It could use some cheering up, and since I love dogs, I’d be killing two birds with one stone! Dog-time and regular exercise!
Watching for the Gifts
Gonna mention that mindfulness thing one last time for 2017, too. The world’s gifts aren’t as showy as they are earlier in the year, but they’re particularly precious in December. A few to look for: how dawn looks on clear, crystal cold mornings; the patterns of bare tree branches against the winter sky; rain gurgling in the downspouts and drumming on the roof; the soft shhhh of falling snow, and the deep quiet that follows each snowstorm; the jewel-like colors of the traffic lights on wet winter streets, and the exhilarating sting of wind-driven rain against your cheek. There is always something simple and beautiful just waiting in the world to distract you from physical or mental pain, even if it’s just for a moment. There’s always something to see or experience that’s just a sudden “look at that!” away from a cleansing moment of grace, one that can change your whole mood—or even your life.
Here’s wishing everyone a lovely holiday and a joyous 2018.