The Longest Nights

 

It’s Winter Solstice season.  The time when darkness blankets our hemisphere.  Snow covers the bare branches of trees.  The natural world is still.  We humans bring greenery into our homes.  We light up our lives with candles and string lights and warming foods and music that evokes happy memories of family and togetherness.  We gather to rejoice the celebrations that have evolved from this time of darkness and our deep human need for connection and hope.  We seek comfort and love for the long months ahead.

Winter Solstice was our holiday.  Two secularists having come from Christmas families, we made the holiday our own.  In Madison we hosted warm, welcoming potlucks for our community of friends and brought our nearby loved ones even closer in recognition of the longest night.  Each year we would gather in a circle before beginning dinner to hand out candles and fill our little apartment with the warm glow of firelight.  We would share our joys of the year past and our hopes for the year future.  It was a beautiful, life affirming ritual that Tim and I treasured.  It meant something to us.

As the Solstice draws closer, I am struggling.  This whole month has been a challenge and this week I am feeling the darkness in my entire being.  Just functioning feels like a challenge.  I am struggling to be the mother that I want to be.  I am struggling to just be.  I am missing Tim with ever aching piece of my being and caught in a spiral pained nostalgia.

For that life we had.  Just last year.

For that love I had.  That love I will never have again.

I am growing tired of the sadness.  The constant grief feels thick and sticky, clinging to my being, waxy, oily, stubborn stains.

I’m exhausted.

 

I try to power through.  I roll out butter cookie dough for the babies to cut into stars and snowmen.  I find small thrills in the Amazon boxes that arrive with special gifts have have chosen for my children and parents.  Byron excitedly decorates the house with stray ribbons and gift bags taped to the walls and cabinets.  I put on Christmas music and sing Rudolph over and over again forever, just to make them smile.

 

The thing that Tim and I loved about celebrating the Winter Solstice, was celebrating the return of the light.  The longest night would pass, and we would know that from that point forward, each day would bring a bit more sunlight.  The winter would lie ahead with the promise of the Spring that followed.

Because it’s all temporary.  The darkness.  The winter.  Our lives.

It’s all a constant and even cycle driving through time and space that we cannot control.  That controls us.

We can’t escape the darkness.  It’s there.

So we light candles.  And sing songs.  And bake butter cookies after eating half the dough.

So I try to trust that I might see a metaphorical Spring again.

Because it will return.

The flowers and buds and smell of earth will return to the natural world.  And maybe it will return to my life one day too.

And I want to be able to feel it when it does.

 

So for now, I shroud myself in winter.  I feel the darkness.  I let it in.

 

I’m lighting a candle for you, Tim.

 

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