Love, Loneliness, Longing & Mistletoe.
Reclaiming our hearts and holidays after prolonged isolation.
What is it about these darkening days that brings so much of our humanity surging to the surface?
This weird window in time between Samhain (Halloween) and Winter Solstice (Christmas) is a full spectrum smorgasbord of feelings for many people. Summer and Autumn have passed us by. Winter is upon us. Light strands delicately dangle from rooftops and trees, gracing windows and street lamps with their twinkle.
Here in my quiet, little mountain town we have just had the annual Christmas Stroll, a parade in which Santa rides his sleigh down main street lighting what we fondly call the “spiders”. They are a set of huge, sparkly, eight-legged, blue, red, green, and gold ornaments that decorate the intersections of our main street. They’re simultaneously festive and nostalgic. I can remember seeing them every year since I was a child when visiting what was then (to me) the booming metropolis of Bozeman. Well, it seems any little city is a booming metropolis when you grow up in the country.
Country Christmas’ had their charms. Not so many lights. No carolers. Maybe a few coyotes yipping in the distance. But every year we would go out and get a real tree; sometimes from the forest, sometimes from a lot. It would shed pine needles all over the floor and smell like the glorious outdoors. We’d pop it up and drape it with lights, tinsel and baubles, homemade ornaments, and a vintage elf that had been around forever. There were community get togethers, family dinners, and presents piled under the tree. Then there are other less than pleasant things to remember, too. In the winter of 92-93 our house burned down—right after Christmas—and the whole community rallied to care for my family.
Here in Bozeman, along with the Christmas stroll, we also have a yearly performance of the Nutcracker, holiday art walks, bazaars, and markets. The “spiders” dangled all through the holiday pandemic season of the last three years, whereas the other events are only now making a full comeback. Last year I attended the Nutcracker and masks were still mandatory. The year before all those events were simply “shut down”. And this year bars are bustling, tickets are selling, there’s nowhere to park downtown. People are bundled up and bustling about. In a word, things seem to be returning to “normal”.
However, according to Whoopi Goldberg:
“Normal is nothing more than a cycle on a washing machine.”
That cat (above) is clearly not “normal”, but what actually is?
One of the things that we, as humans, tend to struggle with is the idea of “going back”. Women want their body back to what it was pre-pregnancy. Old timers reminisce about the “good ole days”. And we, as a society, long for what life was like pre-pandemic.
There is no going back.
The only thing we can actually do for something we have lost or even something that has changed is remember, honor, and grieve. And in some instances, we can tend to the ashes until the flames of resurrection can rekindle and catch fire.
We have lost much in the last few years. We have lost friends, family, jobs, homes, relationships, and more…so much more. We have—as a society—lost a sense of self and security. As it turns out, we are still susceptible to widespread illness, and we are equally as susceptible to widespread panic and disinformation. We are not nearly as “united” as many of us once believed ourselves to be, and we are far less capable of “holding” disparaging opinions than is actively good for us.
We are far more fragile than we knew, and we are far more resilient than we have yet figured out.
It’s remarkable what people can endure and still go on living. We who have had loss, violence, drama, trauma, and instability as formative experiences in our lives, know that bodies and minds can endure unspeakable pain, and still hearts will go on beating. Our collective heart is still beating, but the body—as any body will be after prolonged stress and illness—is tired.
How do we not only befriend our loneliness, but reclaim what has been lost or taken from us? It is a tender and complex process. If we act as if nothing happened, then we may miss lessons that we would benefit from their integration. We may also find ourselves engaging in compartmentalization—mentally, emotionally, and physically—and that does not promote long-term wellbeing.
We must first acknowledge a loss if we wish to heal from it; be that the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship or job, or three years of holidays and get-togethers that (to put mildly) have been put on hold, or to say with more intensity, have been stolen from us.
We are coming out of a hostage-type situation and the restrictions that have been put on us (maybe even more so than the illness itself) have reshaped the face of society. The masks are off for most of us. Smiles are tentatively returning. People are shaking hands, gathering, and hugging. This is not only what the holidays are about—this is what life is about!
We are social creatures. We need each other. We need face-to-face interaction. We need touch. We need care, communication, community, friendship, and family. Yes, we will always need to “befriend” our loneliness (as they say in Buddhism), but we also need friends!
One of the things that social media tends to do is to create the false sense of “tribe” that is centralized around shared opinions and values. And though there is merit to this kind of interaction—that is not how family or real life works. By no means am I saying that we should subject ourselves to abusive dynamics with family or friends, but a little bit of “rub” is par for the course anytime humans share spaces with each other or attempt to engage in intimacy. A little bit of discomfort, disagreement, and difference of opinion is good for our growth—mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
If we are going to begin the process of mending the social tears that have occurred over the last few years in isolation, we are going to need to be able to “befriend” the feeling of discomfort. We have gotten too used to hanging in our houses alone, to shopping online, to ordering food right to our doors, to not having to engage in anything that is “outside of our bubble”. A certain level of comfort with loneliness needs to be faced and then shed if we are going to hope to find companions again.
And we are going to need to put aside the need to be right.
Regardless of what stance we may have held during the pandemic, we are all trying to put our lives back together. At this point I think we can safely say that no one has a complete or accurate picture of what has occurred over the last few years. Something that at least most of us can agree on, however, is that we have all suffered. One of the key questions that we need to be asking ourselves as we move forward is:
Would you rather be right or would you rather heal?
Healing is not just physical. There are some instances in which a body simply cannot repair itself. Then death comes to call either right on time or what we would say is far ahead of its time. In those instances a soul and mind may heal in ways that a body cannot. Our bodies have been through so much and our hearts and minds, too.
As Christmas, Solstice, Kwanza, Hanukkah, and all the other time-honored means of celebrating the dance between light and darkness wrap their arms around us, it is time for us to ask ourselves:
“Who do we want to be? What matters now? Where are we going? When are we going to take the next step? (whatever that may be for each of us). How do we honor what we have lost?
When it comes to honoring what, as well as those who are no longer with us, might I suggest we light a candle, raise a glass, shed a tear, and seek the comfort of fire friends.
As for the rest of those questions, I cannot answer them for you; only you can look into your heart to reveal what is right for you. Personally, I hope you eat food that warms your belly with people who feed your heart. I hope you make new friends in unusual places and bond over something unexpected. I hope that any disagreements that you may wander into wind up leading to deeper understanding. And I hope that the gifts you are yearning to give, receive, and share make their way under your trees.
I, myself, simply hope to wind up stretched up on my toes under a parcel of mistletoe, staring into the eyes and meeting the lips of someone who matters.
Image: Dayne Topkin
For more information about my healing/intuitive/creative services please visit www.bedheadmystic.com
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I love everything about this Justice. And thank you for this gift to us.
“ I hope you make new friends in unusual places and bond over something unexpected.” Your writing always leaves space for heartfelt musings and wondering ...esp during a season of deep memories and longings for my heart present self of imaginings what I want to do next that matters most . Merry mistletoe to you !:) stretch tall !!