Yesterday marked winter solstice, the day with the least amount of natural light for the year.
I have grown to anticipate it, the build up of the earth tilting further and further away from the sun, reaching a pivotal moment, then starting to tilt back. A sigh of relief knowing the days will finally increase in light. I sometimes feel like the earth. I feel myself tilting away from light and entering a colder, more pessimistic world. Sometimes it happens knowingly, sometimes not. Either way, my perspective takes a hit and I feel an increase in sadness and depression.
It happened this month, as the days in December have chugged away. I found myself frustrated with this past year, at the slow-going process of changing habits and annoyed that for most things, there is no quick fix.
Not shopping this year was, at first, incredibly difficult and then slowly it got easy as I learned tips and lessons and grew in understanding of the power of consumerism. My comfort with my own skills grew and I began to rest upon my laurels, testing skills and pushing my limits. It got difficult again after that. I also learned that change was a trigger. I lost the safety of my routine and grappled to find footing, finding myself back in a cycle of comparison that only left me frustrated over what I felt was lacking.
To combat comparison and the intense desire of all the things we want (or think we want), I have learned to tilt back into the light that surrounds me.But to do this, we must be aware of what it feels like when we tilt away. When I feel myself lean away, a clouded mental coldness takes over. Envy reigns. Stubbornness hits an extreme. Murmuring becomes a constant buzz. Frankly, I annoy myself so much that I feel powerless to change anything.
“Why even try?!” I lament to my husband. I feel fruitless and stuck, and I know I will be as long as I hold my ground.
But just like the earth, in one day (one moment really) we can choose to tilt back. To consciously shift our mental weight into the light and decrease the excess noise.
For me this means: put the phone down, find a clutter free space, breathe and look around.
I become aware.
I see my boys, our rituals, our home. I take note of what is hurting us, careful to not place the weight of it on myself. I remind myself, as powerful and influential I am in their lives, there are other influences and forces. I take mental notes, I write them down, I ponder and ponder and I feel my mind brighten as I lean into positive family experiences.Reading books together, making cookies, art (so much art!), building towers, letting them run in circles chasing the dog and noticing the deep grins upon their face.
I readjust. They like art, so I order some better quality art supplies on Amazon and they do no disappoint. I declutter their playroom. I declutter it again. Then once more. I start to notice they head upstairs more easily at my suggestion. The room also stays cleaner.I see more and decide to limit screen time, noticing its strange power over my boys. I limit it more. Things keep improving and so I test out an impression I have been receiving for over a year. To limit except for movies together as a family.
I feel so so scared. Is this too extreme? Too crazy? But as I continue to study our home, our children, our family, it becomes clear this is exactly what is needed. After a week, creativity and imagination increase. Their comfort with boredom astonishes me. One afternoon I watch as Max lays on the bench, kicking his feet out behind him for a solid five minutes until his mind settled upon some idea and he wanders off to explore it. Sibling fights have diminished, as have fits and tantrums. The pattern became clear that this is far more beneficial for our family than the 30 minutes of peace (multiple times a day) that Netflix provided. Of course, it still needs some readjusting, especially with Daniel and the arrival of new baby, but the the light and warmth that floods our home in undeniable.Like the earth revolving around the sun, our lives rotate and tilt. There are times where survival through the cold fog can be our only focus and times where enough light illuminates our world that it allows us to intentionally find more. Seeking out fragments, noticing rays. Light upon light, we lean back towards the radiating sun.
We trudge through deep snow and we march up muddy mountains seeking clearer views. We seek out light through study, prayer and meditation; we feel our world thaw. We create light through love and service; a warm fire is built within our homes.
Once a year the earth tilts back towards the light, reminding us that we always have that choice.
Every single day.