Tomorrow is the winter solstice–the shortest day of the year. And it offers some great material about light, dark, and change. These are topics that really grab me. In the past, I wrote about the fact that I appreciate the solstice, because it marks the return of the light. Earlier this year, I wrote about how darkness allows light to shine more brightly.
Not only does darkness create a space for us to notice and appreciate light (as illness forces us to notice and appreciate health, and loss often reminds us of what is precious in life), the solstice is also an illustration of life’s forward motion. Each day after the solstice has just a bit more sunlight than the one before. The increase in light is so gradual from day to day that we don’t really notice it. Instead, in a month or two, we notice that the days are longer than they used to be.
This gradual lightening is a lot like the experience that we have as we are learning to cope with a new challenge or surviving a painful loss. In the beginning, the darkness of challenge seems to be all around us. All we can see, think about, or engage with is the fresh experience of our loss or struggle. Our focus is narrowed to just making it through each moment, or each day. And it is incredibly hard to imagine that it might ever be different.
But, gradually, we become more accustomed to living with this new reality. We are more skilled at navigating the daily hassles. Our darkness begins to lessen, often without our noticing. We learn that the darkness may have changed our outlook, or our abilities, but it didn’t turn us into someone different. We remain ourselves–even in the dark.
I don’t expect that you’ll jump up and welcome the pain, loss or challenge that you may be facing now. I do hope that you are able to remember that, whatever darkness you are in, it will begin to fade. Hang in there, reach for your good self-care tools, and the light will return, a bit at a time.