Facing the Christmas and Yule holiday season can be tough on very many of us. Loneliness is a serious issue that brings with it many detrimental effects on our psychological and physical well-being.
For many people, it began at Thanksgiving, the first of the big family holidays when pagans and especially members of the LGBTQIA community start feeling alone, cut off, unwanted and unwelcome. Many of us may feel like we don’t fit in because others don’t understand our beliefs, practices or even our identities. Solitary practitioners will likely be feeling it.
In fact, any person, of any diverse community, may be feeling some of those lonely feelings. There are many reasons why a person may feel marginalized. I’ve already mentioned one of these as being part of the LGBTQIA community. Other reasons may stem from being cut off geographically, having some form of illness or mobility challenge, being a senior person, or struggling with social anxiety. Some people may be unable to celebrate with others because of job and financial responsibilities. They might be positioned overseas or maybe there just isn’t the cash to afford to travel. These people all have one thing in common; they suffer from loneliness and feelings of separation from family and loved ones.
How does one normally cope with these feelings? These strategies often include watching television, streaming movies or hanging out on social media. The problem with this is that it’s almost impossible to turn on the tv or open up social media without seeing someone or something that reminds us why we feel lonely. So we need a better plan.
Being single for very many years, I went through these feelings myself. Every Valentines Day, I buried myself in my work, or I avoided being in public. I didn’t want to see people happy and enjoying each other because it made me feel inadequate. It took me years to develop a coping strategy. First, we need to understand why we are lonely. More often than not, there are other serious feelings at the root of this.
As of a 2010 study by NIMH, depression affects 9% of the US population occasionally, and anxiety affects 18.9%. Of these numbers, it is estimated only 36% of sufferers receive treatment. Underlying this lonely illness, you may find there are feelings of low self-esteem or self-worth, feelings of inadequacy, imperfection and even shame. Poor dietary choices can also increase anxiety and depression.
But some of us really like who and what we are? How come I’m still lonely?
This disturbance is still only a feeling, not a fact. There are usually a mix of causes involved, including psychological and biological. Most commonly found is a fear of rejection, either perceived or previously experienced that still lingers in our minds. For members of the LGBTQIA community, the rejection or fear of it is very real. Far too often, we get trapped in our heads hearing the same words of exclusion that are typical of phobic behavior and unfair judgment…. but we don’t have to let them ruin our moods. After all, we are pagans and many of us understand the concept of shielding. Imagine those words bouncing off your shield, or flowing past you and fading away. Picture that inner tape recorder growing smaller, its voice becoming more silent as the batteries in it run out of power. When we stop letting those negative comments get under our skin, we can give ourselves a fighting chance against the other lonely issues.
There are other ways to fight the emptiness. When we feel a void, we need to fill it with something we enjoy. Fill it with curiosity; start a new book, or a craft project. Go for a drive in a new part of town, head to the movies or out into nature, or try out a new club on www.meetup.com. Have you been wanting to study something? Check out online courses. You could even adopt a pet.
Have you ever considered volunteering? There are many people who appreciate a little kindness or a smile and focusing on others can help you stop focusing on your own feelings. The holidays can be stressful even if we are surrounded by people. Not everyone knows how to reach out when they feel sad, and there many others that are going through the same challenges. Reach out to the people you already know and strengthen your social network. Always remember, you don’t just find friends, you make them by reaching out to like-minded people whom you have something in common with.
For myself, I will doing some work with the Gods. The Hellenic path has some of the best deities for me to work with at this time of year. Over the next few weeks, I will be working with the Kharites, the goddesses of grace, beauty, joy, mirth and festivity. At the bottom of this, I have posted a brief invocation to them. I recommend lighting a candle, and as you invoke them, toast each one. It could be a favorite wine or just a mug of hot chocolate. Visualize each of the Graces doing what they symbolize, whether it is dancing or decorating with flowers, and imagine joy, that a feeling of “play” is filling up the lonely space inside.
One last thought, be gentle with yourself. No one is perfect, but we are all perfectly loveable and enjoyable. Always be kind to yourself, even if you aren’t ready to take a chance on others, you can still be present in your own sacred space. And remember that wall that others may have erected out of fear or misunderstanding? Paint it, bedazzle it, and hang a Yule wreath upon it. Your own music is still playing, don’t stop dancing.
I light this candle for all the Kharites,
For Grace and Joy and Festivity,
Who dance with Apollo and all his mousai,
For Euphrosyne, Thalia, and the Charis Kalleis,
May my heart fill with music, great food and happiness,
I invoke Pandasia, Paedia, and Pannykhis,
Garland my home in your sweet song and verse,
With flowers from Antheia and Euthymia’s mirth,
And when this holy candle has burned down to none,
May Pasithea grant me peaceful diversion,
And Peitho whisper pleasant words into my ears.