It has been a rough month, y’all.
I’d forgotten how demoralizing looking for work can be. I’ve been sending out résumés nonstop and applying for positions left and right, and I keep finding jobs at which I’d excel but are just out of reach: Like, I’m missing one minor but deal-breaking skill, or I’d be required to relocate out of state. Or the job is perfect and I’m 100% qualified, but the description is like, “We don’t offer insurance, and in lieu of paychecks, we compensate our valued employees with all the grout they can eat.”
I did file for unemployment, which resulted in a call from the State Workforce Commission over a “pending issue.” I’d mentioned on my application that I’d been let go from my last job because of my performance: The Commission reached out to my previous employer for clarification, and they were like, “HE’S A DEMON FROM HELL” (I’m paraphrasing), so things got tied up until an amorphous someone or other made an arbitrary judgment on whether or not I deserved a consolation pittance.
It’s a bit of a dark time. And I’m pretty sure no one would fault me if I just curled up in the shadows, because it honestly feels like the sun’s not coming back.
Which is why I’m looking for bees.
It’s a weird segue, I know. But hear me out.
We tend to think of bees as belonging to Spring and Summer, but the Winter Solstice actually marks the official start of bee season. Shortly after the Solstice, worker bees wake up and start warming their hive, which encourages the queen to start laying eggs. By the time the first warm day of the year hits, the hive is fully populated and ready to swarm.
There’s been research into how the bees know when to awaken, but nothing has been proven conclusively — the most workable theory is that the shift in light as the days start getting longer triggers them into activity. Regardless of why, before any plants bud, or even before the frost clears, bees are already busy preparing for the upcoming dawn.
Sometimes I picture this in terms of prehistory. Imagine yourself in the extreme distant past: Nights are cold and endless, food is scarce, and survival is not guaranteed. Maybe the sun will return and make things better, but maybe it’s gone for good this time. Imagine huddling around a weak fire, doing your best to ward off your demise, but also wondering how long it will be before the freezing dark claims you too.
And now on the blackest night, imagine seeing a bee. A tiny creature that your brain associates with warmth and daytime. Imagine seeing two, then three. Feel your heart beat a little faster as you hear the growing hum of a nearby hive. If the bees — sparky little beasts that thrive in flowers and fruits — are coming back in the dead of winter, then the sun can’t be too far away.
On Wednesday, my unemployment benefits were approved. That was a bee. I’ve got family offering to help me stay on my feet, and I have a light stream of cash trickling in from side projects. Those are both bees.
Yesterday, in the midst of some truly banal community hoo-hah, a few of the Misfits sniffed the air and were like, “Nobody’s heard from Thumper lately; we should reach out and check on him.” That was a handful of bees. And on January 30, I will have nine and a half years of continuous sobriety. That is a radiant bee of legendary proportions with a tankard of citrus and honey-infused club soda.
Writing an eloquent and professional cover letter for an amazing job, and then, after hitting “send,” realizing that I’d said how excited I was about the opportunity to work for the website where the job was posted instead of the actual company doing the hiring? Not so much a bee. But I probably gave a stressed-out HR person a fortifying giggle, so at least it was an entertaining bumble.
Plus there are more bees on the way.
This coming Tuesday (December 21), the Spirituality Project and Soulstice are hosting an online meditation event. Participation is simple: On the evening of the Solstice, light a candle, and take a quiet moment to connect with your Higher Power (or God, Gods, Patron, Matron, or Theytron). Individually, it’ll just be me sitting by myself in my living room with the lights out and a candle on my coffee table, but on a grander scale, I’ll know that people across the globe are doing the same thing I am.
And even before the sun makes it back, the world will have gotten a little brighter. And there’s a lot of comfort and reassurance in that. We’ll all have an easier time finding our way, and the darkness will have passed before we know it.
Let me know if you join in on the Soulstice event, if only to remind me that I’m never as alone as I like to pretend I am.
And in the meantime, if you find yourself feeling lost or helpless, keep an eye out for bees of your own. They will buzz out of the gloom when you least expect them. And the sun will be right behind them.
There’s going to be days when you don’t want to be here anymore. You just STAY. You fucking stay. Somewhere out there, somebody needs your voice. I promise. I swear to God, your laughter is someone’s saving grace. Hold on tight, baby. The sun is coming for you. –Erin Van Vuren