This Yuletide season is looking bleak.
I mean, there’s still time for the universe to surprise me, for money to drop out of the sky, and a charming and beautiful single lady to come into my life, and so on…but let’s stick with the likely course of events here. (Even as we work magick towards the less likely outcomes. More on that to come.)
Fingers crossed and knock on wood, for me personally it probably won’t break the record for my own worst holiday season — that was 1990, when my grandfather died on Christmas Day. But it will be that awful, or even moreso, for many people.
And for most of the rest of us it’s not shaping up to be a happy holiday.
So what can we do when things suck?
Make Good Art
You may have seen or read Neil Gaiman’s brilliant 2012 commencement speech at the University of the Arts, where he advised:
When things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art. I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician — make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor — make good art. IRS on your trail — make good art. Cat exploded — make good art. Someone on the Internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before — make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, eventually time will take the sting away, and that doesn’t even matter. Do what only you can do best: Make good art. Make it on the bad days, make it on the good days, too.
Making art keeps our energy flowing, or gets it flowing when we are stuck. Even the simplest doodle or bit of doggerel or cover of a cheesy song creates something, shapes a small corner of spacetime into something more beautiful. As a Charles Bukowski poem put it, “it may not be much light but it beats the darkness”. So shine with whatever light you can.
Yule Applications: Make your art, be it painting or baking, as gifts. If you’re a performer, liven up those holiday Zoom get-togethers with your art. (Less pressure than an actual gathering!) Consider putting up holiday decorations as an artistic endeavor — even I, notorious bah-humbuger that I am, am buying new lights this year (which will stay up until Imbolc again).
Another way we can shine light out into the world is by helping others. It’s old advice backed up by modern psychological science: helping others is one of the best things are can do for our own well-being. Doing things for others literally helps us save our own lives, by combating the negative health effects of stress; it’s been shown to help reduce chronic pain and control blood pressure.
And when you help others, you are doing the work of the gods.
Yule Applications: It is the “season of giving”, after all. Rather than gifting some cheap piece of plastic out of a on-line catalog, is there something helpful you can do for someone else?
If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going
When things are hard like this, it saps our energy. It’s hard to get out of bed, hard to focus and get anything done, hard to move on.
But if we stop in a place where it’s hard to get going, then we get trapped. Physics tells us that “static friction” is a harder force to overcome than “dynamic friction.” We don’t have to move quickly, but we have to keep going. There is a magick to momentum, even small amounts.
Yule Applications: Do the holiday things. Participate in that on-line ritual. Join in that Zoom call. It might be hard to get started! But once you get moving you’ll be glad that you did. And if you’re planing on using the holiday downtime for some projects, do the little things. It’s better to pick a small job like catching up on laundry and actually get it done, than to plan to paint the house and not be able to get started — but the big projects will be easier when you have the small ones out of the way and have some momentum.