This time of year can take on a frenetic energy that can wear the most positive among us down to a weary sigh of humanity. We all know the drill: everyone is frantic, people everywhere urge us to be jolly, conversations revolve around presents, the endless lists of things to do, and parties. When all we want to do is stay under the covers and await January.
There are many articles out there, proclaiming what to do: self-care, say no, set boundaries, make a plan, don’t overspend. But when the world feels so overwhelming, lists may not help. If you need professional help, I urge you to get it. Lots of family trauma bubbles up this time of year, so therapy should be your your priority. That journey is worthwhile, and I wish you much clarity.
If therapy is not on your horizon, and you feel the general malaise many of us can feel, then read on. I feel your pain deeply. Many of us have conflicted feelings about the holidays themselves, and we want to retreat from the world. I have often felt that myself. While that is definitely an option, I urge you to also take it back down to the basics. Ground and shield yourself if you are not doing so. Make sure you rest and are hydrated.
Then, take stock of your spirituality, and your magic practice. Think ahead to what you want in the new year, and focus on the aspects of that. Begin gathering your supplies. Is your altar a bit dusty? Clear it all off and begin again. Book of Shadows sort of empty? Decide what you want to put into it, or start a new one. Haven’t worked with the full moon for a while? Plan for some workings that evening.
For me, I go back to my center. I’ve begun this practice of when feeling overwhelmed, listing my three priorities. Three is a magical number (maiden, mother, crone, the triple goddess, the triple moon) and it can be anything from mundane (a good cup of coffee, a bath, doing some reading) to the people in my life. I light candles, because candles soothe me. Candles have become the holidays for me, no matter what size, color or quantity. Gazing at a flame takes me out of my monkey brain, and mesmerizes me. It’s a mini mental vacation. I stock up on hot chocolate with mini marshmallows, get a new pair (or several) of cozy socks, and take way more baths than I usually do. I also enjoy listening to the blues this month, more than I regularly do (go figure), and the sadder holiday songs actually have a peaceful effect on me (try River by Joni Mitchell, and the version by Robert Downey, Jr. It is achingly beautiful).
My mornings also become a ground zero for me. I am not a morning person, so you can imagine the effort it takes. Yet, it helps. I ground and center, hydrate, savor my morning coffee, and…pause. I have learned the power of the pause, especially lately. I found myself doing everything speedily, in a hurry, responding to people, emails and events immediately. Finding myself irritated and annoyed, I took it back to the basics: I am pausing, taking a deep breath, and giving myself some time to process before I respond. It helped create space in my days. The frenzy recedes.
Lately, I have been remembering a Christmas from years past. My family had just moved to New York City, and we were all crowded in a tenement apartment. I don’t remember a whole lot of those early days, since I was only five. I know my mom was worried about money quite a bit, and talked about it a lot, which in turn worried me. Want to know what my earliest memory of that time was? How my family got together and, because we couldn’t afford a Christmas tree, decorated the top of our massive television console, and made the table lamp on it a pseudo tree, with garland, a few ornaments, and tinsel. Around it were a few miniatures of animals and snowy covered trees, a few little elves, and mini Santas. They did for me, so I wouldn’t be disappointed about Christmas. I still remember how I felt when I first saw it (they covered my eyes, led me into the room, and then I beheld the splendor). Now, when I find myself feeling overwhelmed, I go back to that moment. What made me happy? It wasn’t presents (I have no idea what I got that year, if anything). It was the magic, and the memory of my family doing something nice for me. It has become my go-to happy place this time of year. If you have a memory or magical moment like that, return to it, and let it be your talisman this month.
If you are not feeling Yule this year, don’t feel badly about it. If you can’t find something to comfort you this month, look ahead to the new year. If you feel sad, know that it’s okay. This month is not for everyone, yet it’s just a month. A month like the other eleven. Do your workings, or take a break. Comfort yourself the best way you know how, and know that you are not alone. Many of us are feeling the same way, so reach out to friends and chosen family, light a candle, and savor the quiet you can carve out in a day. Remember our ancestors, and the simplicity of their Decembers. May it be so for you.