Turn on the Lights

I have a couple book reviews pending and an urban fantasy novel to finish, but I have something of a compulsion to write this post today. Maybe it’s because in my neighborhood the wind over the melting snow has that raw, damp feel that makes it even colder. Maybe it’s because true to November form, heavy clouds and leafless trees make everything seem just grey and dim. It is definitely in part because Covid is spiking in my state, resulting in my inability to see at least two of my closest friends for the next two weeks, and we are discussing having a Zoom Thanksgiving in my immediate family. We are well into the darkest time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere (happy early summer, you Aussies!), and with all the extra stress it seems darker than normal.

But also this week, Diwali celebrations all over the world (but especially in India, of course) made the news. The timing this year makes Diwali really the first of the various celebrations of light for the winter solstice. And so I’d like to remind everyone (including myself) that there seems to be a universal human fear, deep down in our lizard brains, about this downward slide into the longest night, but we have, in EVERY culture since humans started telling stories around campfires, ways to combat the darkness and convince the sun to come back up on on the solstice. A scant few:

  • Christmas
  • Hanukkah
  • St. Lucia’s day in Norway, Sweden, and parts of Finland.
  • Shab-e Yalda in Iran
  • Winter Solstice/Yule in many pagan and non-pagan cultures
  • Dongzhi Festival in China
  • so many more I could do multiple posts just on Winter/Solstice celebrations…which isn’t actually the point of THIS post…

There’s a lot of awful going on right now: politics has divided us, we’re all fucking sick and tired of being separated from our social things, Covid is on the rise and people are being stupid about masks and spreading it. I know people who’ve been unemployed since March. Homeschooling is taking a serious toll on parents, and statistically women are leaving the workforce at a higher rate than men because of it (oh let me tell you how much THAT stat pisses me right off, but that’s also another post). Snow and cold came early and seems to be sticking around, which isn’t necessarily a negative but can contribute to feelings of isolation and loneliness. We are in the middle of the darkest season in so many ways, and I know it’s taking a toll on everyone in my circles.

But it’s not the end, and everything will get better. EVERYTHING is a cycle, and remember that just as the light will come back to our days, practical things will also get better. Because they always do, if you just hang on. I say this as a person who, a year ago, found out that I had to have chemo after all, even though I’d just had a lumpectomy and had been assured I was done after a couple weeks of radiation. It gets better.

Normally, I’m a bit of a “DUDE keep your Christmas lights and decorations to your damn self until after Thanksgiving, one holiday at a time” scrooge. But this year I say BRING ON ALL THE LIGHTY THINGS. Burn your fancy candles (carefully, duh). Put up your decorations for whatever winter festival you celebrate asap. Bake things that make your house smell cozy and delicious. Fill your life with as much light, warmth, and comfort you can cram in, because we all need it right now. NONE of this season has to be perfect, so just do what you can to feel hopeful.

And remember: Scandinavians are used to the longest, coldest, shittiest winters out there, and what did they traditionally do? Hunker down inside with food and fires and tell stories to keep the fear and loneliness away.

Binge your shows without guilt. Eat excellent food. Play video/board/card games. Read books. Watch movies. Color. Have sex. Take baths. Make blanket forts. Make snow forts. Go sledding, or skiing, or snowshoeing. Get outside at least once a day if you can, even if it’s just for five minutes of cold fresh air. Feed the birds in your yard. Exercise a bit, in whatever way makes you happy. Blast your music ’til it shakes the windows and sing along. Dance in your living room with your kids. Or your significant other. Or your dog. Or just dance for the pure joy of it alone (my dogs don’t dance with me and last time I tried fAngus threatened to eat my eyes, so I dance happily alone). Deliver something Covid safe to a neighbor (ie store-bought cookies and wine) or a friend. Have zoom happy hours.

Curse this whole fucked up situation as much as you need to. Scream into a pillow, or out in the woods (maybe not where people can hear?) and let out the rage and pain so you can take deep breaths again and keep going. All over the world, people fight to keep the darkness at bay until the light returns. You can do this.

This is going to be a weird, fucked up, lonely holiday season for many people. Reach out to each other. Be kind to each other.

Keep the lights on.

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