Hanukkah just ended. It's almost Winter Solstice. Then right after that it's Christmas. This all means shopping and trees on top of cars and references to religions and slews of holiday parties and too many cookies and more stamp designs than usual at the post office.
But what strikes me the most, and what these three holidays share, is the power of light. Remembering lights that miraculously burned longer than there was fuel for. Remembering that short, dark days will soon get longer. Remembering that a bright star led the way to a divine being in the most mundane setting. No matter what you believe, these holidays remind us of hope and light in the face of struggle and darkness.
And let's face it, this is the time of year we need to be reassured. Between the cold, the dark, the holiday pressures, and the excessive sugar consumption, I've been feeling a bit out of balance. I'm trying to enjoy the moment and get in the holiday spirit, so I've finally been doing a little more cooking. I had never made challah, but got inspired to make my first loaf when I went to a friend's Hanukkah dinner. I saw their cute baby, and we lit the menorah and they sang songs and we had a delicious meal in good company.Coconut Ganache Bourbon Balls, and some one else made an incredible Whiskey Chocolate Mousse.
It was actually the first time we've had a joint gathering with friends of all 4 of us roommates. People mixed and mingled, drank and ate, and we all had a great time. But other nights, things don't always go so well. I've wanted to go to Santarchy (organized pub crawl of people in Santa costumes) ever since I first heard about it last year. The day came, and I had no one to go with. Every one was busy or not interested or out of town, so being the independent and willful lady that I am, I decided to go alone. I went to a family dinner, and by the time I got downtown in costume it was toward the end of the event. But Santas were still around, so I went into the designated Pike Brewing Company sure that I would meet people to talk to.
I stood at the bar waiting to get a beer. And waited. And waited. It would have been fine if I were with friends, but being by yourself when every one else has been drinking since noon, and it's too crowded to get a drink after 15 minutes, just isn't a rockin' good time. Just then, one of my best friends who lives in Austin called. We've been playing phone tag and trying to talk for awhile, so of course I had to answer. I walked over to a stairwell away from the bar where it was a little quieter, and got engrossed in conversation. Life paths. Changing friendships. Love. Money. Passion and purpose and careers. We talked about everything as I sat there alone in that stairwell, dressed as Ms. Claus while groups of drunk Santas stumbled past. Yep, I drove all the way downtown, in costume, to talk on the phone.
At that point I wasn't interested in going back to the bar, so I headed to a friend's Holiday Party. It was a wonderful party as usual, but my heart wasn't really in it. I was tired of trying to do everything alone. I got disparaged for bringing my own beer ("Uh, you really brought store-bought beer to a party with homebrew?" *rolls eyes at me*). There was a solstice ritual by the fire, and I didn't even have it in me to sing along to the song. Not because it wasn't a great song, or great people coming together in a great way in community. But because it just wasn't MY community. The words from a David Whyte poem popped in my head, the last few lines from Sweet Darkness:
You must learn one thing:
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
Except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
Confinement of your aloneness
anything or any one
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
So I went home. I reflected on the good phone conversation and watched a movie and drank tea and that was just the Saturday night I wanted. I'm accepting the darkness, the introspection, the uncertainties. I'm also looking for my beacons. I'm being as honest as I can. I'm smiling at Christmas lights, the unspoken, collective lifting. I'm trying to shine whatever light of my own that I can manage.