It is almost like midnight at 4:00pm these days. Even if the seconds of daylight increase after the solstice on December 21, the darkness is upon us, NOW. In the darkness, I’m looking for the light: the decorated houses with window lights that feel like Colonial Williamsburg, the Chevy Chase Christmas chaos, or a wreath on the door with a little light on it. It cheers me; it warms me; it makes the darkness more tolerable.
We find ourselves deep in the darkness of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has the feeling of darkness. Not the comfy-being-at-home-with-the-fireplace-slippers-and-dog-by-your-side darkness, but rather the darkness where you don’t know when the dawn is coming. Things are going bump in the night. The virus is infiltrating, finding its way into places where it was not. It has taken so much from us and continues to. It’s hard, scary, disconcerting, and exhausting.
For the left-brainers, we light up our living space to avoid injury and stay safe. We put our “high beams” on when necessary. We use the tools we have. If our power goes out, we prepare ahead of time so that the darkness doesn’t blindside us.
The right-brainers look for inner light. Finding sources of light that are not so easily seen, they find a flicker and make a flame. They think of the lamp from the Maccabees that had oil for one day and stayed lit for eight, or the Star of Bethlehem guiding the Magi.
If we merge these two perspectives, we can use the tools we readily have to protect ourselves and others from COVID. Though it sadly means we must restrict holiday festivities this year, we can still think creatively about what is safe, available, and pleases (even if just a little). We use extreme caution as we move through the next month, and we try to stay open to joy, even in the darkness.
We relish the warm cookie and tea in a way we may have taken for granted in the past. We linger outside a beautifully decorated home in the evening to fully absorb what it has for us. We hang up the cards that come in the mail and look into the eyes of the faces we see. We wonder how they are, how they cope, and their level of ease or difficulty in this time.
We become aware of more than we might otherwise. Everything has taken on more meaning. When we are raw, the cold is colder, the pain is worse, and the dark is darker. Yet, our heightened nervous systems can also mean that the lights might be brighter, the hot chocolate sweeter, and the music more soothing.
Even if the pandemic has not touched us personally, we carry the burden for others: healthcare workers, the sick and grieving, and the isolated and lonely. We grieve for our losses of separation from loved ones; we struggle with fear and anxiety about our safety and wellness. We see need all around us and may feel paralyzed to act.
In these times, we employ something called Extreme Self Care. We do our internal inventory, find out what needs tending to, make a plan, and then…we DO IT. Kindness, tenderness, and thoughtfulness have to begin at home. Like that song from the ’70s, “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” it needs to begin with me. And with you.
Take care of who you can, with what you have, when it is possible. Like the airlines tell us, you have to put your own oxygen mask on to help anyone else. Find the things that bring you joy, even a little bit. Fill your own stocking, and then contribute to those around you.
Even in the darkest sky, there are stars.