Light in the Dark

The darkest time of year is upon us. There are no shortcuts through it, or through the dark places within. Yet spots of joy light the path, to keep us from wandering in dark circles:

  • A bright yellow flower, or a rose bush’s gift of an out-of-season blossom;
    A smile, a hearty handshake;
    The clear sweet notes of a migrating bird’s song;
    Laughter, and music;
    An unassuming bush, resplendent in its robe of colored lights;
    Taking time to listen to someone’s story, and realizing their challenges are greater than mine;
    Remembering my cat in his fragile old age, and receiving from him a vision of his youth, “Mr. Teeth & Claws”;
    Asking for help, and being willing to receive it;
    Remembering the white tip of my dog’s curled tail reflecting the moonlight: “Just follow me,” she’d say, “I know the way”;
    Waking throughout the longest night to see the flickering light of a pillar candle on the porch rail, a beacon of hope in the dark;
    Missing my opossum friend and remembering the tilt of his head as he took an offered smelt from my fingers, both of us mindful of his spikey teeth;
    The smell of cinnamon and vanilla;
    The laughter of children, and the sight of their heads bowed together in collaborative effort over a game;
    Doing something – the more mundane the better – for someone else;
    Watching brown leaves fall from a tree, and feeling reassured that new leaf buds wait to emerge from those knobby branches.

Everything cycles. Yes, from time to time the cycle brings us to a place that’s difficult. Holiday pressures, not enough sunlight, and remembered grief can do that. It’s like a labyrinth – when walking the circuit that appears closest to the center there’s still a long way to go, and the part near the outside edge that appears farthest from the center is really only a couple of turns away from it.

It can be easy to focus on the things that are going wrong, and lose sight of how much is going right.

Here’s a simple exercise:

Draw a line from top to bottom, down the center of a sheet of lined paper. On one side, make a list of all the challenges and things you feel are going wrong. On the other side, make a list of all the things that are going right. Remember to include “waking up alive this morning” on the benefits side, as well as those gifts we take for granted until we don’t have them any more. There aren’t any shortcuts through the dark times, just the certainty that the path will take us to the other side and into the light again. Just keep breathing and placing one foot in front of the other. And look for those spots of joy that light the path.

What spots of joy light your path?

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