by Angela Clark
Ah the holidays, they have arrived. And for many of us this time of year can be both joyful and sad; “Bittersweet,” I believe, is how one person put it.
What could bring us joy? Getting together with friends and family. Seeing the lights lit up around the city. Giving gifts, receiving gifts. Holiday sales, charity classes. Bundling up and getting cozy with a loved one.
What could make us sad? Single again for the holidays. The clear acknowledgement of our losses – breakups, moves, deaths. Seeing there are still people on the streets, freezing and starving. Acknowledging another year has passed us by.
This time of year there always seems to be more attempts at reflection. More time to pause and be grateful for the things we have; acknowledgment of the sadness for our losses, not just as individuals but as a community and society as a whole. How can we cope with it all? With the overwhelming emotions that may rise up and hit us out of the blue? How can we hold both the beauty and bitterness of what it means to be human and live in this world?
What we need, we already have. True, it doesn’t always seem like that, but trusting in our amazing ability to love is what we need. Along with a few tools to help us when times are challenging, like a yoga practice, running, biking, meditation, or knitting. Anything that allows you to find more space in the conceptual mind can help support the wave of emotions that the year’s end brings.
The truth of the matter is that we are all alone, and yet, we are not separate from one another. Only I know what I feel and what I experience; only you know what you feel and what you experience. And yet we are not the first people to feel sad, alone, joyful, and compassionate; others have had the same feelings and experiences. We feel sad when someone we love is in pain, compassionate for someone who is experiencing a loss that we too have felt. We also get excited when something good happens to someone we love or who we feel deserves it. We are not separate from each other and remembering that is so very crucial if we want to leave things better than we found them. It’s also what helps us to hold both the bitterness and sweetness that we experience in the same space at the same time.
Because we have experienced a ‘pain’ – be it loneliness, sadness or some other ‘pain’ – we can have compassion for others we know (and don’t know) who are experiencing the same ‘pain.’ And that compassion rises from a place of knowing and caring – and that exists within you. Same goes for the experience of joy and happiness, because we have experienced how that feels when we see someone else experiencing these emotions, we can smile for them and even perhaps “catch” that infectious joy.
The trick is to give ourselves some time and space and have compassion for ourselves when these feelings do not arise spontaneously or immediately. Because, like the saying goes, this too shall pass.