powerful moments in education
Not that November doesn’t become progressively dark, but December contains the final descent, into the darkness of the Winter Solstice. On a tired, post Thanksgiving Monday morning, my students entered, some with expressions that told me they were unsure they could take on the day. Some with tears. My focus for Morning Meeting flew out the window and we began to chat about this time span between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and all it entails- emotionally. They are 9, by the way.
The conversation was this: “Why do people get sad in December?” Some shouted out, in disbelief, “But it’s Christmas!?! How can that be sad?” Hands began to shoot up. “Some people are alone.” “My mom misses my dad [who passed a few years back] this time of year.” “It just seems like it is never light out!” “We invite my aunt over all the time ’cause it’s just her and her cats.” “This year’s gonna be hard because grampa just died.” The compassion and realization that each student shared, or gained, over those 10 minutes was priceless. We talk so much about the joy of the season, and need to remember that for some? That joy is a needle in a haystack.
I particularly struggle with the darkness, and ignore it as long as possible. However, once December One hits, I know the wall of ignorance begins to crumble away. Every year, though, I think I get better at anticipating emotional disaster, and have the strength to battle the urge to crawl under blanket and hide. Other years, I stubbornly take the information and stuff it somewhere- definitely a “who-cares-I-want-to-grump” move.
So this year, these are my efforts to get me to December 21st. The best day-the day where darkness is thwarted and light prevails. Isn’t that the intended focus for a holiday season, regardless of religion? For Christians, the idea that a baby provides a moment of peace in the middle of the night? A promise for the people? Metaphors are helpful, and maybe you might be able to try a few, to take the focus off of the darkness and into the light.
In no particular order:
1. Purchase and decorate Christmas tree before December 1st. (check). Place on timer so the light surprises you when you are preparing dinner, and then tells you when it is time to go to bed. If you have missed the boat on this, it’s still early.
2. Light candles. In the morning, at night, in the bathroom, in the bedroom, in the kitchen….once a day, many times a day, when you wake up- heck you could even light one, look at it, and just blow it out. At least you know it can always be re-lit.
3. Capture the sunlight whenever possible. I do not have mid-day recess duty this year, thus omitting my daily dose, so any day possible, I will take my students outside- to read a poem, discuss a book, share writing…it will happen.
4. Run. Run down the driveway and back, run 1 mile, run 10 miles. Whatever, just run. Be alive within reach of the sun, even if it is 4:00 and and the rays are slipping behind the trees….
5. Put music on immediately upon return home. Getting home in the dark, feeling a disassociation with the time…well, it can throw you under a blanket fast. Put music on immediately and bring the life into the room. Then grab the blanket.
6. Do Bikram Yoga, sauna, massage, something hot. Treat yourself. I can be found in a stinky sweaty humid hot Bikram studio all winter long, pretending I am in a tropical location, while a slice of my brain is freaking out that maybe I cannot breathe…
7. Enter into times of worship according to your religious focus. This prevents you from constantly looking at yourself and saying “poor me” and creates an opportunity to look outward and celebrate life.
8. Give yourself permission to come home from work every once in awhile and do nothing. Avoid dishes, classes, laundry, even appropriate dinner prep. However, allow yourself the opposite-get yourself out of the house for a reason other than work at least a couple times that week.
9. Be warm and cuddle. Cuddle with a pet, with a blanket, with a significant other, with a friend. Cuddle.
10. Be mindful to take one day at a time, but without counting. The Winter Solstice will be here in no time and then we head towards the best holiday ever- NEW YEARS!
You can find it.