Is it any wonder that in December, the darkest month of all, we yearn for light? The physical reality of long nights and shortened days reverberates through us, affecting our emotional and spiritual states, as well.
"The midwinter holidays originate in pagan rites to seduce the sun back from the underworld," Judith Levine writes. How can we moderns, legacy writers, bring in that light?
Before we can experience the light, we need to reflect about or through the darkness. For each of us, that darkness connotes something different.
Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being. Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this inner light. (Dr. Albert Schweitzer)
Sometimes the darkness comes from outside. All of us capitulate to the distractions of our world and our times. The pressures from our culture to keep moving with ever-increasing speed and disregard for the past covers with dark the sweetness of our memories, our history, the meaningful moments in our relationships. It takes courage, intention and will to combat the power of that momentum, to pause to recover that light.
There are moments when I feel like giving up or giving in, but I soon rally again and do my duty as I see it: to keep the spark of life inside me ablaze. (Etty Hillesum, diarist, died in Auschwitz, 1943)
Sometimes the darkness comes from within. It may be "unfinished business" that keeps us filled with regret, sadness or fear. Or it may be old shame, or a family secret long held. Expressing it can lighten our psychic load, and it opens a path to the light. It takes courage and discipline to look straight on at that darkness to reclaim our light.
In her "Pocketful of Miracles," Joan Borysenko inspires us to that courage, suggesting that the time of darkness literally turns to an expansion of the light in December, helping each of us individually take on the task of transforming our own darkness to light.
December is the month in which all forces of nature are aligned to help us give birth to the light within. Midwinter has cast a spell over the land, and all of nature sleeps -- solstice, Hanukkah and Christmas beckon us to gather round and witness the birth of love within one another.
Suggestions for Action:
There are two directions to take your legacy writing toward the light. The first is sweet memories long forgotten in the pace of daily life. The second is about darkness imprisoned within. Write about either or both. Increase the light as you share your words with those you love.
There are two ways of spreading light -- to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. (Edith Wharton)
- Take yourself back in your memory to a time when you were very young. Recall a sweet event that includes an ancestor (parent or grandparent) that has been long forgotten. It may be a December holiday happening that connects you to him or her, or a value of theirs that still means something to you. Choose something that you want preserved and remembered because it adds light to your life and those you love.
- Take a deep breath and turn the light on some "unfinished business" that you've protected in the dark. Spend 15 to 30 minutes in free-form writing about it. Once you've written it into the light, you may experience some insight or a fresh perspective.
- You may choose to share the light you gleaned from either or both your reflections in a legacy letter. If not, enjoy the new light space within.
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle. (Walt Whitman)
May your reflections and writing add light in this season for you and those you love.
Rachael Freed has published several works, including "Women's Lives, Women's Legacies: Passing Your Beliefs and Blessings to Future Generations" and "Heartmates: A Guide for the Spouse and Family of the Heart Patient." She is currently working on "Harvesting the Wisdom of Our Lives: An Inter-generational Legacy Guide for Seniors and Their Families." A Senior Fellow at the University of Minnesota's Center for Spirituality and Healing, Rachael is a clinical social worker, adult educator and legacy consultant.