This is my winter's song.
This morning I finally lit my first fire of the season. I say finally because even though the firewood was delivered and stacked weeks ago, I wanted the first spark to be lit at the right moment, with reverence and a prayer for peace in a very dark season. So when I awoke at four o’clock this morning and it was clear the Sand Man had moved on to another casita, I stumbled into the kitchen, brewed some coffee and snuggled into the velvet sofa with my dog, Sir Whimsy Bacon.
It was then it dawned on me–dawn was at least two hours away and a fire would be perfect. So I found an old Christmas playlist on iTunes, arranged some logs in the shape of a teepee in my little kiva, stuffed some kindling and old wrapping paper beneath it, said a prayer and the match was lit.
The snap and crackling of the burning cedar seemed to keep time with my favorite Swedish carols. It was one of the coziest mornings I will always remember, and as Sir Whimsy began to softly snore, the playlist landed on Winter’s Song – a masterful offering with a bittersweet, yet hopeful reminder to keep love alive in the midst of darkness. Truly a gift to my weary soul.
We’re all aware of how difficult the holiday season can be on any given year. But this year? The election season was so toxic, taking an immeasurable toll on all of us. The hearts and minds of everyone I hold dear are heavy-laden with disbelief, anger and fear.
Where can our hearts go to find solace at a time like this?
I recently heard that grief arrives on our doorstep when the love we feel no longer has a place to land. What I love about this description is it honors the fact that in the midst of grief, our love may be missing its target, but it is still here. I think looking at it this way is a lifeline out of despair.
It’s interesting how “air” is found within the word despair–an emotion that seems to steal our breath away, leaving little space for the most uplifting of human emotions–hope. Despair originates from the Latin, despero. De, which means down from, combines with sperare, to hope.
Before discovering this, I thought of despair as hope’s opposite, but upon further contemplation of its latin roots I no longer view despair as something that complete knocks me off my feet. No, it’s simply a fall from which I have the power to get up from. Words are important and to keep hope alive, we must choose them wisely. Whether you’ve lost all hope, or just part of it, the power is within each of us to recover from deep losses.
Whether you’ve lost all hope or just part of it, the power is within each of us to recover from deep losses.
I know, because I’m learning to carry my own grief gracefully–something I now understand is a lifelong process.
Just over a year ago, I was hit by two bulldozer losses within days of each other. What ensued were months of anguish. It has been a completely non-linear path, winding in and out of the woods, leading me both up and back down the hillsides of hope & despair.
When that bulldozer suddenly slams into your house, sending all your plates and silverware jolting off the table, there’s no telling where your heart might land. My teacup went spinning and hit deep grief first, then bounced into anger, followed by blame, then self-blame, followed by glimmers of acceptance. There were many respites of fresh, hopeful air here and there, but something would wake up my grief and trigger the whole excruciating sequence all over again.
This is because sudden loss is a shock to the system with numerous aftershocks that ripple forward. Learning to ride the waves of this ripple effect, including learning to love myself again, has been my primary task moving forward.
One thing I know for sure coming out of this experience is that deep grief requires deep self-care. Although I had wonderful friends who surrounded me with generous and loving support as well as a pile of client work to help maintain my focus, there is no replacement for parenting one’s own heart back to the surface again–an act that takes both time and courage but yields strength and wisdom.
So here I float, a work in progress, emerging from the most painful year of my life with the task of making sense of, and responding as a force for good to a divided nation in crisis. At a time when the rights and safety of so many in our country are at stake, I know many feel we cannot afford to sit on our heels and must act quickly.
But I see things differently–we must be the first responders to our own hearts.
If the news reports of the Trump’s newest antics are pulling you into destructive anxiety and anger, take a break. We cannot afford to allow despair to lay waste to our energy and personal power. To keep your love alive, run toward your pain like it’s a screaming infant. Give yourself time to grieve and befriend toxic emotions before they drag you down. The last thing our country needs is even more unacknowledged, stuffed-down emotions.
We cannot afford to allow despair to lay waste to our energy and personal power.
The circumstances of the present moment are calling us to step into our power, but jumping in to “fix” things before we’ve had time to assess what we truly need can actually make us part of the problem. The world needs a strong compassionate response fueled by wise inquiry, not emotionally charged reactivity.
For this reason, I am choosing to pause and hold the door ajar for hope to rise on tiny feathers. A dear friend and client, Nancy Seibel, has started The Department of Hope, a place for people who quest for a wiser way forward. The people I’ve gathered with are gently showing up online to discuss what hope is, what it isn’t, and discover ways we can take action and nurture hope within our communities. Writing this article is a part of my Quest to bring this medicine to myself and the people around me.
“May this serve awakening.”
A problem cannot be fixed if it’s lurking beneath the surface and I hope this dark night brings us to a place where we can see our problems clearly. My most passionate hope is that all of the chaos, devision and hatred will ultimately serve us. “May this serve awakening,” became my mantra six months ago and there’s no stopping me now.
Hope may have tiny feathers, but its wings are strong.
And now I’ll circle back around to where I started. Below are some of the lyrics from Winter’s Song, which inspired this offering. I invite you to imagine your heart had written this song to be sung to yourself, inviting you to come back to a place where love is alive and you can trust yourself.
This is my winter song to you.
The storm is coming soon,
It rolls in from the sea.
My voice a beakon in the night
My words will be your light,
To carry you to me.
Is love alive? Is love alive? Is love…
This is my winter song.
December never felt so wrong,
cause you’re not where you belong;
inside my arms.
Go gently during these uncertain days, my friends. Allow your hearts to gently call you back to a place of love. May this time serve to awaken us to care for ourselves and others more deeply and take wise action when needed. May we learn to carry our grief with grace, planting seeds of hope in the fields of despair.
What song will you sing to awaken love this winter?
This offering is in response to Jeffrey Davis’ Quest 2017, an annual gathering of business artists committed to doing business as unusual in 2017. Being a part of the Quest brings new visionaries into my line of focus. Dacher Ketner is one of them and his prompt, which I invite you to consider as well, is provided below.
In your work life, your personal life, and in your community, how will you use power as a force for good, and empower those around you in specific acts that make up your day? ~ Dacher Ketner
Click here to watch his TedX Talk on Compassion.
Creative Director, Susan J. Preston, began freelancing as a web designer in Washington, DC in 1996. Her presentation design has appeared in animations, webinars and presentations for Microsoft, The Pew Foundation, iovation, Eli Lilly and The Discovery Channel. Since 2010 she has resided in Santa Fe & Taos, New Mexico, creating websites for creative professionals and entrepreneurs with a focus on clear and effective visual communication which clearly communicates and inspires audience engagement.