What we’re being asked to accept in Winter 2020 as a temporary normal may be closer to the natural rhythm of the seasons than we have ever wanted to acknowledge, accept or conform to. The pandemic is forcing us to re-think this Winter.
Our challenge is to accept it, to rise to the need for communal safety, and search for a way forward through it. I used to live in Kansas, and think of the state motto: Ad Astra Per Aspera: “To the Stars Through Difficulties.” It comes to mind frequently now.
For many, Winter is usually a time of celebrations, family gatherings and festivities, starting with Thanksgiving, marching through Hanukah and Christmas and ending with New Year’s Day or maybe even Valentine’s Day. But 2020 has presented us with a radically different agenda. The pandemic is raging, and health officials are asking us not to travel, not to gather in groups, to stay home and stay safe. Businesses are being asked or being forced to close. Some of us are following the pandemic safety guidelines, but many are not. We find ourselves at a new level of crisis, and the entire country is suffering in body, mind and spirit.
I have a confession: even as I write this, I’m struggling with my own Winter pandemic dilemma. I have not seen my daughter since January; she’s in medical school back East. The Christmas break may be her last vacation for several more intense years. Although she is tested weekly (and has been negative all the while), she doesn’t want to bring the virus to us. And we don’t want to risk her becoming ill from two long flights and two major airports. I’m heartbroken at the thought of not seeing her and being together. I have other friends who are suffering through the same dilemma of wanting to see their grown children but also mindful of the safety guidelines and risks. None of us want to make the decision just yet, holding out hope that we can still see our children.
Survival is one of the key concepts for Winter, the Water element. It represents our Will to survive, our will to endure, to hang on. The pandemic is forcing many of us to confront our ability to survive the challenges to our stability: our health and safety, family connections and traditions, work and business, the safety of first responders and essential workers, all levels of education, and the loss of pleasures of a social society.
The pandemic is forcing us to curtail the holiday bustle, and perhaps push us towards what some might consider a more “natural” cycle of retreat, withdrawl, and stillness that is more in keeping with the natural world. Doing this, we are told, will help us survive this crisis. One of the many challenges will be our ability to accept it, to ground ourselves psycho-emotionally and prepare to see it through for the next several months.
Winter is the time after the crops have been harvested, flowers are long past blooming, animals are hibernating and Nature seems to have pressed pause. The work now is quiet, internal, underground, in slumber and retreat. This pause is to prepare for spring, when now-dormant plants and seeds will come to fruit and flower, when baby animals will be born, when nature awakes again. And, we hope, the virus will be on the retreat.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll explore more aspects of Winter, and the element of Water.
If the stress of the holidays is becoming too great to bear, then please do not try to bear it alone. Reach out to your trusted confidants, your therapist, or please reach out to me. Sometimes just expressing the burden can begin to lighten it. I can also make some suggestions that will help you cope with the holidays; let’s talk about what’s right for you.
Christmas Tree: Image by Simon Matzinger from Pixabay. Starry Sky: Image by David Mark from Pixabay.