All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.
Julian of Norwich
Tidings of comfort and joy
It is well known among my friends that I am not a fan of being outside when it is cold and dark. I can manage one or the other but the combination is enough to keep me home under a blanket either absorbed in a good book or glued to Netflix. I actually love being home and not having to venture far when the temperature plummets and darkness descends. I so want to hibernate until the sun and warmth coax me out in the spring.
In fact, there is something about this time of the year that draws me in and fills me with a sense of peace. For this time of year invites a pause and shift to more solitary pursuits before the frenzy of the holidays begins. The cold weather and grey days are the backdrop for a richer interior experience characterized by reflection and stillness and preparation. Ironically, it is a time that calls for quiet when we are pulled in every direction and frantically trying to get through the to do list.
Darkness has a negative connotation, often associated with fear. We talk about a dark night of the soul or dark days ahead. And indeed, this time of year can be profoundly difficult for many, evoking feelings of isolation and sadness, and calling to mind difficult memories. That is why Festivals of Light, familiar to many traditions (Diwali, Kwanzaa, Chanukah, and Advent for example) are so important in bringing us together and challenging the belief that we are alone. The light pushes through, as it begins to do so in late December, in challenge to the long, dark days. With awe, we witness the darkness recede.
Light in the midst of darkness imparts comfort and joy, manifested as a sense of hope and possibility and connection, something sorely needed in our world. This does not mean we will suddenly fall into the lap of luxury or that our problems will disappear. Comfort is taken from the Latin con forte, meaning “with strength”. Joy conveys a sense of inner contentment, the feeling that everything is and shall be well, despite appearances. The comfort that we offer or accept from others and the joy we experience makes it possible for each of us to shine. And when we shine, fear dissipates and the cold and dark no longer have a hold on us.
At this time of year I have to push myself to get from under the blanket and put the book aside. For as wonderful as my warm dwelling may be, I need to venture out into the cold and dark from time to time, as we all do. However, as we endure the cold dark days and yearn for hopes to be realized, may we shine and experience comfort and joy- a sense that all manner of things shall be well in our anticipation of the New Year ahead.