When You Find Yourself Alone on the Solstice

Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon  by Caspar David Friedrich, 1824.

Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon by Caspar David Friedrich, 1824.

Every now and then we receive an opportunity to remind ourselves that we can be our own best companions. That we can be alone without being lonely. I found myself home alone on the eve of the darkest day of the year. Unexpectedly so. My husband was away at flight school, and my son made last minute plans to spend the night with his grandmother.

For me, the unexpected gift of alone-time is a welcome opportunity to cast aside the chores of daily life and prioritize time for writing. And what better time to reflect than the Winter Solstice?

I welcomed the day’s abundance of yin energy as a perfect means to gain perspective and clarity, and decided to give my current writing project a good edit. I set an intention for discernment, turned off my phone and settled in my comfy leather recliner. Fingers on keyboard, kickin’ back, with the cream colored toes of my fluffy socks peeking up over my laptop screen. Ah yes, this was gonna be good.

My goal was to lean in to my story and listen to my characters, allowing them to remind me of what was most important to them. But nothing happened. No insights, no clarity, no revelations or reassurance. Instead I had an overwhelming sense that my writing project was a piece of sh*t and I should probably just delete the whole d*amn thing.

How’s that for a fine how-do-ya-do? And that was just for starters. My inner critic was clearly revving up, and all I could do was hang on for the ride.

Her voice was so persistent I finally had to give in. “Ok, Ms. Negativity, since you’re obviously not going to let me do what I want to do, what exactly do you have in mind?” And she replied in our mind-talk, “It’s my turn. It’s my time to speak.”

So I surrendered. I opened a new blank file in GoogleDocs and let her have at it. Type it out, baby! Let’s see what you’ve got!

After a few sentences it became clear that Ms. Negativity wasn’t my inner critic after all, and my writing project wasn’t her main concern. She had a much bigger beef and even more determination. She was on a tirade about, well, pretty much everything. Her words raged through my fingertips and cast mean, hateful dispersions on everything from the price of an avocado, to the imposed isolation of the digital age, to the amplified transgressions of dear ones.

Bubbling black splatter, black and blacker, her words were like sewage seeping out through my keyboard.

I wasn’t sure I could contain her much longer, and got up for a snack to break the tension. But she kept casting her net to keep me close. Even while puttering around the kitchen, her diatribe continued in my head. Now who was containing whom?  And whose voice was this anyway?

Hers was the kind of voice we walk away from. Or even run. Bitter and unrelenting. I too was tempted shut her out, but because it was the Solstice, I chose to lean in to her dark energy instead. Her deluge continued and pretty soon the world looked very bleak indeed.

Still with her, I decided to go to a yoga class with hopes of purging the toxicity of her words. It hurts to hold bitter thoughts! On my way, driving, I felt my chest growing tighter and decided to lean in to that feeling too. Focusing my breath on the tightness, suddenly the pressure on my chest gave way. And with its release, I found myself sobbing with surprise at how very heavy it had been. I didn’t know how heavy it was until it was gone. And with those tears, the raging inner voice of my Solstice companion was transformed into the voice of sorrow.

Or had she been the voice of sorrow all along?

Our yoga class moved through several restorative poses and then it was time to find balance.  As a beginner, my balance poses are often unstable, but I planted both feet for tree pose and shifted my weight to the left. “Listen to your body and breathe,” our teacher said. “It’s Ok to wobble. When you look closely at a tree you’ll see it’s in motion all the time.” As I directed my breath through my grounded foot deep into the earth below, I lifted my right foot to my calf. Our teacher suggested, “and maybe you open your chest and lift your arms to the sky.” So I took another full-body breath and transformed into a conduit of energy between ground and sky. Tears were flowing again, but this time they were gentle tears.

With a soft gaze and open heart, I came to understand that these were the tears of loneliness. Beneath the rage of my Solstice companion, and beneath her sorrow, was a profound sense of isolation.

I held my pose for six more breaths and wobbled with her in loneliness. And soon it became less unpleasant, less like the loneliness of isolation, and more like the loneliness of loss. For my Solstice companion was in fact the voice of human spirit, and she was mourning the loss of connection.

The Human Spirit is the part of us that has an intimate connection with Mother Earth, the Holy Spirit, and each other. But her connections had been severed too many times. Not just by me, but by humanity. She had called out to us in her gentle voice so often but we hadn’t paid attention.

So on this day, the darkest day of the year, she had “raged, raged against the dying of the light.” Dylan Thomas wrote those words about death, and I believe the Human Spirit was here on the Solstice to demonstrate that death is also a state of mind and a state of soul.

When it comes down to it we are all like trees wobbling in the darkness, rooting ourselves for the promise of returning light. So my Solstice companion took solace when solace was offered.

I’ve always tried to avoid leaning in to difficult emotions, but this year I finally had the strength to hang in there. Through the rage, through the sorrow, to the unexpected source of disconnection.

We can fix this, individually and collectively. And if we can lean in to unpleasantness often enough, and have patience enough to ride out the storm, I believe we will reconnect with the Human Spirit that longs to guide us. And she, in gratitude, will reconnect us with heaven and earth. For though she is nothing more than a sense or a feeling, she is also nothing less than our completion. She is the arbiter of integration.