December 5, 2023

In case you can’t read the words on the image, it says: This is your reminder to stop stressing to “finish the year off strong.” You can finish it off grateful, relaxed, slowly, peacefully. The idea that we always need to “be doing” and “achieving” only creates cycles of anxiety. Rushing will not solve your problems. Rest will.

I poached the image from a friend’s Facebook news feed today. He’s a marvel of a human being, Papa to three rowdy (adorably so) boys, faithful spouse, keen political analyst, and a recovering alcoholic whose need to enter rehab and get clean surprised, nay shocked me, so high functioning was he. His daily affirmations often speak to me, and always make me grateful for his success in taking charge of his life before it was too late.

I was not in a good mental space this morning when I sat down for C&C (Coffee and Contemplation). My “to do” list from yesterday looked more like a “what I didn’t do” list (apart from getting a Holidailies piece published and sending an old flash piece to a practice group that exudes the stale air of a dead thumb drive but is unknown to those writers.)

Two cups of coffee and a meditation on Isaiah 11 (the one about the peaceable kingdom where we beat our swords into ploughshares and see the lion lie down with the lamb) later, I was no better.

I started preparing for a health care appointment. It’s that time of year when we look back over all our accomplishments (or not) and assess our movement toward our goals. Some version of “improving my health” has always been among my Six Goals of a Quality Life.  I made two columns, labeling them “Real Health Problems” and “Imaginary Problems.”

And I stopped, startled by my own imagery. I meant for “real” problems things that could be solved with some actual medical intervention — a pill, a potion, a procedure. “Imaginary” covered the sighing over loneliness, the whining over regret and loss and change, the self-dissatisfaction unto self-loathing that I let myself fall victim to. I’m just so sad, I heard myself say.

And then it hit me. I’m not sad, I have SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder. I’ve had it before, I’ll have it again. It’s not imaginary. It’s real.

At that moment, I dumped all the ambitious lists and goals I had assembled since resurrecting a goal-setting app I’d neglected (avoided) for ten months. I’d actually labeled it “Finish Strong!”

My Advent wreath is in place, but the creche is still in its crate beside the door where it’s been for at least three years. If it stays there one more year, or ten, so be it. I’m spending the next three weeks feeling grateful, reading Holidailies, calling up friends, upping the vitamin B and doing C&C in the glow of a full spectrum light (a device which I already have!).

And cherishing you, reading this, right now.

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