I’ve been doing deep work this Fall becoming okay with being single in my 30s.
I’ve been re-framing what gives my life meaning and what belongingness and family mean to me.
I’ve been putting more faith in the non-romantic relationships that sustain me, the communities that support me and the projects, values and spiritual practices that make my life rich and vibrant.
I’ve been challenging the binary of singleness vs. in a relationship and radically reclaiming the significance of all my relationships.
It’s been hard work, and it’s been awesome.
But now that it’s Christmas, I’m struggling.
l’m in a period of my life where I do not have a family of my own, at least not in the conventional sense. I’m too old to go home to my parents and upkeep the same traditions of my childhood and I’ve got no children of my own to pass these traditions on to.
For all the work I’ve done to undo the story that “I’m alone,” everywhere I turn this season I am confronting that same narrative again and again.
And I know I’m not the only one.
Christmas can trigger people’s loneliness more than any other season. We can find ourselves isolated and alienated in our existential angst by all the parties, glitter and good cheer. The season can trigger a feeling of being naked without a life partner or kids of our own to re-create the holiday rituals we may long for. It can trigger feelings of being abandoned by our communities or families, or maybe feel that we never even had communities to begin with.
In fact, it’s surprisingly common for us to feel deeply, profoundly alone in a season that keeps insisting we be festive, joyous, and together.
But this is not, in fact, a season of good cheer. It’s the season of darkness. And that’s the way it is supposed to be. At least for those of us in the northern hemisphere.
The winter solstice is the narrowest, most barren time of the year. The tradition of filling this season with festivals of light is ancient and spans many cultures, because we yearn so deeply to reclaim our light. The earth is at its darkest, most barren—trees are bare-branched and much of life has moved into hibernation. Things can only get brighter from here.
Many of us are sitting in our own darkness.
We may be tired, frustrated, burnt out from a difficult year or desperately ready for some kind of change. It makes sense. Our light, like the earth’s light, on our side of the world, is low.
Seasons in our lives, in harmony with the seasons around us, are drawing to a kind of closure. Things that were working before, aren’t working now. Maybe it’s a relationship, or a project, or a routine that was life-giving before, but now seems to have lost its spark.
Flames have burnt down, and new kindling is needed. A new year is around the corner. We know what we have to let go, but don’t always know what will take its place.
Now is the time for lighting candles in our souls, in our homes, in the corners of our hearts. The old fires have died, and new fires may begin to burn, flames that will see us through into the next turning of the year.
What new candles will we light for ourselves?
We all know, of course, what gives our lives meaning.
We know we are magical, though we may not always feel connected to our magic. We know what true, nourishing fires we can stoke, and we know what actions, thought patterns, relationships, communities will nourish these inner flames and consequently brighten the world. We know this about ourselves.
All the work I’ve done to feel okay with being single in my 30s is being tested this Christmas. Stories are resurfacing that “no one cares about me” and that “I am alone.” I’m confronting this darkness, and it’s uncomfortable.
The earth is also confronting her own darkness—growing colder and shedding hours of the day, only to blanket herself in glorious sheets of white and then, miraculously, by beginning to lengthen her sunlight each day.
We can do this too.
We can join the earth and confront our darkness.
We can light candles in our home, in our lives. We can light literal candles—beeswax, paraffin, whatever—and light metaphorical candles.
We can wrap ourselves in the warmth of glorious white—or red or blue, whatever—bedsheets. We can sleep, deeply.
And as we fall into the deepest winter dreams, we can remind ourselves: we are not alone in our darkness. This darkness is the earth’s darkness. It is part of the natural cycle of things.
We are in it together.
Author: Sarah Pearson
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Image: Andrea Rose/ Flickr