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Surviving the Shadowy Season: A Tale of Dark Nights and Duraflame Dreams

Daylight Savings has struck, and I'm still grappling with the consequences. As a card-carrying non-morning person, I'm grateful to no longer have to wrestle myself out of bed by my fingernails. Let's be real, though. The late afternoon turning into pitch-black darkness is a hefty toll. Come dinner time, I find myself struggling not to fall asleep in my chicken piccata, and questioning the social acceptability of bedtime at 7:30.

Welcome to the dark season, whether you're emotionally prepared or not.

I grew up in Illinois, and while I love my chosen state of California, I miss the midwest's seasons. There is no subtlety there. They hit you like a water balloon to the face (or if you have the same level of grace and coordination as me, like black ice colliding with your knees and elbows). In California I've got to strain my ears and squint my eyes to catch the subtle shifts. Leaves turn red in August due to the oppressive heat, holding onto that fiery hue until fall officially grabs hold. I'm on high alert for the dogwood trees blooming, the grand announcement of spring, and summer officially kicks in when it's finally warm enough to comfortably swim in an unheated pool.

As much as I adore the holidays, this dark season hits differently. It's an intuitive time for me, a therapist who is skilled at sitting in the dark with others. It's a big part of my job description. But now, this season is asking me to cozy up to the darkness from my own life- something I've spent a lot of time with, but it's been on a sabbatical. It's like that college friend who used to be a daily staple but now is more of a warm, fleeting memory in my social media feed.

It's no coincidence that the holidays revolve around the theme of light in the darkness. In our home we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas, which means that between the lights of the Christmas tree, the menorah, and our fireplace which is perpetually running, the holiday lights make our house look positively radioactive. The warm glow is comforting and feels like it keeps the darkness at bay.

One of my favorite rituals, though, is the yule log on solstice evening. On the longest night of the year, I hunt down a log (admittedly not the majestic forest-harvested ones my Celtic and Norse ancestors snagged, but a Duraflame approximation) and my fami9ly and I scribble down our hopes and dreams for the upcoming year. Tided to the log, they go up in flames and become offerings to the universe. Surrounded by stories, musice, and laughter, the log burns bringing warmth and light to the darkest, coldest time.

Imagine if we treated our personal darkness the same way. What if we didn't dread its return, whether reliably seasonal, on anniversaries of a loss, or in unexpected places like the Trade Joe's checkout line? What would it be like to sit with our shadows like we do with the physical darkness? Instead of combatting it, we'd share stories, music, and pass the time with loved ones, basking in the warmth of hope for brighter days ahead- knowing this is just a season, and light inevitably returns.

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