The Winter Solstice, the holidays, and the new calendar year are all times of deep reflection. Ends become beginnings, and we tend to take stock of our year–who and what have we lost? What struggles have we encountered? We also look towards a renewal–What will I do differently? How do I want to be in the world?
My own work and life is no exception, and in the last few months I have been forced to look hard at old patterns: defense mechanisms that I’ve held on to, protective structures that have caused harm to others. As I try hard to transition to new structures and healthier behaviors, I’ve also been going through a mourning period. Losing a defensive structure, no matter how harmful its been, is like losing a friend or family member who did not treat you well, but with whom you have a deep dependency that feels like love. Its painful to lose something that you’ve cultivated, nurtured, and that has served as armor, no matter how much more painful it is to hold on to. Losing something harmful–whether its a person, a mode of production, or a coping strategy–leaves us with a profound emptiness. A nothingness exists where there once was something, before we can build what comes next.
I see this struggle consistently with people who come to see me for treatment, as well as with my own healing. Whether its limping to protect an old injury and folding our shoulders in to protect our hearts; or critiquing others to avoid self-critique and being over-bearing in our care giving to make up for our own inability to receive care, throwing out old strategies can leave us in profound sadness.
It’s similarly difficult for people to think right now what a world would look like without capitalism, hierarchy, and bureaucracy. Dangerous structures nonetheless provide a framework, and can seem impossible to break out of when there’s no clear way of being on the other side. But these structures are crumbling before our eyes anyway, and while we struggle to build new liberatory ways of relating to one another, we will be mourning, and we will be frightened.
Despite the scary emptiness of the long cold nights, and the pain and anxiety of staring into the possibility of living in the unknown, and pain and embarrassment about the past, I feel hope and gratitude for this moment in my own life and in the world. We can’t have any beginnings without endings, and we can’t build anything new until we begin the process of unravelling the old. I want to invite you all to face these possibilities, and also have unlimited compassion for yourself and for the world when we inevitably rely on ways of being we had hoped to move away from. It is normal to want to be steady, and we need to be patient with the unknown to be ready for the newness which emerges from it.
Happy Solstice, and I look forward to seeing you in the New Year.