magic please Fun fact – Studies estimate that about 65% of Americans will make New Year’s resolutions in any given year. Only about 8% keep them.

In the back of your mind, are you thinking about something you OUGHT to be doing? Saving more money, exercising more, etc.?

We have FOR REAL got enough going on right now – nobody needs to sign up for that kind of negativity.

What if you decided instead to RESOLVE that you are pretty damn wonderful just how you are. What if your resolution was to celebrate you, just as you are? (And no, you don’t get to kick yourself for not doing enough self-care - that’s not how any of this works.)

Here are some of my favorite New Year resolutions:

Say no to things you don’t want to do. Your time on this earth is precious and you deserve to spend it how you want, not how others want you to.

Have dessert when you want it, purely because you deserve tangible reminders that life is sweet.

Give yourself the gift of pursuing something deeply that you enjoy, rather than carving out bits of time here and there.

Every day, tell yourself something that you love about yourself – physical, emotional, whatever. You’re pretty great.

Practice active forgiveness for a way in which you have wronged yourself. You would never treat a loved one this way. Act like you love yourself.

Practice accepting compliments. Pro Tip: Just say “thank you.” Nothing else needed.

Of course you can resolve to save money or lose weight or change some aspect of your life if it’s time for an upgrade. Just keep your resolutions realistic and based in the mindset that you deserve to give yourself your best effort, rather than changing something you imagine to be wrong with yourself. Like I said, you’re pretty damn wonderful as you are. Happy New Year!

Let there be light to drive away the darknesslight in the darkness

Let there be wisdom to shine on the unknown

Let there be love to heal our aloneness

Let each of us be a light for one another

 A church I used to attend would sing this invocation at the start of every service. While the church itself wasn’t a fit for me in the long run, these words have stuck in my head for years.

Headed into the darkest month of the year, what a good time to remember that we have the power to brighten the darkness. It’s been a long, hard year for many people; it might be harder this year to remember what to give thanks for when it feels that so much we love and depend on has been turned upside down, taken away, or broken. It might be harder to celebrate the joys of a festive season if you’re feeling alone or struggling financially or suffering health setbacks or grieving a loss. 2020 has really kicked our collective butts.

I think it’s telling that every major religion and culture around the world has a holiday that celebrates the return of light. Many (though not all) take place around the time of solstice. Whether you’re lighting a candle at your personal altar, sitting before a blazing Yule log, lighting a kinara or a menorah or an Advent wreath or a diya – or all of the above; or none – it’s universally recognized that candle magic is powerful.  Darkness and hard times will end, both literally and metaphorically. Light will triumph over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.

And until they do, go out there and be a light in the darkness.

“Hope” is a bit of a catch-all word. We hope for a lot of things, from a text from the cutie we met at the coffee shop to a good parking spot to a lottery win to a cure for diseases. Not the same level of importance or energy, but there you are.

I think it’s a great shorthand term for “optimism that the thing we wish will come to pass.” Sometimes this requires effort on our part. Sometimes it’s supporting the efforts of others. Sometimes it’s clarifying what you want so that you can recognize it when it comes your way. Most often it’s a combination of all of these and then some. Hope’s been a really hard thing for me personally for a while now, and I’ve been thinking about what hope requires of me: belief, action, breaking old habits, trusting others, clarity.

I’ve come to appreciate how physical objects help me hold an idea in my head, so this year I’m forcing paperwhite bulbs for my mantel. It’s kind of an awful-sounding word that just means growing flower bulbs indoors. But it got me to thinking about whether or not it’s possible to force hope. Paperwhites hope

What I’m doing isn’t making the bulb to do anything it can’t or won’t do, left to its own devices. I’m creating an environment that allows it to bloom earlier, in a sheltered place where it can be beautiful and safe from the elements. It requires foresight. And sunshine. And patience. The reward is something beautiful and fragrant and bright during a time that we associate with darkness. And of course, It doesn’t last forever, because nothing does. If you want more flowers, you have to force more bulbs – a seasonal stock of paperwhites requires some planning and nurturance and attention.

Our hope and optimism require the same of us. We need to create for ourselves an environment that allows us to draw on our deep reserves, a place where we can be safe and bloom and make the world around us brighter for our presence. Sure, we might bloom if we just leave things be, but we’re more likely to when we give ourselves some extra love and attention.

When the bulbs are done it takes a couple of years for them to be ready to bloom again. When we run out of energy, we need to rest and regroup; sometimes we need to start with new material, just like a paperwhite display will need new bulbs to continue blooming.

Many people throw away their bulbs when the bloom time is over, but I’m planning to scatter mine in my yard, which is full of failed experiments and things that sprang to glorious life years later. I didn’t fuss over them or make it happen (I consider plants designated as “thrives on neglect” as a personal challenge). I put something in its natural environment out there in the world and let it germinate. Sometimes nothing comes of it, sometimes it becomes a squirrel snack, and sometimes I end up with this glorious wash of color in the spring when I least expect – and most need – to see some sign of the hope of spring.

When I admit that I don’t actually like Christmas, people act as if I’ve announced that I eat puppies for breakfast.

I understand that many other people love the holiday and look forward to it. I’m genuinely happy for them.  

The beloved holiday tunes that fill (ALL) the stores are enjoyable for me for exactly 2 days (and neither of those days is in November, btw). I always feel that I’m short on time and/or money, bopping from one event to another without making real connections and worried that I’ve forgotten something vital. I feel so overwhelmed with all the holiday “should”s that it’s very hard to feel any joy.

solstice 3Some years ago, at the peak of my holiday stress-fest, we decided to begin celebrating the solstice. It was close enough to Christmas to feel we were celebrating the season, but far enough ahead that it was separate. It’s not something that anyone we knew at the time would celebrate, so we were free to imagine it as we wished. It’s evolved in minor ways, but our original version is the heart of it: we make a cozy dinner, eat by candelight, and don’t turn on any electric lights before bed. Sometime we light the fireplace or read to each other. Sometimes we just tell stories and snuggle under blankets. It is the most peaceful night of the year, and the only holiday thing we do that feels like a celebration.

It began as a gasp for air in a crowded and anxious time, and it’s become a long, slow exhale that I look forward to each year. The soft glow of candlelight makes the darkness around us more intense, and makes us more aware of the ways in which we literally and metaphorically push it back. The dark makes us quieter; it’s the one night of the year I’m guaranteed to not have to referee an argument between my kids. Dinner by candlelight feels luxurious. Our voices are lower. We stand closer together. It is us marooned on this tiny island of bright, and we are comfort and solace to each other.

A recent marketing email from Penzey’s Spices said something similar about Thanksgiving that has stuck with me: “Here’s your hopefully one in a lifetime chance to leave behind all that Thanksgiving is supposed to be and find the Thanksgiving that means something to your unique home.”

This holiday season, it’s going to be so, so easy to focus on all the things we’re missing thanks to the pandemic. Please show yourself some extra love. Make space for the things you care about. Don’t be afraid to change a tradition. Don’t be afraid to change it back. Let the slow, dark calm in. Nurture the things that grow in quiet. Blessings to you this season, however you are celebrating.

Just haviong a stuff.