On the Other Side of the Winter Solstice

December of my sophomore year at boarding school I had just gotten off the last bus arriving at the auditorium on the Northfield campus where we had mandatory attendance for Christmas Vespers. As I entered the auditorium, the lights were going down and the chamber orchestra opened with the rousing first four notes of Corelli’s Christmas Concerti.

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The next 14 minutes I was completely transfixed, mesmerized – possibly floating. Since that night, Corelli’s 12 Concerti Grossi is one of the musical selections I consistently turn to during the holidays. Music works with the brain and one’s memory in fascinating ways, and those four opening notes can bring back memories from 43 years ago as if it were yesterday. The interplay between the soloists and the orchestral ensemble through alternation, competition, and combination may simply be what wins my ear and imagination. Inevitably the music lifts me into a better place of hope, openness, and feeling a little more relaxed. It brings me light.

The winter solstice was Monday, marking a time for new beginnings. More so than any year past, my home is filled with evergreens, candles and little hanging lights. Music – my therapy of choice – of almost every genre is playing.

Like the solstice, I am bringing back the light, bit by bit.

From Tuesday on, the days will become incrementally longer until the summer solstice in June. Our Christmas this year is quieter than years past – devoid of concerts, celebrations with friends, family and colleagues. We have been forced to slow down, settle, and breathe. While different, it’s given me a fresh perspective on a holiday traditionally packaged in frenzy.

This pause has allowed us opportunity to be more deliberate in our self-care, both mentally and physically. Many cultures celebrate a holiday that coincides with the return of longer days. Hundreds of years ago, the winter solstice was marked with ceremonies and celebrations. These ceremonies symbolized renewal, an adoption of hope in the darkness and a celebration of light, casting off negative emotions and unhealthy habits.

Yesterday my iPhone alerted me to the fact that I have had 40% fewer steps in the last three months than at this same time last year. Despite my Zoom workouts and daily walks with my dog, Abbey, like many I have become more sedentary with each passing week of working remotely from home.

So often I speak on the necessities of creating a solid foundation for financial health to support a more successful accumulation of financial wealth. Now, more than ever, as the pandemic rages on, our physical and mental health must be our first consideration.

Right now, I am focused on checking all the boxes. I’m making sure to get that exam, see my MD and set realistic expectations and goals on how to begin shedding these pandemic pounds I seemed to amass far too quickly. The lights have come on.

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We have an opportunity to continue this mental shift into 2021, when the pandemic is finally behind us. The opportunity to refocus on ourselves emotionally, and on our own physical and mental health. We also have an opportunity to help each other make it through these upcoming darkest three months of the year so that we can all come out stronger on the other side.

During this holiday season as we wrap up a horrific, crazy and challenging year, think about the idea that some of our work needs to focus on bringing a little light to each other – helping our neighbors, reaching out to a colleague, friend, or family member and saying hello. Share a song, share a picture, connect on FaceTime. John Prine, an American country singer-songwriter who died in April from complications due to COVID-19, said it well in his bucolic song, “Hello In There.”

Warm holiday wishes to you and your family, and may 2021 allow for us all to thrive again together, in the light.

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