Our destiny often looks like a fruit-tree in winter.
Who would think from its pitiable aspect
that those rigid boughs,
those rough twigs could next spring
again be green, bloom, and even bear fruit?
Yet we hope it, we know it.
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
We have once again passed through the darkest time of the year. The holidays celebrating the return of light are behind us: Diwali, Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Solstice. The days are slowly becoming longer and the New Year is approaching.
Late fall and winter can be difficult times psychologically for various reasons. Many people are energetically tuned in to the seasons and tend to go within, often to dark and/or contemplative places as the seasons change; this is often in marked contrast to the seasonal frenzy of shopping and social gatherings. Some people become depressed in response to less sun and shorter days. And for others, the holidays themselves are difficult for a multitude of reasons.
If you have been immersed or stuck in darkness during this season ( sadness, hopelessness, a sense of lack of meaning, loneliness, fear) it may be hard to believe that this internal barren winter will shift. It may be hard to trust that any sense of aliveness or light could or will return to your life.
Yet as Goethe's quote above states, we hope and know that the (internal) spring will arrive. Sometimes it's just a tiny green bud of hope or memory that may burst into a flower of remembering, of knowing that spring follows winter.
The concept of a New Year ( a symbolic calendar construct) can be a time to take stock, to set intentions, to think about what you would like to do, how you would like to change your approach and relationship to life. It's a time to see or maybe just imagine, the growing buds of hopeful new life, forming within and often in spite of, the at times, frigid, barren earth.
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley