Here at the tag end of 2019 — a stretch of time that we covered in what seemed far less than 12 months — we can peer back at the good and bad with a clarity of vision that only hindsight can provide.
We measure our successes against our failures. We ponder our poor decisions and promise to do better. We sift through the tearful memories of those who left and think with warm fondness on those who just arrived. We count wrinkles and pounds and silver hairs. We wonder why we couldn’t find time, during at least a few of the previous 365 days, to do this or go there or to visit with someone whose company we enjoy. They’re all themed a bit differently, but we’ve performed this same ritual of rumination for every December we’ve been aware that years eventually end. And we tend to ruminate even more when we come to the somber realization that, sooner or later, we will run out of years.
Gloomy as it may seem, I believe this is what people are meant to do during the darkest month. There are few things more fundamentally human than regret and remembrance. How else would you figure out what not to do or fully realize the depths of emotion — both the sad and the joyous — without reflection?
This is also the season of hope. For some, there is a promise found in the morning rays after solstice. For others, that promise is found in the songs of a savior born in the most humble of circumstances. For everyone, it is the promise of a new beginning, of growing light and coming warmth. It’s the promise of salvation.
But we can’t know the illuminating confidence of light if we don’t know the worrisome uncertainty of darkness. We can’t comprehend warmth if we’ve never been chilled to the bone. We cannot be saved if we’re not in danger.
The balance of life hinges on this constant, dynamic state of opposition. Equilibrium is always the goal but never reached. And now, during the dreariest of days, is when we most need to remember this universal truth.
Take heart, readers, and be merry. Eat, drink, revel in this season of reflection and faith. Look with wonder on every flickering candle and twinkling holiday bulb, the orange embers glowing in the hearth. For with each tiny flame and flicker, we are reminded that time is short and existence is precious.
And know that it won’t be dark forever. The light is coming back.