In winter, the northern nights are long and dark. The days are short and not that much brighter, if I’m being honest.
As fairy lights, candles, and perhaps an open fire brighten the end of our calendar year, I am reminded by my local friends that the new year has already begun for some.
In the Celtic tradition Samhain (pronounced sow-un), which falls at the end of the harvest and was the basis upon which Halloween was founded, marks the beginning of the new year. Many will also know of the Lunar New Year (sometimes called Chinese New Year), which moves around on the calendar, because the lunar cycle is different from the solar one.
For these cultures — and so many more — marking the end of one year and the beginning of the next has great significance.
The Winter Solstice Is When I Celebrate
For me, the occurrence of the winter solstice, about halfway between Samhain and the Gregorian New Year — the one occurring on January 1 — is as much a reason to celebrate as either of the other two … perhaps more.
For me, marking when the days stop getting shorter and darker is like a new beginning. It’s the end of the old time and the start of the next. It’s what gets me through the waning sunshine of winter in expectation of the warmth and light of spring.
MS Symptoms Can Also Have a Darkest Day
It’s also the way I sometimes get through the difficult parts of living with MS.
Quite unlike the regularity of the rotations of the earth and our orbit around the sun, MS doesn’t have seasons for symptoms (though some people do find certain seasons difficult).
For many of us, the random and unpredictable nature of the disease is one of the most difficult aspects of it to live with, let alone try to explain. But there is something in looking at an episode of new or worsening symptoms that is not unlike the dying days of the year for me.
From the end of daylight saving time until the winter solstice, I greet the darkening mornings with a ritual phrase. Each morning, I wake and say, “It’s F*ck*ng dark in the G*dd*mn*d town!”
It doesn’t change the fact that the days are getting shorter. There is no reprieve from the blackness encroaching from both sides of the day. But still, there is comfort in releasing a bit of pressure by saying so.
There is also solace to be gained in knowing that it will get better. (See where I’m going here?)
After an MS Relapse, Things Usually Get Better
Knowing that it’s not always going to be as bad as it might be at any one point in an exacerbation (or relapse) can be a hard realization to come to, but it’s one worth working on. The bottoming out and recovery may not be something we can put in our planners like a holiday or appointment, but knowing that things will improve (to a point) is good for the mental self.
It’s a starting point just like, “Well, it could always be worse,” is the starting point for getting past a difficult patch. And just like looking forward to the days beginning, ever so slowly, to get a little longer, having a starting point might be the only thing we have in the depths of it all.
The days are getting shorter, but that slide will stop. It will level off, and they will then begin their minute-by-minute increase. Before too long, we’ll be able to notice a “fine stretch in the evening,” as they say here, and we’ll almost forget the weight of the darkness until next time … but we take the lessons of each year with MS along with us as we build our personal toolkit.
Wishing you and your family the best of health.