December 26th and I’ve survived The Holidays. Each year, the struggle to make it through gets more difficult for me. Each year adds a layer of expectations that I haven’t been able to meet, expectations that I have that remain unmet, and trauma or disappointments that I can’t overcome or erase. I try my best to light at least one candle in the dark. There’s a finer line than there should be between lighting a candle in the dark — making someone happy with tasty food, the right gift, sharing joyful experiences — and simply succumbing to the commercialism and the greed and the sensory overload.
This year, I finally let Christmas go and we only celebrated Hanukkah in my home. It was mostly a huge relief, with a tinge of sadness. My children were raised with both Christmas and Hanukkah — as I was and as my parents were. But that multi-faith approach no longer functions in my life. So I packed up old family ornaments and sent them off to new homes, where they’ll bring joy and help make new memories.
I’ve let a few other things go this year. I finally let go of my identity as an oil and gas professional and a geologist. I let my memberships in two professional organizations lapse — AAPG and AIEN. I’d belonged to AAPG for over thirty years. There’s also a sense of relief there, with a tinge of sadness. But recognizing that, two years’ post retirement, I am never going to work in the energy industry again is a realistic acknowledgement and I try to convince myself that 32 years was not a waste of a lifetime — if for no other reason than it has allowed me to provide for my family.
I’ve added some things this year as well. Shortly after the 2022 started, Temple Beth Israel was invaded by a lone gun-man in Colleyville, Texas. My synagogue is not that different from Beth Israel. I have spent much of this year researching security for houses of worship, applying for grants, consulting with security experts on how to make our Congregation safer. In 2023, we’ll use the grant money we received to make those upgrades a real. I’ve added a more visceral understanding of that lack of security that’s always been there. We try to shine a light but the darkness of hate is all around us.
We’ve taken on more responsibility for family who are unable to care for themselves this year. Medical assistance; financial assistance; child care assistance; educational assistance. It feels like there are so many now who struggle to manage their daily lives. Some find their feet again. Some never will. I am trying to let go of those expectations that they will find themselves and accept that fact.
My art, and the small business I’m trying to build with that art, is a light in the darkness for me. I have had to slow down the rate of growth, decrease the hours of creating, and carving out the time for myself has become an act of will again — a familiar inheritance from 32 years in the corporate world. A couple of years ago, that light was more of a bonfire. Now, it’s a candle I protect with my body — turning my back to the wind to keep it lit.
I am not unhappy that 2022 is over. I do not think 2023 will be much different. But I will continue to keep the candle burning.