Living Well, Dying Well

“Happy New Year.” A lovely wish, one we share with loved ones and strangers alike because deep down we all want happiness. The wish is rather limited, however, in its scope and frequently said in a rote, unconscious and empty manner.
It is a new year, and it is also winter here in the northern hemisphere. Winter and happiness are deeply connected. We here in Wisconsin know winter only too well. It is, of course, a time of cold, even frigid, days and nights; icy sidewalks and roads; numb fingers and toes; slush; and accidents as cars slip into ditches and each other. But there is more to winter than cold and snow. There is winter fun on skis, skates and toboggans. There is the beauty of snow-covered pines, sun glistening on the newly fallen snow and shining through iced branches. There is the quiet walk my husband, Bill, and I used to take on the night of the first quiet snow each year. The ice skates, beauty and quiet walks are a part of the happiness we all desire this year. But there is still more.
Winter is an interior time. It is a quiet season. Trees and bears hibernate. Colorful flowers disappear. The world appears to be dead but deep down inside life is renewing itself. It is a time for us to do the same. Cold days are good opportunities for us humans to hibernate. There are fewer events to share and less light with winter’s shorter days. It is a dark time, a womb time. A time for rest, renewal and introspection. These days are opportunities to look at our lives, our values, our relationships, our spiritual needs, our priorities, our behavior, our hopes and dreams, our pain and grief and more. Pain is the path to growth, but it needs to felt. It cannot be buried for then we bury it alive and it haunts us. Winter provides time for this. Real New Year’s resolutions flow from these moments.
In our too busy days we race around frantically often ignoring our souls. Our country has, in many ways, lost its soul in part due to our fast pace, which disallows an interior life. When the soul is ignored, creativity, hope, peace, spiritual growth and happiness disappear. Our souls, just like our bodies, need to be well fed. I look at most sickness as a signal from my soul. A signal that screams at me to slow down, be still, look inside, and there, there is where happiness is found.
Winter hibernation provides sacred opportunities for soul renewal. Time to heal; time to be still enough to hear what our souls are telling us; what we really need to be happy. But if we never or seldom slow down to create daily times of solitude and silence, real happiness will escape us. Maybe forever.
Why not make time this winter, more time, for silence, solitude and the hibernation that ultimately provides the joy we all seek?

Mary Friedel-Hunt MA LCSW is a clinical social worker, thanotologist and certified bereavement counselor. She can be reached at mfriedelhunt@charter.net; P.O. Box 1036, Spring Green, WI 53588; or www.PersonalGrowthandGriefSupportCenter.com. Vincent Kavaloski’s “Parables and Ponderings” will return next month.