What I mean when I talk about surrender (and a ritual for the Winter Solstice)

Dad plaid photoAs the holidays creep closer and closer, I find it and harder and harder to fight off the sense of sadness that always makes its presence known at this time of year.

For years, I’ve been living with a constant sense of unease, stretching all the way back to 2008 when my dad, who was in his 70s at the time, almost died from complications due to a fairly routine operation. Ever since, his health – mentally and physically – was on a slow decline.

In November of 2012, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, and we knew December would bring our last Christmas together. Six months later, he died. It happened a week before my birthday.

Even though I didn’t know it at the same, my dad’s cancer diagnosis was the beginning of a massive transition for me, and a lesson in understanding surrender.

A month after my dad died, I got news that one of a good friend’s brother had died. I was about to do a show with my band when I got the call.

A month after that, I brought that band to an end, even though it was a project that had felt like a dream come true for me.

And then at work, my favourite boss resigned.

A month after that, a friend and peer died unexpectedly.

And then my new boss made an exit. I got another one and she left within a month. (I swear it wasn’t me!)

Then one of my favourite colleagues got let go.

And then things started to feel normal again. It was my birthday. I went out of town with my boyfriend. We had a great day.

The next morning, I found a moth on the wall of my apartment. And then another.

It bugged me (no pun intended) and so the next day, I snooped around a bit and found a bunch of eggs – the start of a next (gross, I know) – beginning around the felt base of an old lamp.

The building I’d lived in for three years had a massive infestation, and the superintendent was out of the country for the rest of the year. He wouldn’t do anything about it.

So I left, a move I wasn’t expecting to make but that I felt was totally necessary.

After that, I figured things had to go back to normal. So many changes had happened already, right?

Wrong. At the start of 2015, my mom told me, out of the blue, that she’d listed her house – the house I’d lived out my teen years in, the house I thought one day might be mine, the house I always looked forward to visiting during the holidays and on Sunday afternoons.

It was sold within a month.

After that, I thought for sure there were no more changes.

And then I lost my job.

At that point, I realized I didn’t have much more to lose.

I’d heard the word “surrender” bandied about before but I’d always been one to strive for control over every outcome and was always pushing myself towards a new goal, relentlessly ambitious.

But what do you do when everything you’re working for can’t save you from sadness? What do you when you realize your ambition doesn’t feel as bright and shiny when some of the things you’ve cherished for so long are no longer available to you, or when your sense of security falls away, or when you realize that life is not going to unfold the way you expected it to?

All I could do was surrender because I realized there are so many things outside of my control and that if I didn’t allow myself to fall forward and accept these changes, then I would be stubbornly holding onto ways of life that were no longer available to me.

Change had occurred and I had to move along with it. There have been blessings through it all, as I had wanted to go full-time with my tarot work but knew it would be a struggle to make that happen with a 9-5. Suddenly, a promise I’d made for myself – to find a way to build my business – was opening to me.

Looking back over the past three years, I realize that I’ve been a long, steady transition period, and that surrender has been a lesson for me all along. I’ve had to learn to accept the good and the bad. I have had to learn that I can’t allow one aspect of my life to become such a focal point that other areas are ignored.

I started reading tarot in 2008 but really went deep with it after my dad got sick. I started to allow myself the time alone that I needed, but had often denied myself. I started to let go of who I thought I was: A writer on a mission, working 9-5 as an in-between measure until I could get my writing career off the ground.

I am still a writer and always will be, but I ended up realizing that tarot had to have a much bigger role in my life. The more I used it with others, the more I felt I needed to keep doing so.

And so while I surrendered to so many drastic changes, I also surrendered to what I felt was calling me. I decided to simply give up my need for control and give in instead, allowing for whatever changes were at hand to shape my day and show me the way and it has all brought me here.

And that is what I mean when I talk about surrender: Giving yourself over to something, rather than giving up. Saying, “I don’t know where this is leading me, but I am going to follow it anyway.”

It’s also in accepting the tragedies and heartbreaks that come, and allowing them to be felt as deeply as they need to.

Even if you think you know exactly where you’re headed, every moment is an act of surrender because you never know what’s next. You never know where you’ll find yourself in a year. On the surface, things might not change much, but the conversations you have or books you read or places you go could shape and mold you in ways that you don’t even realize until you look back and see how much you’ve changed.

I’m leaving 2015 in a very different place than how I entered it, and so maybe it only makes sense that this Christmas will be spent in different surroundings, with new traditions to be created.

This Christmas will be in my mom’s new apartment, in a different neighbourhood. I won’t have the same little traditions I’ve maintained before, like going for a walk alone on Christmas Eve through a series of streets that I know all too well.

I won’t be going back to my old bedroom, or seeing my old neighbours. That’s all gone.

But so are many other things. And on the horizon, the light of something new is starting to appear. There’s a whole new year ahead full of possibilities. Maybe more change is around the corner. Maybe it will be another year of growth, or maybe everything will – finally – start to feel settled.

I don’t know, but I’m feeling better prepared for it than ever before, ready to move forward with trust that it will all lead me to where I need to be.

A ritual for the Winter Solstice

With the Winter Solstice coming up next week, it’s a time to surrender to the changes and transitions we can’t control, while also thinking of what these changes may bring for us.

If you would like to take some time for yourself on Monday, December 21, here is an easy ritual you can do to tap into the power of the Winter Solstice:

You will need:

– A candle
– Two pieces of paper and a pen
– Soil, or an earthy substance, like flour or ground nuts or seeds. A trip to a bulk food store or health store might give you some good options.
– Two bowls
– A tinfoil pie plate or thick piece of aluminum foil, or something where you can safely burn a piece of paper
– Optional: Incense, music, and anything else you would like to have nearby

1. Light a candle. If you like, burn some incense, too, put on some music, dim the lights – whatever helps to set a mood.

2. Take two bowls and fill them with earth, or an earthy substance if you don’t have any dirt or soil on hand.

3. Designate the bowl on the left as the grounds for which you will release any sense of control, or accept anything that you need to let go of or surrender to. The bowl on the right will be a place for you to plant the seeds for what you hope will come into place as a result of these changes.

4. Take two separate pieces of paper and write down everything you are letting go of or surrendering to on one, and write out your intentions on the other.

5. Burn the list of what you are letting go of. (The way I do this safely – and please do be safe – is lighting the paper on fire with a candle and then allowing it to burn out in a pie plate or on a thick piece of aluminum foil. A cauldron will work, too, but I know not everyone has one.) Once it has turned to ash, bury it in the bowl on the left.

6. Fold your list of intentions and bury it in the bowl on the right.

7. Allow both of them to sit until the Full Moon on December 25, and then find a place outdoors where you can release them. (You might want to transfer them to Tupperware containers or mason jars to carry them easily.) I like to find places in nature to do this, like a river or the base of a tree.

If the ground is soft enough, you might like to bury the contents of your containers, but if it isn’t, simply find a place where you feel you can safely release your thoughts and intentions back to the earth, where the winter season will work through them.

Until next time,

Liz xo

Giving this ritual a try? Let me know how it goes! lizworth@gmail.com

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