See Your Shadow this Winter Solstice

Copy of Copy of Copy of cheerful graphic

The Winter Solstice occurs this week. On the shortest day of the year, we cast our longest shadow. I recall a memorable walk I took on the Winter Solstice last December. I was alone, except for the comically exaggerated shadow that playfully followed me.

As my shadow mocked my every move, I felt like Peter Pan, whose shadow was a distinct character in the novel by J.M. Barrie. At its insistence, I finally stopped and addressed the figure that boldly stretched more than fifty feet across the ground as the late afternoon sun hung low in the horizon. My shadow seemed to plead, “Look at me!”

Had I been accompanied by a child or a friend with my sense of wonder, I imagine I would have waved, jumped, danced and laughed out loud at my circus-like shadow. Instead, I just moved my arms and legs a little and giggled, hoping no one was watching.

When we look at our shadows, we don’t see facial features or skin color. We don’t see signs of status or wealth. We don’t see talents or insecurities, good luck or misfortune, successes or failures. We only see the shape of a human body, a vessel that carries us through every moment of our lives.

Despite our individual quirks and idiosyncrasies, we are more alike than different. Line us all up shoulder-to-shoulder around this big blue marble and deep in our shadows we all want the same things ~ health and happiness, equality and respect, love and peace.

Psychology has much to say about the shadow self. My limited understanding is that it’s the darker side of our personality containing parts of ourselves we might not even be aware of or want to admit to if we do. Psychiatrist Carl Jung said, “Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”

The dark shadow I cast on that sunny winter day didn’t reveal all the things I try to hide about myself, traits I’m convinced are negative, undesirable and embarrassing. The truth is our shadow self is what makes us unique, and understanding it helps us lead a more authentic life. As Wendy said to Peter Pan, “After all, one can’t leave his shadow lying about and not miss it sooner or later, don’t you agree?”

The Winter Solstice marks the beginning of brighter days. It comes at the end of another year filled with stunning moments that should make us re-evaluate who we really are, what we really stand for, and how we really want to live. When the Winter Solstice arrives on Wednesday, I will take my daily walk along an open field. Without any concern for who is watching, my shadow and I will joyfully turn a very sloppy cartwheel. §

“The shadows are just as important as the light. ” 
~ Charlotte Bronte, English Novelist

Joie de Vivre ~ a mantra for the new year

Joie de Vivre!

It’s a French phrase literally translated to mean joy of living. Pronounced  ⁄ZHwä de ‘vēvre/, it expresses an exuberant enjoyment of life. Is there another phrase that so happily rolls off the tongue? Just saying it makes me smile, and I’m excited to make it my mantra for 2021.

Rather than making resolutions, each new year I choose a word as my guiding light or touchstone for the next twelve months. The last three years, my words have been simplicity, nature, and seasons. Each word served me well as I aimed to infuse its essence into every nook and cranny of my life.

La Joie De Vivre is the title of a novel written in 1883 by Emile Zola. The main character is ten-year-old Pauline who goes to live with the Chanteaus after her parents die. The author contrasts Pauline’s optimism and open-heartedness with the negativity found in the Chanteau household. The book popularized the phrase joie de vivre as an admirable approach to life. A likeness of the novel is featured in two well-known paintings by Vincent Van Gogh.

Contemporary author Mireille Guiliano wrote, “In France we have a saying, joie de vivre, which actually doesn’t exist in the English language. It means looking at your life as something that is to be taken with great pleasure and enjoy it.” While I don’t claim to be a true Francophile, I do hope to bring this French saying to my life, especially as the new year finds me in an unexpected place and circumstance.

In thinking about how to practically incorporate this phrase into my daily round, I realize a spirit of joie de vivre can be expressed in virtually all areas of life. If I stay mindful, everything I think, say, and do can reflect a joyful appreciation for each and every day of the new year.

I look forward to seeking joy in routine rituals such as eating and dressing as well as on a deeper, more spiritual level. Galations 5:22-23 reminds us that in addition to love, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, self-control, gentleness, and goodness, the fruit of the spirit includes joy!

I feel sure this is the perfect season of my life to consciously embrace la joie de vivre and to remember what Walt Whitman wrote, “Happiness, not in another place, but in this place, not for another hour, but for this hour.” §

Question of the Week ~ Have you chosen a word for the new year? Please share it with us in the comment section. Wishing you a week filled with joy and a very happy new year!