by Karen Bromberg
I want to share a little story.
This happened many years ago. My husband and I were at this concert. No, not a Bruce Springsteen concert. Not a Madonna concert. Not even a James Taylor concert (though we did see James Taylor with Carole King at Madison Square Garden several years later).
This concert was with Paul Winter, a renowned saxophonist, with more than 40 albums, and his band, The Paul Winter Consort. It was his annual “Winter Solstice Concert” that takes place at St. John the Divine on New York’s Upper West Side.
It’s an amazing concert in an amazing space. St. John the Divine is big and cavernous, it’s “the largest cathedral in the world, making it a global landmark.” If you’ve never been, I highly recommend a visit, but I digress.
It was during the concert, specifically as Paul Winter was introducing one of his signature pieces, that this occurred. He said something that’s always stayed with me. He was talking about the significance of light in the celebration of the winter holidays (religious history and significance aside) and about how, during the darkest time of the year, we use the light from candles and bulbs, which “are kin to the fiery rites of old, which celebrated the miracle of earth’s renewal.“
Blew my mind.
But what does it have to do with caregivers? And overwhelmed caregivers at that?
Wait. Keep reading. I think you’re gonna like this.
Darkness vs Light
Every year, right around this time, I remember what Paul Winter said during that concert, and yes, no doubt, it’s likely because with the sun rising around 7:15 am and setting around 4:30 pm, where I am, I’m a little light deprived.
But I have to say, it’s actually much more.
If you are anything like me, there’s a hopelessness and fear inherent in darkness. We walk down streets a little faster. Maybe look over our shoulders more often without even realizing it. We hunker down and hibernate. True, it’s partly because of the cold but if we think about it, it’s also partly because of the darkness.
Yet every time I look at Christmas lights or at the flame at the tip of Chanukkah and Kwanzaa candles, I feel better. My spirits are lifted and I feel more hopeful and joyful. Perhaps it’s because, as Paul Winter says, they symbolize renewal and the return of the sun.
It’s this interplay between the darkness and the light, the duality of them, that was just so evident for me this year with the passing of my parents. Each time I fell into a crying jag a friend or family member invariably would remind me of my memories, and (in my father’s case, being that he passed after my mother), how “they are now together.”
Without realizing it, my family and friends were reminding me of the light.
It’s so easy for us to fall into the darkness in our lives. With so much to do day-in and day-out – we put our heads down, we stick blinders on and we focus on the task at hand, the one goal being to get to the end of the day – that we forget to occasionally let in the light. But what if we did? What if we take the glasses with the dark lenses in them off and replace them with a pair that lets in the light? What would that be like?
Maybe instead of seeing only despair, we could also see the joy? Maybe instead of only seeing the sadness that’s around us, we could also appreciate the happiness? Maybe instead of feeling hopeless at things we obviously can’t control, we can also see some possibilities?
Imagine how different our days, weeks and months might be if we could do that? Even a teeny tiny bit.
So okay, you’ve guessed it, my number one best relaxation tip for overwhelmed caregivers is (drum roll, please), to focus on the light.
I want to take this opportunity to wish all of you the very best this holiday season but most of all, I want to take this opportunity to wish you love and light.
Karen Bromberg is the founder of Help You Thru, LLC, an online resource for family caregivers offering resources, relaxation and relaxation techniques to overwhelmed caregivers. Feel free to contact her, either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone 929-276-2109.