Coming Out of the Holidays in One Peace

Hallelujah! I'm glad the holidays have almost reached an end for this season. There's just one more unstructured weekend left before resuming my normal life. As a relatively recent lesbian widow, I begin to obsess at the start of December about how to handle Christmas, my birthday (the 30th), New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Having no plans for New Year's Eve or Day was fine when I was partnered. The thought of being by myself for these holidays makes me anxious and lonely now that I am single. I used to leave plans for my birthday up to my partner. Now, I'm the one to decide how to handle the occasion.

For about two weeks, every aspect of my regular routine is uprooted. My clients take a therapy break, writing classes are canceled and my yoga classes vanish along with the instructor, who is one of my reliable, close friends. My best friend is occupied with family members visiting from California. Meanwhile, I'm at home staring at a calendar with a lot of empty space to fill.

Your concerns may be different, but I'll bet you may have faced spending or overspending worries, angst over gift decisions, crazed family dynamics or possibly stress about planning parties or family gatherings during the holidays. Do you wonder how you can contribute to "peace on earth" when you feel like you are caught in a pressure cooker or a vortex of anxious energy?

In my own healing process since becoming a widowed lesbian, I've discovered the importance of finding a place of refuge, both external and internal. I chose a space in my home for meditation when I first began the practice about four years before my partner died. Over the past seven to eight years, this place has become my sanctuary. Finding regular time here for solitude leads me to my internal moments of welcome peace.

This chosen room is not to be casually shared. Other people have entered, but the room holds magical, serene energy, reserved only for well-known visitors; unfamiliar energy can disturb it. Creatures of the house are welcome. Of my two feline housemates, one has moved into and taken over the room and regularly greets me when I arrive. He lets me know that I am permitted to join him in his space, only because he adores me. He is regally perched on a stack of dark orange, red and blue velvet meditation cushions, adorned with sequins.

My loved ones reside in this haven, with no distinction between the spirit and real world. A soft, upholstered meditation chair sits in the middle of the room, facing a window, framed by a sheer white delicately embroidered curtain that overlooks a flower garden. From this window, my beloved used to watch me dig in the garden before she passed to the other side.

In this room, I meditate daily to find release. I yearn, I remember, I cry and rage, I am undone and then repaired. All is possible in a room filled with love. My nodding cat accompanies me in silent meditation. The cello sitting in the corner has been mute since its musician passed. The shiny hand-carved maple of this curvaceous instrument conjures memories of a woman with long red curly hair practicing scales she never had time to perfect. The sanctuary is adorned with rocks, bird feathers and shells from the shores of La Jolla, Provincetown, Sanibel Island and Rockport collected by my beloved, paperbacks with ancient spiritual texts next to science fiction by Lillian Hellman, and a Buddha resting on a low altar constructed of peeling red-painted wood. Each item in my refuge has special meaning. I feel safe here to hurt, to pray, to love, to heal and to explore my journey forward. My feline companion opens his mouth wide, revealing his long sharp teeth; it appears he's so overcome with love that emotion spills out in a cavernous yawn.

As the holiday season comes to a close, I'd like to know, where do you find your refuge? What have you created to access the peace that resides somewhere inside all of us? In the New Year, may we help each other to create internal peace for the benefit of all beings?