There is one ritual I really hate during the holidays: taking down the tree.
It’s a sad job, as it marks the end of the season. And it’s messy– dragging out a month old, dried up balsam. Most of all it leaves the house with this big empty hole in the corner of the living room. What was there before the tree? I can’t even remember.
But I took it down. And here I sit, feeling sad, staring at a bare spot in the living room and a house strewn with needles.
I really need to get over this annual trauma. January is supposedly the month of moving on, cleaning out, and lightening up, right? It invites us to think of the things like my tree – the old, dried up parts of our lives – that need clearing out. Maybe it is an old grudge that we need to release or a lingering sense of self doubt. Whatever it is, the hardest part of the holidays is the clearing out. For with it come sadness, messiness and emptiness.
When we let go of something, even the old, bad, dried up stuff, we feel loss. What is known (good or bad) is gone. And any loss brings sadness.
The clearing out can also be messy, as it shakes loose a load of emotional Christmas tree needles in our lives; ones that can show up later in strange places we didn’t expect (like the needles I found in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator last May).
Most of all, letting go can leave a hole we’re not sure how to fill. If we let go of anger, for example, then what goes in its place? If we aren’t mad, then who are we?
Hard as it was, I guess I’m glad I took down the tree. Sure I have a lot of needles to sweep and furniture to rearrange. But if I didn’t take down the old dried up tree, then where would I find room for the new tree – and the new joy – next Christmas? Happy New Years cleaning to you all!