Holidays are like black licorice. Some find them nostalgic and live from under the tree themselves a gift to the holiday season ready with cards, vintage ornaments, cookies, hot chocolate, all traditions and rituals practiced with such mindfulness and care like orchestrating an entire Nutcracker pageant, dancing the delicate ballet of life. I cannot stay bitter at a time when I see this passion and see this play unfold in faces stained red from candy canes and fingers sticky from exploring a magical world criss crossed with strands of light. The magic is reversed for others and Christmas cookies become too sweet lingering in the mouth whose teeth are biting at the lip of poverty wondering how to make it through the next 30 days. Life morphing into a horrible cliché, a made for tv movie. Main character standing washing dollar store plastic dishes staring out the window of subsidized housing painfully aware of peeling paint and hair and dirt stuck to the window sill. Contemplating the bottle of wine under the bed that was bought in shame after registering for a holiday basket, kids screaming, mind screaming, body hurting, lights too bright, feeling raw and jumping at the sudden touch of the holidays. Nothing is ever as simple as black or white and because we all are in one another in some way we are both of these people–Tiny Tim and Santa. Stereotypes founded in some semblance of truth because what is underneath is the same: love, pain, fear, joy, togetherness, isolation. These we share. These are our gifts. All of us holding onto the ghosts of the past, the fuzzy reality of now, and the anxiety of the future. Money doesn’t cure this basic human condition. The underbelly of the holidays makes some hyperaware of their inability to give or receive and others such joy to create rituals that heal, both wrapping up the past and looking toward the future keeping in the now through the practice of sacred patterns. And because I can only write in juxtaposition and think in binaries doesn’t preclude any of us from feeling the bittersweet energy of the most emotion filled time of the year. And so, on this new day of a new year, completely symbolic, I will appreciate the past and trust the future while breathing love in and out in this very moment.