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I have some friends who introduced me to a tradition of theirs, called “Jumping the Winter Fire”. It’s a nice little ceremony which signifies the changeover from a time of plenty to a time of scarcity, from a time of warmth and long days to a time of chill and darkness, and it reminds us that changes like that need other changes within ourselves. When you jump the winter fire you show your intent to change your attitude to reflect the world. You draw in your focus to close friends and loved ones. You admit that there are people that you can’t help until you’ve helped yourself, and you acknowledge that helping yourself will be harder for a while. And as part of this, you look forward to the summer fire, when you’ll be able to open up again, and expand your focus, and help the world.

In the summer, food is plentiful. You can afford to share with all and sundry.
In the summer, the sun is warm. You can afford to stay outdoors, and to neglect the hearth.
In the summer, moods are high, and there’s so much to do and give.

In the winter, the days get shorter and the nights get colder, and my mood drops like a stone. In the winter I don’t have the motivation or the strength or the energy to try and do things. In the winter my twitching-fits come more often. In the winter my self-image fails utterly.

This year I didn’t jump the winter fire. I tried to keep going as if everything was fine, and then I got surprised when I couldn’t. And when I couldn’t I started to think that it was because I was weak, or messing up, or failing.
It wasn’t.

Things change. Things change all the time. And if you don’t recognise this then there will be times when you could cope and now you can’t. It can be so easy to berate yourself for it. To think “But I could do it then, why can’t I do it now?” It can be easy to place all the blame inside, and to assume that because the situations are the same the only thing that’s wrong is what you did or thought or said. It can be easy to miss that the situations aren’t the same. Not really.

So if you suddenly feel you can’t cope with things you “should” be coping with, then take a look at what’s affecting you from the outside. Jump the Winter Fire. Admit that right now, for a while, you have to put you first. And look forward to the Summer Fire, when you feel better, and have spoons to spare, and you can do all those things you want to do. But for now, take care of you.
No matter how many people count on you, you can’t help any of them if you don’t take care of yourself.

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