I love the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. It has always stood out from the other 51 weeks in a year like a peaceful Zen garden, a special oasis where I attend to soul needs that require annual closure.
During the 80’s when I was juggling parenting with college teaching, I often spent this week assembling and basting together sandwiched layers of fabric backing, cotton batting, and the quilt tops I’d been working on all year. It took another year of hand-quilting everything before I presented them to my children the next Christmas. After they each had a quilt of their own I used the last week of the year to start more quilts for our new mountain cabin. When these were finished we took them with us for our annual years’-end visit.
On the outside, the 80’s were a time of perfecting and preserving my persona to fit the collective values of the time in which I was raised. But on the inside I felt I’d been shipwrecked and was living on a private, isolated island. I spent most of my time there fishing in the depths of my psyche for psychological sustenance that could help me understand myself and resolve my inner conflicts.
Then, in the fall of 1989 I found what I had been looking for: I joined a Centerpoint group based on Jungian psychology, and suddenly the lights came on! I don’t remember what I did during the 52nd week that year but I’m pretty sure I would have spent most of it reading, studying and underlining one of the 20 or so books by Jungian analysts I had ordered from Inner City Publishers. Intense study was the first of the practices I undertook that made the year of 1990 a threshold into the most life-changing, soul-satisfying and creative period of my life.
The other main practice was recording and studying my dreams. Throughout the nineties I did dreamwork almost every morning and wrote every afternoon. I also meditated and practiced yoga. And I always devoted the 52nd week of each year to rereading my dream journals, summarizing important themes and trends, and highlighting valuable insights. Remembering and integrating my soul’s processes at the end of every year was an extremely valuable ritual for me in those days. Essentially I was building a new foundation for my psyche and I could feel it growing stronger with each passing year. This was my decade of finding, connecting with, and honoring my Shadow and the Self.
The new millennium brought new insights and year-end rituals. Feeling an unprecedented need to get in touch with my body and nature, I usually spent the 52nd week hiking and climbing the mountains surrounding our cabin with my granddog Bear, then his little sister, Izzie. As our grandchildren were born, they and their parents would join us. We played games and enjoyed lots of physical, outdoor fun like sledding, making snow angels, and building snowmen. We also started some annual food traditions, like celebrating their arrival with a welcome meal of chili, salad, homemade biscuits, and key lime pie, making monkey bread with the kids the next morning, and enjoying a meal of Great Grandma Raffa’s spaghetti and meatballs.
For a variety of reasons, last week was the first 52nd week in 21 years that Fred and I spent at the cabin alone: no dog, children, or grandchildren. We missed them very much, but found new ways to enjoy our time there. We slept late every day, and Fred did some much-needed repairs while I read my 59th book of the year. We enjoyed having lunch with old friends and dinner at our favorite restaurants. Our New Year’s Eve dinner at Wolfgang’s was special, with party hats and paper horns and a delicious four-course meal.
I also recorded my last two dreams of the year—#5559 and #5560—but I don’t feel the need to reread and summarize them all anymore. I still write new blog posts when I have something to say, and sometimes I update old posts like this one, but my compulsion to write a new one every week, let alone two—which was pretty much an obsession for the first seven years—is gone! Now I post them to stay in touch with my dear old and new friends here. I haven’t started to write a new book but my hunger to enjoy the works of others for a change has been insatiable after so many years of intense writing and producing with little time leftover. Other than that, I just want to be: to stay present with the moment, listen to my body, feelings and needs, follow my instincts, and enjoy my beloved family.
As I approach my 80th year, I want to stay as healthy as possible, but I don’t want to fight the inevitable infirmities. I don’t want to get back to normal. In the words of Drs. Bud and Massimilla Harris, I want “to have an enlarged life of increased empowerment and authenticity, to free [myself] from the complexes that have been sapping [my] energy like remoras.” Into the Heart of the Feminine, 2015.
Finally, I want to leave a legacy to my family of how to age gracefully and with dignity while I savor the blessings of my life. Believe me, I’ve had more than my share. Whatever the New Year may bring, I welcome it with open arms.
May 2023 bring renewed awareness and gratitude for each loving relationship and moment of your one precious life. Happy New Year!
Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Jean’s new Nautilus Award-winning The Soul’s Twins, is at Amazon and Schiffer’s Red Feather Mind, Body, Spirit. Subscribe to her newsletter at www.jeanbenedictraffa.com.
Dear Jean, Thank you for your ‘in between’ thoughts that are hope-filled for those of us who feel as if we are ‘plodders’. A Blessing for 2015: “May we each have the courage to travel our desert, to discover our star and to bring to birth our deepest being.” Warmly, Catherine
You’re so welcome, Catherine. I ‘get’ the feeling of being a plodder. I felt that way for years and still do sometimes, but the thing that gradually changed that perception of myself was having a practice I was committed to and sticking with it. Dreamwork and writing are still the core of my inner work, and the fact that the inner life is what I write about in my books and blog posts helps. Both are crucial to my ongoing development.
“May we each have the courage to travel our desert, to discover our star and to bring to birth our deepest being.” Thank you for this beautiful blessing! I love it, and with your permission I’d like to pass it on in an upcoming speech I’ll be making. I wish the same for you in the coming year! Love, Jeanie
What a sentient life, indeed! Full of wisdom, by tapping into the inner universe, and details are rendered with such simplicity and ease. You are my inspiration, jean as I also begin delving into the Jungian universe. May it be a great 2015 for your continuing quest & many thanks for your blog. Raman
Thank you very much for dropping by and leaving your kind comment. It was a lovely thing to wake up to on this cold and dark winter’s day in the mountains. I’m truly thrilled to hear you’re beginning the inner journey with the help of Jungian psychology, and I wish you the very best of luck with it. To paraphrase Catherine’s beautiful blessing above: “May you have the courage to travel your desert, to discover your star and to bring to birth your deepest being.”
Wishing you a year of healing insights and growth! Jeanie
Love your 52nd week practice….
Thank you. I’d like to pass on Catherine’s blessing to you too at the beginning of this newest year in your journey, full of hope and promise: May you have the courage to travel your desert, to discover your star and to bring to birth your deepest being. Jeanie
M’dear Jeanie…thank you for this lovely post. I enjoyed reading how your decades have changed, yet the 52nd-week ritual remains steady.
With regard to the “plodder” comments above, I would like to offer this link to a lovely insight by David Whyte on “procrastination” because I just love it! (I hope it can be read even if you’re not a fb member)
Wow! I read it and loved it! “Procrastination does not stop a project from coming to fruition, what stops us is giving up on an original idea because we have not got to the heart of the reason we are delaying, nor let the true form of our reluctance instruct us in the way ahead”. This is true wisdom. It meshes perfectly with the self-critical sense that we are ‘plodders’ when we’d so much prefer to be ‘high-energy achievers.” Plodding gives us a much better opportunity to connect with our true energies, whereas the compulsion to press on heroically despite our soul’s reluctance leaves us vulnerable to becoming warrior automatons. I’ve always loved his poetry, but not known about his facebook postings from his writings. I’ll be following him from now on. Thank you, and Happy New Year, Darla! Jeanie
Your very own high holy days, Jeanie. I think of this time in a similar way, although family holidays are tinged with sadness now. It’s all mixed with gratitude and curiosity about what came before and what comes next. I do have a goal this year–to take on Psyche’s First Labor and sort the seeds (and piles) as a way to invite an intuition about how long to stay in my home and where to move next. Sending you New Year’s Blessings and so much love.
Sorting the seeds is such a powerful ritual, Elaine. Essentially, that’s what my daughter is doing this week—too many piles, too little time the rest of the year—and she already reports enormous relief and release. And yes, “my very own high holy days” is a perfect description of how this time of year makes me feel. Wishing you clear intuition when the time is right, and sending you my best blessings and love.
I really enjoyed reading all of this. Your article and the letters and your responses. The process of dreamwork you describe is inspiring.
Thank you, Steven. It was inspiring for me too!
Happy New Year to you my dear friend! What a wonderful end of year practice! Thank you so much for sharing, updating and reposting this one, it’s my first read. Oh, I relish that time between Christmas and New Year too! Its pure downtime as I quietly close my therapy door and turn to the soul’s door to pause, reflect and reconnect.
Meeting Jung, the month before I turned forty five, has slowly and steadily transformed my life with his distinctive way of working with dreams and encountering the archetypes in oneself and others. Though every now and then, I did miss my more outgoing self, as this inner, introverted life of study, dreaming and devotion descended.
As you approach eighty and me, sixty this year, I’ve come to understand that age is a precious gift, one I hope to continue unwrapping in life. Where I carry on recording my dreams, writing poems and walking in nature. On my remaining journey I hope to meet more soul friends and help a few to heal. Learn when to hold on and when to let go.
Thank you so much my soror mystica for being one of the brightest lanterns on my path, thus far, always leading me homewards, despite having to wade through dark, filthy bogs (on my weak ankle), scaling and plummeting great depths that terrified me, all the while stepping out into the unknown, only to learn that I could fly, all along.
Love and light, Deborah
And you certainly have learned to fly with your soaring poetry and a new book ready to take wing! I can’t wait to read it! I’ve so enjoyed basking in the warm light and love which you so graciously bestow on others. Yes, age is a precious gift that continues to teach, nourish, and expand my soul. I feel so fortunate to have shared my path with you and so many other beautiful souls who continue to illuminate it. May the wind continue to lift your wings as you fly into 2023. Much love, Jeanie
Dearest Jeanie, As one who has travelled with you these many years, I love and relate to this post in a profound way. This season of life brings with it such deep contentment, gratitude, and awareness. It’s as though the pieces of our lives have all fit together in an all-encompassing PEACE. Thank you for this reflection. It is an honor to be your friend. LOVE
Oh my dear Trish, and I love and relate to you and your words. The honor is mine. Wishing you peace, love, and continuing inspiration for your beautiful art. Love, Jeanie
Beautiful, Jean. Loved our time together. You look wonderful. We need to spend more time together. Happy new year.
Thank you, Diane. I loved our time together in Highlands too. It was a special treat to hear your inspiring story about the synchronicities that led you to healing in the home of your heart and soul. Congratulations on the high honors you’re receiving for The Seamstress of New Orleans. I wish you a very happy, love-filled new year the best of luck with your next novel. Love, Jeanie
You have always been an inspiration to your family and friends; and I look forward to following you on your journey for the new year. Wishing you much happiness, joy and good health for 2023. Keep those wonderful and informative posts coming.
Thank you, Fern. I love meeting with you and so many other kind people here and don’t see any end to my desire to communicate with you all through my writing. I appreciate you letting me know it’s a blessing to you. Every time you write you send the blessing back! Love, Jeanie
Such a lovely post from a lovely friend. Happiest New Year to you, Fred and the family, Jeanie!
Thank you, dear Jenna. I wish you the happiest New Year ever too! Much love, Jeanie
Such a lovely post Jeanie thank you. You are a wonderful example of aging gracefully and with dignity while fully aware of that some previous activities remain just that and belong in the happy memory bank (although I sometimes think of getting super fit and strong and climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro again).
My first real exposure to Jung was via Centrepoint and the three years of study of it. That was also late 80’s early 90’s. I sometimes wonder what my life would be like if I had not had that exposure, which is ongoing. I would not have met you Deborah and Elaine. I would have felt the gap this I know.
All best wishes for a healthy and happy 2023. May it be fulfilling, always growing in depth and height. With Love, Susan
Thank you, Susan. Oh my. I’ve hiked in the Annapurna range in Nepal and the Maritime Alps in France, but Mt. Kiliminjaro? Nope! That would never happen. But I do understand the appeal, and the exhilarating feeling after an accomplishment like that. Hats off to you, especially if you got all the way to the top!
Our group actually had four years of Centerpoint. We started with an introductory course called Questpoint, then continued for the next three years. Some of us followed up with an ongoing study group for an additional six years. The insights, inspiration, enthusiasm, motivation, sense of purpose, and release of creative energy that came from that changed me, my work, and my relationships for life. It’s ongoing, although at varying levels of intensity. I thought I’d lost it all after the publication of The Soul’s Twins. Thankfully, it’s returning now, but at a more appropriate level of intensity for this phase of my life. Aging brings new lessons of its own. Thank goodness I still have you, Deborah, Elaine, and now Aladin. What blessings you all are for me.
Thank you for your beautiful New Year’s blessing. I wish the same for you. Love, Jeanie
What a lovely read! I am always wondering how much power and wisdom one can have along with such simplicity. I may remember a few, but I could mention two with all certainties: Dr Jung and you, Jean Raffa. I believe as I get nearer to my 70th year, the most important thing is not to become normal! I always appreciate your humility despite your wisdom, and I am happy to have gotten to know you and have become friends with you. That is one of the most significant events in my life. Let’s begin this new year with the hope of peace and more love. Staying sincerely in touch; Aladin. 🙏💖🥰😘🌹 PS: Fred looks excellent under this hat! 😉🤗
Thank you, Aladin. Your generous-spirited and kind-hearted comment leaves my heart feeling warmed and deeply grateful. To be in the same sentence with Dr. Jung, let alone to be compared with him, is the highest compliment I could ever imagine receiving here. I am happy to have gotten to know and become friends with you too. What amazing gifts technology has brought to us in this extraordinary era. Making new like-minded friends with people one would never meet otherwise is among the best of them. I join you in your hope for peace and more love and look forward sincerely to staying in touch. Love, Jeanie (Fred thanks you for your compliment!) 🙂
Let me wipe my teary eyes to write my thanks and say that you absolutely deserve to compare with our Carl Jung. You have understood him a lot better than every other I know. I found it out as I read your articles and how you explain his works. I am also happy that technology made this fantastic relationship. Have a lovely weekend with your loved ones. Always grateful, Aladin.
Thank you sincerely, Aladin. I hope you have a lovely weekend too. Jeanie
My season greetings to you dear Jean …
… a few lines from Beannacht – Blessing – by J. O’Donohue
… May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.
With love, Ashen
This blessing is so beautiful, Ashen. I love John O’Donohue and have Benedictus, his book of blessings. It doesn’t contain this one, though. I’m surprised I’ve never seen it before. It feels very special. Thank you for sharing it with me. It resonates deeply and has given me pause to appreciate the bounteous gifts of life, including friends. I hope you have a blessed new year, filled with love and nourishment. With love, Jeanie