Where Did Her Happiness Go?

Dear Vicki: I’m writing with a question regarding how I relate to myself. I’m hoping you can help. Over the past several years I’ve turned into a crabby person. I’m not that old, but I seem to have lost a lot of joy in my life, especially as it relates to the holidays. They are over now, and I’m happy about that, but I just never found the holiday spirit. I remember even 15 years ago I could sit with a cup of tea and feel the blessings of the season. Now, they are just one big whirl of anxious activity and sadly, pretty empty or meaningless. They are busy times, but as I’ve climbed the corporate ladder at the consulting firm where I work, the holidays and other times that used to be fun, magical, or even just happy don’t seem that way anymore. Is this part of growing up, or growing old? And can I change it back? Signed: Empty in Edgewater

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Dear Empty: Your letter probably could have been written by half the people in the United States. It’s a common problem that comes from believing we can/should/need to do it all. This tendency is especially strong in people with a primary Wood personality, and it sounds to me like that might be the case for you. Wood people do believe at some level that they can do it all. They carry the motive power and manifestation directive of Spring energy. That’s the energy that allows tender leaves to burst through tough bark, or crocuses to emerge from the snow. At some level, Wood personalities see everything as a personal challenge, one they are determined to meet. Climbing the corporate ladder is a perfect example, but it isn’t just about work. Creating a perfect holiday season – or the ultimate vacation – can also be taken up as a worthy challenge. Do it all, and do it better than anyone, often describes Woods who have taken on so much they are out of balance. Success will always matter to Wood people, but the wise ones know that balance in all things is important. I think losing sight of that truth may be what’s tripping you up.

No one human being can do it all, all the time, but the Wood personality will try. In doing so, they build up more of that “can do” aspect of their personality to a point that it becomes unbalanced. If we look at the Five Elements model, remember that Wood relates to the other four elements in the following manner:

  1. Wood feeds Fire, so too much Wood can lead to too much Fire, which can lead to more activity and anxiety than normal.
  2. Wood controls Earth, which can lead to less Earthiness, which is where home, family, and often holiday enjoyment sits.
  3. Wood is controlled by Metal, meaning it is Metal’s job to make sure that the level of Wood energy doesn’t get too high. But too much Wood for too long can deplete Metal as it continuously tries to manage Wood. This can lead to a loss of the logic needed to move rationally through life.
  4. Wood is fed by Water, and the more Wood there is the more energy it will demand from Water. This often depletes Water, which can affect our ability to connect with joy, wonder, and fun.

So over the long haul, if this pattern isn’t changed one can end up with too much Wood, too much Fire, and not enough Earth, Metal, or Water. A good image for this might be the hysterical bull in a china shop! For you, the end result is pretty much what you described in your letter: a sense of needing to do more (too much Wood energy), anxiety (too much Fire), emptiness around the holidays (not enough Earth energy to feel the connections), little meaning (this usually comes from Metal wisdom) and no peace and magic (both have strong representation in Water). Bottom line: you have worked yourself to a place that your Wood personality is out of balance, which really just means that your relationship to yourself is out of balance. But no worries, there are ways to address that.

First and foremost, you need to examine your workaholic ways, which are often a trademark of the Wood personality. The good news is that Wood people usually have a great deal of structure, so setting better boundaries for yourself will probably be something you can do. Create “work times” and “non-work times” and stick to it. The other personality that has lots of structure is Metal, and since Metal energy is what helps “prune” too much Wood energy, it will be important that you get very logical, rational, and strict about your new schedule, all attributes of the Metal personality.

In addition, to help balance you out you need more of what the Earth and Water personalities have to offer. Earth people love time with close friends and family, something that usually happens more around the holidays. Perhaps your busy schedule didn’t allow as much holiday connecting as you wanted (or needed), so start connecting more now. Spend time with close family and friends, or even just more time at home. And to build more Water energy, you can use some of that time at home to read, color (FYI, adult coloring books are excellent at tapping into Water energy), or even just listen to music. Not only will these activities help build Water energy, but that extra Water energy will help balance the too much Fire state you find yourself in right now.

As all of these aspects of your personality come into better balance, I think you will find that you become less anxious, more accepting, wiser, and even more playful. But don’t worry, you will never lose the strength of your Wood “make it happen” personality. It will always be your primary, it just needs help from all the others. And now is the perfect time to start. We are in winter here in the northern hemisphere, which is Water time, a time of new beginnings. Ride that energy to balance now so that when spring hits, which is Wood time, you will be balanced, happy, and ready to take on the world in a wonderful new way! Blessings to you!

girl happiness

Resolutions, Fresh Starts, and Ceremony

Dear Vicki: I love New Year’s resolutions! Committing to what I want to accomplish next year makes me happy. Unfortunately, my husband hates the idea. Every year it’s impossible to get him excited about sharing thoughts for the coming year. And when he does finally agree, it’s like the Grinch is here to stay. I’m dreading January this year because I know it will just be one more fight about resolutions. Of course, I could make them alone, but we’ve been together a long time and so much of what happens in my life involves him. How do I get him excited about New Year’s resolutions? Signed: Resolutions for Me

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Dear Resolutions: This is an issue many of us have faced and I believe that understanding your elemental personality (and your husband’s) will help you address it very comfortably. The fact that you enjoy coming up with resolutions for the New Year suggests that you are probably a Wood personality. The arena of focus for Wood people is the future, and there is nothing more future-oriented than creating resolutions for the coming year. In truth, resolutions are really just glorified plans for change and Wood people excel at planning.

The fact that your husband hates resolutions (rather than just finding them boring, pointless, or silly) suggests that he is probably a Metal personality. The arena of focus for Metal people is the past; they excel at synthesizing the events that occur over the course of a cycle, be that a month, a season, a lifetime, or longer. Metals are brilliant at looking backward and bringing wisdom forward. But it’s often difficult for them to project themselves into the future; they just don’t think that way, which is probably one reason your husband hates making resolutions.

The idea of making New Year’s resolutions is popular in our culture not because we’re a world of Wood personalities. Instead, I think the popularity of resolutions suggests that each elemental personality can and does have a connection to the idea of a fresh start. Let’s take a closer look at how each element might respond to the idea of New Year’s resolutions and then we’ll consider how you might encourage your husband to embrace them a bit more.

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A Short Blessing for the New Year

Dear Readers: Thank you so much for your enthusiastic support of this blog! I deeply appreciate your letters and comments (and shares), as well as the opportunity to explore with you the wisdom embodied in the Five Elements model. This deceptively simple model not only provides a window into the workings of the universe, it also helps us better understand ourselves and our relationships.

As we say goodbye to 2018, I once again offer you The Five Elements Blessing. As I have mentioned in this blog many times, while our personalities may reflect a specific element, we do have all five of the elements in our makeup. That means that the gifts of each element are ours to access as we need. May we honor these gifts equally in ourselves and others during 2019.

 

The Five Elements Blessing

I wish you the hope and optimism of Water:

May you always embody trust. 

I wish you the success and productivity of Wood:

May your accomplishments foster peace.

I wish you the joy and celebration of Fire:

May you be a source of inspiration to others. 

I wish you the caring and connection of Earth:

May you offer compassion to those in need. 

I wish you the knowledge and understanding of Metal:

May you provide wisdom to us all.

 

Happy New Year! Let’s make 2019 a year of joyful relationships, sweet love, and everlasting kindness!

Vicki

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She’s Dreading the Winter Solstice

Dear Vicki: The Winter Solstice is approaching and that means the start of winter. I hate it. The dark and cold always make me very unhappy, but my sister (a writer) loves December: The darker and colder, the better for her. I think she’s crazy, but how can we be so different when we’re just one year apart? Could this have something to do with our elements? I don’t even know what element I am, I just know that I hate winter. Can you help me understand why? Signed: Hates the Cold and Dark

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Dear Hates the Cold and Dark: Winter Solstice does indeed herald the start of winter in the northern hemisphere; December, January and February are usually the coldest months here. But within the Five Elements model, the Winter Solstice represents a pause in the year-long journey from longest day to longest night, then back again. December 21 is the shortest day of the year, thus the longest night. Beginning the next day, the nights shorten and the days lengthen. So if you hate the dark, Winter Solstice is actually good news for you because beginning December 22, the days get longer. But the cold? Well, that is around for several more months.

To answer your question, how we respond to a time of year absolutely can have to do with our elemental personality, especially since (as was mentioned in last week’s post), each elemental personality has a seasonal affiliation. On the surface of things, it seems logical that each personality would resonate with their own season – and that can be true – but it isn’t always so straightforward. If someone’s primary element is unbalanced in their personality, they may not do well with their own season, so could really need what another season has to offer. Let’s look at how this might work and perhaps you will recognize yourself in one of these elemental personality descriptions.

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The Holidays Make Her Sad

Dear Vicki: This is supposed to be such a joyful time of year, but try as I might I always end up sad and depressed around the holidays. I think of family and friends who have passed away and miss the holidays of my childhood. I am an adult who, for most of the year, is very content in her singlehood and happiest alone, but this time of years makes me question whether the effort I put into my legal career at the expense of relationships is wise. I know your blog is about relationships, but do you have any suggestions on how I can get through the holidays. I act like all the fuss is a colossal waste of time, but in all honesty, a small part of me wishes I wasn’t so automatically dismissive. I don’t expect to be joyful, but it would be great not to be so down. Signed: Sad in Sycamore

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Dear Sad: Bless you for reaching out. The holiday season is a complicated time of year for all of us. If we were lucky, we had parents who tried to make the holidays as magical as possible for us. We likely didn’t see the sacrifices they made to do this, or the responsibilities they juggled to manage it all. Even if we were this lucky, few of us ever enjoyed the kind of highly idealized holidays that the advertising world seems to insist is normal these days. Yet when we admit that we just don’t have the time, energy, or means to meet the expectations they create, we feel like failures.

And for those of us whose holiday experiences centered on friends and family, the inevitable loss of loved ones does put a damper on every holiday we celebrate. I want to assure you that these are all normal reactions and responses to the procession of life through the years. People come into our lives, and people leave. There are wonderfully magical times, and times of sorrow and loss. That is life at its most basic. But that doesn’t mean we are destined to be victims of the past. There is much we can do to manage our response to the holidays, so let’s look at ways you can make a difference for yourself this year.

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