Wood Needs Holiday Help Processing Loss

Dear Vicki: My partner Jillie and I have been together for eight years and have lived together for the past five years. This summer, our house was damaged beyond repair in a storm, so we have moved into an apartment with the small amount of our household goods that were salvageable. The holidays are coming and I know it’s going to be a very different year, but my usual optimism is failing me. I used to love decorating and hosting family and friends, but this year I just want to ignore the whole season. Jillie is a Metal/Earth and has been clear she’d like to have some kind of festivities. I’m a Wood/Earth, so should want that, too, but I’m just not feeling it. All I feel is exhausted, not particularly supported by Jillie, and a complete lack of enthusiasm for the whole season. What can I do? Signed: Sad in the South

Dear Sad: I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. It’s always difficult to move forward after a tragedy, and the holidays can be an especially challenging time to do this. The memories of what has been lost can haunt us like Dickens’ Ghost of Christmas Past, making current holidays hard to imagine. This will be especially hard for you and Jillie because you both have a good amount of Earth, which is where home and family sit. What Jillie has going for is her Metal energy which makes it possible for her to detach from expectations regarding the holidays. Sadly, it isn’t going to be as easy for you. Expectations sit smack dab in Wood and I think it’s your Wood that’s a major factor in how you feel.

You and Jillie have faced a significant loss together and even though you both have a lot of Earth, how you process that loss and move forward will be very different. Jillie’s Earth is a secondary to her Metal and relates to it on the Nurturing Cycle. So even though she was probably just as devastated as you were by the loss, her Earth fed her Metal and made it easier for her to let go of things. This heightened Metal would also long for a traditional acknowledgement of the holiday season since traditions matter to Metals. You, on the other hand, also have Earth as your secondary, but your primary element is Wood. These two elements relate on the Controlling Cycle. In the face of the loss, your Wood probably rose up to manage the chaos and in the process took down some of your Earth energy. Less Earth energy for you means less connection to Earthy things like holidays.

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Nurture vs. Control: Nurturing is Best, Right?

Dear Vicki: Your recent posts about how the five elements can feel controlling to us in relationships were pretty good; I learned a lot. But they left me with a question: Should I just avoid close relationships with people who are on my Controlling Cycle? As a Wood, I’m guessing that I’ll always feel uncomfortable around Metals, even balanced ones, so maybe I should go for relationship with the elements that sit on my Nurturing Cycle. That has to create better relationships, doesn’t it? Signed: Catching On in Connecticut

Dear Catching On: Thank you for your kind words about my blog posts. I’m very glad you are learning a lot, and I’m even gladder that you have written in with your excellent question. There is so much that goes into creating relationships that I fear you will be in big trouble if you chose only to relate to Water or Fire people (the elements that sit on your Nurturing Cycle). First, you will probably be unable to accomplish this because some relationships are dictated by our occupations. Unless you work by yourself or own the place where you work, you will likely have little say regarding co-worker selection. Second, when love strikes, I suspect it can’t be relied on to honor your intention regarding Nurturing Cycle relationships. And that’s as it should be; love often provides our richest growth opportunities. Third, and most importantly, the whole point of understanding how the different elements interact with each other is to facilitate our ability to get along with anyone.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, please remember that when you understand what’s important to each of the elements, what motivates them, what they need to be happy, what upsets them and why, you have at your fingertips all that you need to get along with them. And while as a Wood you think you may never feel completely comfortable with Metals, I will respectfully disagree. I’m a primary Wood married to a Metal and it’s a fantastic relationship! Do I have to remind myself from time to time that his basic outlook on the world is different from mine? Absolutely! But so often that difference ends up helping me. I’ll give you an example.

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Why Does She Fall Out of Love in the Fall?

Dear Vicki: Jim and I started dating 16 months ago. I believe he is an Earth/Water and I love being a Fire – it really helps me be a good teacher. Summers with Jim have been a dream; my Fire flares up and I feel free, funny, and in love with everything. But when school starts, I throw myself into teaching and our relationship takes a 180-degree turn. When that happens, Jim tries even harder to make me happy, but I want to focus on teaching my kids, so feel like pushing him away. In the Fall, I don’t have the time or energy to keep us entertained and really don’t want to owe him for all the wonderful things he does for me while I’m teaching. I know he’s just trying to be nice, so I don’t really understand my intense, angry reaction towards him. Also, Jim is a great artist, but doesn’t seem to take his career seriously. He always has work, but is so laid back about things that sometimes I want to jump in and manage his career. I do love him and want it to work between us for a long time, but why do I stop loving him every Fall? Signed: Frustrated Fire

Dear Frustrated Fire: It is absolutely possible for you to have a long-term relationship with Jim, but you will need to be mindful of your energies and manage them well. As a Fire, you know that you love connecting and having fun with people, but your Fire energy doesn’t necessarily need for those connections to last very long. On the other hand, Jims primary Earth will want lasting, long-term relationships. The good news for you is that long-term relationships between a Fire and an Earth can feel happy and natural for both people. It’s a Nurturing Cycle relationship where Fire feeds Earth. In nature, an earthen hearth is the perfect structure to hold and support fire allowing it to burn stable and steady, something that fire doesn’t often do left to its own devices. As an Earth, Jim can provide this gentle structure for you and your Fire.

One of the reasons you feel so happy and in love during the summer is that summer is your season. During summer everyone is a little more Fire as we loosen the structure of work, take vacations, and devote more time to play. Life is fun! The two summers you’ve been with Jim, you have had a ready companion to hold your Fire. I suspect you have actually been able to be more of your Fiery self your two summers with Jim because he has held the space for you. That would make your summers with Jim seem very much like a dream. But summer can’t last forever, and I think part of the problem you’re having in your relationship is the advent of Fall and the energy it brings. Autumn is Metal time and it calls us to slow down and turn inside. For you as a teacher, it also asks you to get serious about your profession. To do this, I think you allow your secondary element to influence you more than you know, and I have little doubt that your secondary is Wood.

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Helping Wood Son Burned By Family of Fires

Dear Vicki: I am new to the study of the Five Elements and find it fascinating. In looking at our family, it seems that my husband, myself, and our two daughters are all Fires. Our son, Mike, is definitely a Wood, which helps me understand why he feels uncomfortable when we are all together. When Mike was younger, he would take a pillow and curl up somewhere quiet to nap because we seemed to exhaust him. Now that there have been additions to the family – two sons-in-law (one Water, one Metal) and a grandson (Wood) – Mike seems to handle family gatherings a little better. But with the holiday season coming up, how can we help Mike be even more comfortable for the numerous times we are all together?  Are there colors or things to add to the environment that would be helpful? We love him dearly. Signed: Mom

Dear Mom: As a Wood myself, I feel for your son growing up in a family full of Fires. Wow! Life would never have been boring! And even though Wood and Fire relate on the Nurturing Cycle, it’s Mike’s Wood that had to feed all four of your Fires. That’s a lot to ask of one Wood and totally explains why he not only appeared slightly uncomfortable, but also snuck away for naps. Feeding four Fires would exhaust any Wood.

Even Fires will admit that too much Fire energy can become chaotic, and chaos takes a Wood down quicker than almost anything else. That’s why Woods are often perceived as control freaks. But in truth, they don’t want control, they just want to prevent things from getting out of control. Living with four Fires, Mike was not only exhausted from trying to feed your Fire (in relationships, this means being the audience for the Fire), he was also likely trying to manage what he perceived as chaos. When younger, withdrawing from the drama was probably the best way for him to retain his own balance. And as you may have discovered, it works for adults, too.

It’s not surprising that maturity and additions to the family have made things a bit better for Mike. The good news is that Woods have great boundaries and, as an adult, it’s probably easier for Mike to draw a line now than it was when he was young. If things get too chaotic now, he can easily excuse himself (having work to catch up on is a great Wood excuse) and seek out a quiet area. There are different elements in the mix now, too, which also takes some of the pressure off of Mike, although it will be important to understand the specific relationships he’ll have with each of the new additions to your family.

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Ending a Relationship: Can the Five Elements Help?

Dear Vicki: This may seem like an odd relationship question, but I need help ending a relationship. Eight years ago, I divorced after five years of marriage. It was a difficult time for me so I didn’t date for several years. Two years ago I started dating a nice fellow named Chuck. It’s been fun – we certainly laugh and go out a lot – but lately he’s started hinting at marriage. I care about Chuck, but he isn’t really someone I want to be with the rest of my life. He shifts from fun Fire energy to dour Metal too often; it’s like he’s two different people, which makes me tired, so I need to end things. I’d rather find a Wood personality, someone more like myself, to settle with but I don’t want to hurt Chuck’s feelings. Is there a way the Five Elements can help make it easier to tell him we’re through? Signed: Sensitive in Seattle

Dear Sensitive: It is very kind of you to seek out a good way to tell Chuck you aren’t interested in a marriage relationship with him. And since you’ve already ended a more permanent relationship once, it is wise of you to be cautious regarding entering into another one. The short answer to your questions is that yes, you absolutely can use an understanding of the Five Elements to help you end your relationship with Chuck on a good note. But first, let’s take a quick look at why it’s not surprising that your relationship with Chuck isn’t something you want to make permanent.

Chuck’s Fire relates to your Wood on the Nurturing Cycle, which can be a good thing for a relationship. However, it’s your Wood that feeds his Fire, and that’s the reason the relationship can feel tiring for you. Too much Fire will drain your Wood energy. And if Chuck’s secondary is Metal, it relates to your Wood on the Controlling Cycle, so will feel stifling to you. Honestly, it’s surprising you lasted with Chuck for two years, but I suspect the reason you did was because you have a secondary Earth.

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