In the northern hemisphere, today marks the winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year.
My life is awash in messages about enduring through the darkness, about faith in the light, about getting through the bad and believing the good will come again. These are all good messages, especially at this juncture of American history. If we don't believe this particular long night will end, we might not keep going.
I've been contemplating another approach to the solstice this year. On that shortest day, when the least light is given to me, I'm going to cram a full day into it -- not necessarily the activities, but the joy and the living of it. I'm eating delicious food and reveling in it. I'm loving my friends and family a full day's worth in these short bright hours. I began my work day with focused productivity and accomplishment, and met three concrete deadline goals by 10 am.
Headlong, heedless, I embrace this day as if the setting sun were my own ending.
That setting sun will find me on the road, hurtling towards loved ones as the light dies and the long darkness falls across the land.
Into that darkness, I am cast with a choice. I can hold the light, clinging to it and willing its return. Some years I do this, because I need that lifeline to get myself to the next moment. Hope and faith as acts of resilience are essential to humanity.
This year, though, I release the light and let myself fall into that night. Stronger and more deeply rooted than I've been in years past, I believe that I will fall through that darkness and out through the other side of it. The light will be there.
As the slow beats of my own heart echo through me, I can embrace my own darknesses.
A span of heartbeats for my fears, which I respect as my careful guardians and meet with courage.
A span of heartbeats for my grief, which I consider as the touch of love upon my life, and meet with compassion.
A span of heartbeats for my anger, which I tend carefully as a righteous fire to light a path to justice.
A beat for my anxiety, a beat for my worry, a beat for my temper, a long flurry of beats for my pride followed by a matching cadence for self-doubt.
With my heart resounding in my ears, I dive down into that silence, that peace. I am the falcon diving, the falling star, the razored edge of the descending blade. And there, at the center of the darkness, I find the stillness, the silence, the space between my own breath and body, and I hold there.
One moment, and a heartbeat.
Two, and a heartbeat.
Three, stretching out into timelessness, the darkness all and eternal around me.
As the distance between the last heartbeat and the next one expands, I wait and I gather myself. I gather the peace at the center of all, to hold when chaos spins around me. I gather the silence of midnight, to give myself time to reflect when wisdom is needed. I gather the tiniest kernel of the essence of nothing, as a powerful tool of banishment in the coming year.
Outside of light, outside of time, outside of life itself, I honor the parts of me that have always been hardest for me to love, and I embrace them, rushing back into myself to meet my own beating heart.
And the fall continues, but now I tumble towards where the light will be, towards the future, towards the spring. Still in darkness, I hit solid earth, meeting it with both feet. I stand, and take one last moment to thank the night, before I turn to face the coming day.
Blessed solstice, my darlings. I love you all.