Whether or not you’re an astrologist, you probably know that a few weeks ago, December 21st to be precise, was the winter solstice — otherwise known as the longest night of the year. In fact, some scientists said that it may have been the longest night ever.
When an event like this comes along, I’m never sure what to do.
Do I encourage my former night owl and stay up as late as I can, soaking in every second of glorious night? Or do I do the responsible, working-parent thing by going to bed early and enjoying those extra few moments of darkness asleep before the little ones arise?
I went the “non-choice” route and instead, fought with Apple TV and our horrible Comcast wifi until I could use my borrowed-from-a-friend Showtime log-in to watch season 3 of Homeland. It wasn’t until the winter sun blasted through our window the next morning that the gravity of the previous night hit me.
It had been the longest night of the year and I slept right through it.
For others this may seem inconsequential, but for me it was a revelation.
For years, a decade at least, I wrestled with the kind of debilitating anxiety that made nearly every single night feel like the longest ever. I’d numb myself with one addiction or another just to try and get a few minutes of rest. But on Sunday night, December 21st, after watching Carrie Mathison spy on terrorists, I read a little, kissed my babies and my wife goodnight, and fell fast asleep.
Despite lots of therapy, breathing exercises, and a good antidepressant, my nights are not always as peaceful. Some still feel like they drag on forever as my veins pump with cortisol and fear like they used to.
But what the longest night of year taught me, once again, is that the morning eventually comes.
It’s the oldest metaphor in the book and for good reason: we must be reminded every now and again that even when the blackness lurks in its cruelest state, we are just moments from the light breaking through.
My mom got into a terrible wreck just before Christmas and spent her holiday in a nursing home; a new friend was admitted on suicide watch; a longtime friend is dying of cancer and this week I will bring a camera to his home so he can record wedding toasts to his unmarried kids, knowing he won’t see them wed.
And yet… and yet… the dawn will come.
The light will break.
In truth, the light has already broken.
The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. – Matthew 4:16
For the last year and half, I’ve been developing a space where people can wrestle with their own darkness through the medium of the creative process. I call it Make Better: an 8-week online course designed to help you become a better human and make better art. On the 7th week of the 8-week course, I re-tell Plato’s epic story of a cave dweller who heaves his way out of a cave and into the light only to return to tell his friends what amazing things he has seen. The journey is wrought with pain and yet he makes his way out.
This is the human experience — and it is those humans that embark on such a journey that make the greatest works of art and live the greatest lives. This is the kind of person I want to be and I’m looking for people who want to join me.
I will almost always battle anxiety, it will probably always be my “thing,” but as I stand on this side of advent, the side where the light is shining brightly into the new year, I’m trying to remember that the light really is darkest just before the dawn and that winter light is breaking through the window whether I feel it or not.
Find out more about Make Better here.
There are just a few spots left for the January 15th course. I’m offering $100 off for the One Word 365 community for the remainder of the open spots. Follow this link to get the deal.