The Longest Night

I yelled at my husband this morning but not at my children which means I only yelled at 17% of my household and therefore have an 83%, or B grade, which is not an A but is definitely above average. This is why math matters, friends; so we can assess how much, exactly, we’re screwing it up. This is also the best argument I know for having too many children; even if you wreck it just completely with one of them, chances are you can still squeak out an overall win in the percentages.

In my defense, Greg didn’t do a small thing he assured me he would do, by 9:30am exactly, which I’d told him was important to me, which means Greg is human and fallible, which is a crux of All Marital Issues, large and small, which sucks. Unfortunately, another crux of All Martial Issues, and All Relationships in General, is How We Respond to the ways we are disappointed and hurt. I usually pick Lashing Out and Being Mouthy and Overreacting in the Tiniest, Most Adorable Ways, minus being either tiny or adorable, which turns out Not to Improve Things but makes me feel better in the moment, same as bacon or cheese or perfectly crunchy toffee with a thin, chocolate coating that crumbles and dissolves on my tongue. I might regret it later, but at the time? It’s the best thing I know. I’d like to apologize to Greg, but I know my apology will be sullen because the only genuine apology I can offer is, “I’m sorry for the way I reacted to you not doing the thing you knew you needed to do, which you agreed to do, which seemed small to you but which was important to me, about which I proactively communicated to avoid this very situation,” which doesn’t seem particularly helpful at this time.

Today is December 21st, the Winter Solstice, the Longest Night of the Year for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, and I am weary, friends. I am tired. I am heavy laden.

img_2939I has been Quite a Year.

And, though he was an easy target today, it’s not Greg. Of course it’s not.

It’s All the Things we’ve individually and collectively carried that are simply too much. Too huge. Too overwhelming to bear. Loss. Grief. Uncertainty. Illness. Unkindness. Helplessness. Fear for ourselves and mostly for others who are more vulnerable and have less margin to lose.

It’s been a Dark Night this year. A long, dark night. We’ve been waiting in the darkness for dawn to come, and, frankly, hope isn’t easy this year.

And yet, the Longest Night has come anyway. Like Good Friday, which is less about what’s good and more about bearing witness to the dark, and sitting in the pain, and seeing the sacrifice before we know for certain whether it will matter in the end. The Longest Night and Good Friday come, whether we’re ready or not.

And so we sit tonight, together. Holding hands. Waving in the dark. For a very long time. While hope is just a whisper we long to grow louder.

Sending you love, friends, and the blessing below on this long night,

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Blessing for the Longest Night
by Jan Richardson

All throughout these months
as the shadows
have lengthened,
this blessing has been
gathering itself,
making ready,
preparing for
this night.

It has practiced
walking in the dark,
traveling with
its eyes closed,
feeling its way
by memory
by touch
by the pull of the moon
even as it wanes.

So believe me
when I tell you
this blessing will
reach you
even if you
have not light enough
to read it;
it will find you
even though you cannot
see it coming.

You will know
the moment of its
arriving
by your release
of the breath
you have held
so long;
a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
a thinning
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
around you.

This blessing
does not mean
to take the night away
but it knows
its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
to travel
in the company
of a friend.

So when
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.

This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.

© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
6 comments
  1. Amen, Amen, Amen.
    My husband had the audacity to get the flu yesterday! WHAT? Another person to take care of?! Oh, I don’t think so! He had to take care of himself because I have ALL THE CHILDREN! And what if THEY get the flu?! And what about CHRISTMAS?! And DEPRESSION! And GRIEF! And ALLEPO! And NO SLEEP! And NO SUNSHINE in the PNW!
    So, I literally threw him food through a cracked door and quarantined his bathroom.
    And that is how I won ‘wife of the year’ award, because that is about how this whole dang year has gone…
    Thank you for the blessing <3
    Tomorrow the days get longer, tomorrow the days get longer, tomorrow the days get longer…

  2. Waving in the dark. It’s been very dark in my neck of the woods this year. There have been many moments where I’m “in so deep, it seems easier to just swim down”. But I get up and try to count my blessings. Five wonderful kids. One terrific husband. Two dogs who love me lots and only occasionally eat the garbage. A sister living close by. Enough money to provide all of what my family needs and some of what they want. Good friends. Places like this to connect with other wavers in the dark.

  3. This. Every single word. Thank you.

  4. I love all of this Beth, and once again, your words have arrived when I needed them most. In Australia, it’s the longest day, not the longest night. Or perhaps that was yesterday. I can’t keep track of these things, or of any of the things for that matter. But I’m kind of jealous that you get the longest night. Because Sleep! I have woken heavy today, heavy hearted. And so to face a long day seems very hard.
    Such a year of sorrows, globally, and personally. And now, to endure Christmas.
    Thank you for waving in the dark my friend, and for providing a lift to get me through a long heavy day one step at a time. xx

  5. I’m stealing this apology as well.

  6. “I’m sorry for the way I reacted to you not doing the thing you knew you needed to do, which you agreed to do, which seemed small to you but which was important to me, about which I proactively communicated to avoid this very situation,”

    My new life motto.

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