I don’t know. The older I get, the more I’m enamored with…in tune with…drawn by…the passing of the years. The impotence of the days. The importance of the seasons. Maybe this is what it is to get older. To speed up and slow down at the same time. To understand how quickly time passes and the constant of change and the way things stay immovably the same. Or maybe this is what it is to be human. Maybe this is what it is to become real like the Velveteen Rabbit, trading shiny, new make-believe for worn and weary truth but somehow, via mystery and magic as old as time, more beautiful for it.
Or maybe I’m maudlin because tonight is the Longest Night. December 21. Winter Solstice. The darkest of dark days. The longest of long nights. But if that’s true–if I’m “just” maudlin–there’s a truth to that, too. Because today is the day we can’t deny the night its due. We can’t pretend it’s not overwhelming. We can’t pretend it doesn’t bleed into the day. We can’t pretend there isn’t grief and death and longing during this holiday season. We can’t pretend there isn’t lament. We can’t pretend there isn’t loss.
And, friends, I vacillate between the Queen of Spin, the resurrection of optimism, the determination of joy–“THERE IS MAGIC IN THIS MESS. I SWEAR IT.”–and the unavoidable truth that we drown sometimes. Slip under the choppy water. Can’t kick to the surface. Sink, and sink, and sink, and sink until we’re limp and lifeless. Breath gone, and glad for it. Soothed not to work for a few minutes. Soothed not to fight, floating where there is no air.
Which is dark.
I know it is. And the Queen of Spin, who also bears witness to what is Real and what is True but her own piece of it, the slice she can see, wants to remind us that DARKNESS IS NOT ALL THERE IS. And DARKNESS DOES NOT LAST FOREVER.
But tonight’s not the night for that. Tonight doesn’t belong to her. Tonight belongs to the dark. To being sad. To being lonely. To being willing to feel it and sit with the discomfort and mourn.
Oh, God, we’re bad at this part, aren’t we?
We just suck at lament.
We’re taught from birth to avoid it. To reject it. To focus on JOY and BETTER DAYS AHEAD. And we’re not wrong per se. Not entirely. It’s just that when we avoid grief, we’re missing out on being made real. On being worn. On being torn. On being threadbare and weary and wary and done. We’re missing the beauty of it. The revelation. The decay. Breaking down to become one with the earth. We forget we’re made from soil. Dust and ashes. We forget that we are rich loam and from us, new life begins. Through us, the water gets in.
So in case you’re not just happy happy, joy joy right now…just in case you’re not fully merry this season…I want to say that’s OK. YOU’RE OK. And you are, in fact, beautiful. You are the Longest Night. I see you. And I’m waving in the dark.