Embrace the darkness
Today is the winter solstice, a day that marks the most important family gathering of our year. It’s a tradition that my in-laws began decades ago when my wife and her brother and stepbrothers were teenagers. Now, dozens of extended family members and friends gather to eat chili, throw holly and ivy into a huge bonfire, and recommit to being there for each other in the darkness, and moving collectively toward the light.
This year, the celebration takes on a particular significance because I find myself in the midst of a personal winter. I’ve been at a loss as to what to call this. Depression? No, I know the weight of sadness and this is not it. Stagnation? Not this either. Nothing feels stuck.
But as the year wraps up, my life has gone quiet. Multiple creative projects feel complete. The book I first envisioned writing when I was a child now sits on a shelf in my bedroom. The podcast I started four years ago is a consistent product, ready to move in a direction I can’t yet identify. I don’t know where to direct my creative energy and, in fact, I can’t even locate that energy. I’m weary, the kind of tired that settles in my bones and doesn’t lift just because I’ve had a good night’s sleep. The kind of tired that follows three years of pandemic living, of raising babies and writing a book while working a full-time job. All of it has demanded all of me. I feel as though I have nothing left.
In Katherine May’s meditation on this period in one’s life, which she calls Wintering, she writes:
“Winter is a time of withdrawing from the world, maximizing scant resources, carrying out acts of brutal efficiency and vanishing from sight; but that’s where the transformation occurs. Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible.”
I’m trying not to hurry through this period. I’m trying not to fill my time with email and to-do lists and tasks that make me feel productive. A winter is a productive time, but its merits are revealed through stillness, the space to let a mind wander and the discipline to bring it back. Instead, I’m reading Sarah Stewart Taylor’s delicious mysteries, with a strong female protagonist who figures everything out in the end. I’m playing with my kids. I’m embracing the darkness, letting it settle me.
The beauty of seasonality is that the light is on a schedule that I do not control. It arrives in good time. The beauty of community is that we guide each other through the dark moments; we become the internal light that makes periods of darkness bearable. It’s something I’ll think about as I take my place on the bench around the fire this evening, allowing the darkness to settle. May you embrace the darkness in your own life right now. May you be the light for others.
📘 The Family Outing: A good enough version of our lives
My super support team at Harper Collins put together a series of audiograms for The Family Outing, taken from the audio book. True fact: I read the audio for this memoir. Last summer I sat in a tiny recording booth near Times Square for three days, reading myself to me. Who’s going to listen to this? I wondered this at the time. It turns out that a lot of people I know read books via Audible (and you can, too.) The observation below feels on point for this moment:
🎙 Things I’ve recorded: Hello Monday
The podcast has had a strong fall! Check out two episodes that offer up rich conversations and offer a kind of counterbalance to each other. First, we invited Gina Bianchini to talk about her new book, Purpose: Design a community and change your life. Gina talks about how she came to understand purpose in her own life and what we can take from that journey for our own lives:
We also hosted Guillermo del Toro in the studio. Our producer Sarah Storm, who is also a professional actor, conducted this interview, and Guillermo was generous with both his time and his heart. He even brought his Pinocchio puppet. Among my favorite aspects of this conversation was his description of what he’d learned about happiness: "If you want to be happy, don’t think about what you have. Think about what you can do."
📚Things I’m reading:
“The truth is, so few podcasts make any money,” from the Wall Street Journal.
This Twitter thread from Arielle Pardes quoting my HM intvw with Scott Galloway.
Every single thing I can find on chat GPT and the impact it is having and will continue to have on EVERYTHING, especially:
Ben Thompson on AI Homework
ChatGPT will be overhyped, then overlooked, and then, perhaps, essential
That girl is going to get herself killed, a Longreads (long) read that attempts to reckon with the risk involved in wilderness (and life) and how we seek to control it (and cannot).
Arthur Brooks in The Atlantic on how to want less.
📘 The Family Outing: Here’s a reminder that the book makes a strong holiday gift. You can purchase a copy for yourself here.
And thanks to everyone who keeps posting and sharing and sending photos of the book from places including (below) Los Angeles, Lexington (MA), the UWS (NY), Florida, Brooklyn, Santa Rosa (CA), Little Rock (AK), San Francisco, Jackson (MS).