The Longest Night

By Christy Gualtieri

Can you hear it? The longest night of the year approaching?

I’ve always loved winter, and I think it’s because I grew up in Florida and I never really had one. Winter when I was a small child consisted of two days of 60 degree weather and the chance that I might really get to wear the one sweater I owned outdoors, and not just as a guard against aggressive air conditioning. When I was a teenager and moved to New Jersey I got to experience cold for the first time, and snow, and the days that grew shorter and colder and drove everyone inside.

And it’s that driving-everyone-inside thing about winter that I love the most. It’s our chance to sit in the darkness and have a really great shot at silence. Real silence, too- the kind that helps you realize that you are just one part of a really wide, beautiful expanse of life.

I found myself being more and more drawn to the idea of unplugging and finding silence in the most ironic of ways – through social media. I’d see accounts of people sharing their TV-free lives exploring the world, or gathering around a fire, or short videos of snow-covered woods, and I felt this longing to see what the silence means for myself (which yes, involves less time on social media). So I’m trying in this little pocket of time we have between the November and December holidays to really seek out that darkness, to find the comfort in it, and to surround myself in the peace that inevitably follows. I’ve noticed a change at home, just small changes: I feel more peaceful. My children act out less (slightly less, but less just the same). We all just feel better with attention focused on each other and not at something inanimate.

I know not everyone feels the peace in silence. I can understand why time spent in deliberate silence can be a threat. Real and meaningful time to yourself means you have to suddenly think about all the things you wanted to hide. You have time now to replay those mean words said to you, that embarrassing thing you did that you feel you’ll never get over, or the thing that happened to you that caused unspeakable pain.  And no one wants that. So you fill the silence with noise, with distraction, with and hope the grief and the discomfort will take care of itself.

But life very rarely works that way. Sure, those things might go away – but briefly, and it seems when they do come back they come back even stronger.

So I invite you to sit when you can, as late Fall slips into early Winter, and come into the silence. It might be a dark place, literally, for you, that works best, but it might not.  (I prefer to sit in the silence and light of our Christmas tree decorations, myself.)  And be led by what your mind discovers in the silence. My hope is that in that time of silence you have peace.  You find joy.  And you find a way to close the book on 2017 and open it, brand new and ready to begin again, for 2018.

Until next time, be well!

Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and children, blogs at, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health.