Celebration, Remembrance, and Recovery on the Winter Solstice

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Joslyn P. Smith

When I logged onto Facebook this morning, a friend had posted the following excerpt from Margaret Atwood’s poem Shapechangers in Winter:

This is the solstice, the still point

of the sun, its cusp and midnight,

the year’s threshold

and unlocking, where the past

lets go of and becomes the future,

the place of caught breath, the door

of a vanished house left ajar.

Atwood’s words point toward what I find most beautiful and hopeful about the solstice, and the thing that feels most relevant to my recovery journey—the both/and.

A lot of the work I have done toward recovery is about honoring and holding the both/and of most situations.

Today—especially this year—illustrates the importance and balance of doing just that: I celebrate my daughter’s birth and I grieve for the loss of my dad. The stillpoint of the sun, its cusp and midnight.

My dad and my daughter. Where the past lets go and becomes the future.

Five years ago, my daughter was born on the winter solstice. I’ve always told her, her birth helped usher the light back in. To each day. To my life. Maybe to the world. And every year she shines brighter and brighter.

While today marks her fifth birthday and our house is full of celebration, this year’s winter solstice is also a day of remembrance for me. My dad passed away one week ago. He was a beautiful, complicated man. He lived a long, full life. He was ninety, and I was unprepared for his passing.

Recovery. Where the past lets go and becomes the future.

In eating disorder recovery, we often aim to shift from a rigid place of black and white, where an either/or mindset is in control, toward a more balanced, more sustainable place where the grays are important, where the both/and can come to light. For me, the winter solstice in the annual illustration of the importance and beauty of that shift.  

The stillpoint. The moment in time where the darkness is deepest and longest, and where the potential for expanding light and renewal is greatest. 

The caught breath. The day of the year when my joy and my grief lives side by side and makes perfect sense together.   

May we all look forward to brighter days, and still honor the dark.

We’d love to hear from you. On the winter solstice, are there ways you recognize the importance of holding aspects of your life and recovery within a both/and framework? 

Joslyn P. Smith is a consultant for NEDA, focusing on public policy and advocacy benefiting those impacted by eating disorders and the professionals working in the areas of prevention, research, and treatment. Prior to working with NEDA, Joslyn was Director of Policy and Government Affairs for the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA). As a result of her personal experience with an eating disorder, and numerous people she’s met when sharing her story publicly, Joslyn is particularly committed to ensuring those with eating disorders who live in higher-weight bodies are recognized, represented, and advocated for in the field of eating disorders and in public policy.