I wrote a book!!

Two copies of The Long Night lying on a table with plants and candles
Hello, friends!! I don’t really use this blog anymore (you can subscribe to my new one at jessicakantrowitz.com) but in case there are folks here who aren’t connected to me in any other way, I wanted to make sure to share my latest news: My book has launched!! (You can order it through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or through your local bookstore with IndieBound!)

The Long Night: Readings and Stories to Help You Through Depression has been out in the world for a little over a month now. It has been such a fun experience to see it in people’s hands and read their reactions.

Every email, every review, every share on social media has meant so much to me. Here are some highlights:

“Reading this book is like having a conversation with a friend. I’ve never met the author but could feel the warmth of her compassion through all of her words. She is so gentle and loving as she shares her experience, and if you’ve ever suffered through depression and anxiety you probably know that most of the time the best someone can do is be present with you while you go through it. Jessica Kantrowitz makes space for you to feel what you are feeling without judgment and offers gentle pushes towards things that might help. Page after page had such beautiful writing that was so reassuring and comforting. The tagline is so true–you are not alone, and this will not last forever. Chapter 15 was my favorite, but there were so many good parts throughout the whole book. This book is from a Christian perspective but doesn’t sell God as some magic fix-it solution, which I like a lot, and was realistic about the nature of experiencing depression and pain.“
~Ransom

 

A collage of dozens of people holding The Long Night“Jessica’s book is a treasure. It is to be read over and over and then shared with those that are struggling. She offers her heart and her graceful gentleness to walk with you as a friend through your pain. She also shares tangible tools, such as mediation, centering prayer, yoga, CBT, etc, and how she specifically used them to aide in her healing process. She will pull you in from her first pages of invitation and become your guide as she shares her own experience and gives you grace and space to process yours.”

~Laura

“In this first ten pages of this beautiful book, Jessica invites you into her world and expertise, and asks to join yours. It’s an easy, stirring read from cover to cover, but perhaps even more important, for those many of us who find comfort in connect ourselves to others’ experiences, but long reads a thing on the other side of the depression wall—you can pick it up and read a chapter on its own. This beauty is full of compassion and understanding.”

~MDJ

Since the first section of the book evokes the imagery of going for a walk in the woods, I made a video in the woods for a book trailer. I apologize that it doesn’t have complete transcription, but the text is below.

“Come for a walk with me, my friend. I know you are tired. I know that sorrow has settled into your bones like the ache from an old wound. Come with me anyway. Lean on my arm. It is only a few steps to the forest’s entrance and a few more to a bench where we can rest. I know the colors have gone out of your life, and you cannot rouse yourself to remember them. I know. In the twilight, the world is muted, and it will not sting as much when you can only see grey. We can turn back anytime. Your bed will be waiting for you. Just come out for a few minutes. ⁣

“Come for a walk with me, dear one. I know that walking is hard, and your muscles ache; you feel a weariness that does not pass no matter how much you sleep. I know that talking feels impossible, and you fear that if you do speak, you will be unable to stop and will wear me out with your words, crying over and over of your pain and despair. It’s all right, my friend. You do not have to speak, and if you do, there is space in my heart and in the forest for all your pain. There is space for you, my friend, believe me. Come and weep or come and be silent. Just come. ⁣

“Come for a walk with me, Beloved. I know you feel nothing but loneliness and being with people makes you feel even more alone. I know you feel lost and left behind, abandoned by friends and by the God you once adored. I know you feel a betrayal so sharp and real that sometimes you cannot breathe. I know that when I call you God’s Beloved it rings hollow, that if I speak the words of poetry or scripture that used to mean something to you, they now taste like sand in your mouth. Come into the whispering darkness of the trees at twilight and listen to the scripture they speak. Come into the shadows of the oaks and lindens until the darkness outside matches the darkness in your soul. Then listen to how the dark speaks its own language, one you could not hear in the bright light of day. If you do not hear it tonight, that’s okay, too. I will walk you home, regardless. I will trust your soul, regardless. Beloved, I will.

“Come for a walk with me, sister, brother, sibling. I have been here before and can maybe be a sister to you. Let me hold your hand as you learn to walk in this new world. You have been walking for years in the daylight, but this—this westering world where the shadows trip you as surely as the stones—is new territory. It is hard to move here, I know, but you can do it. We can do it together. Underneath your despair I can see that spark of strength. Not everyone will realize how much it took for you to step outside for these few minutes, but I know. Even if you collapse back in bed for the next twenty-three and a half hours, I know that the courage and strength it takes to face the world for those few moments are almost unimaginable. I know you feel so weak, little sibling, but you are strong in ways few people will ever know. ⁣

“Come for a walk with me, dear reader. I know you have questions I cannot answer, and there are things in your life I cannot understand. But let’s go out together tonight, away from the cacophony of the city, of the daylight, of the world wide web. Let’s go into the dusky woods together, the quiet dappled evening where the trolls and other monsters cannot follow. Let’s find one of the Ten Thousand Places, one of the hidden places where it’s okay to be sad and unsure, where it’s okay to ask our overwhelming questions and okay to let the answer be that we don’t know. I know you’re tired, and the day has already been far too long. You can rest soon, dear one, I promise. Only first, come, come for a walk.”⁣

If you’re here from my old blogging days, please do come find me on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. or on my new website, jessicakantrowitz.com. I miss you!!

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You are not alone, and this will not last forever.

 

 

 

January newsletter

Hi friends! As I mentioned, I’m moving over to a new website, jessicakantrowitz.com, where I’ll be posting all my news and essays from now on. I’ll post reminders here for a while, and most of my old posts will stay up here at Ten Thousand Places, but if you really want to follow me you can subscribe to my new website: The button’s at the bottom left of any page there. Here’s my latest post, my January newsletter, with all the endorsements for my book and a new essay on why I’m not trying to lose weight for my book launch. I hope you’ll come with me as I switch over to my new digs!

January newsletter!!

Love,
Jessica

New website!

Hello friends! I’m so sorry I haven’t posted here in so long. There has been a LOT going on, which I will tell you about, drum roll please….on my new website! I’ll be sharing links to new posts here for a while, but will have subscriptions set up there soon, too. And you can always find me on social media as well!

Here’s my new post, November newsletter!

Much love to all of you.

Jessica

Returnings

Autumn came and went quickly here in Boston, with many rainy days and a few gorgeous sunny ones. Then, some time in November, it became winter. Meteorologists and philosophers alike agree though they have no explanation. It got cold, that’s one way to define winter, but also that seasonal sadness settled in, to those that are prone to it and to a few, befuddled others.

Autumn brought me my first book contract, which I just realized I didn’t announce on my blog. If you don’t follow me on social media — guess what! Here’s my elevator pitch: I’m writing a book about my own experience with a time of depression that coincided with a faith-shift, drawing from books that helped me through that time, and speaking to those who are going through something similar. This will not be a how-to-get-over-depression book, or a pray-the-depression-away book. I want it to be a book to hold on to as I held on to Henri Nouwen’s and others. I want it to be a friend to sit next to you through the night until the morning comes. If you are going through a time of depression, or if you love someone who is, I am writing this book for you

Autumn brought joy, excitement, overwhelmederment (Shakespeare made up words so I can, too), gratitude, and determination to write well and without the standard existential crises and imposter syndrome that it seems most good writers experience. It’s going to be a short book, and I have nine months to write it and a good idea of what I’m writing, so it should be entirely doable.

I still think that’s true, but winter came early, and brought that seasonal sadness to me along with others. I’m writing a book about depression, but the days that I’m not depressed are much easier days to write in. The early sunsets and long, dark evenings are going to be part of my chapter on what darkness has to teach us — it’s going to be so lovely and profound — but they are infuriating to live through. They suck the energy out of me. They inspire only in prospect or retrospect, not in presence.

It is a sunny early afternoon right now, and I’m drinking coffee, so I have an hour or two — or at least a few moments — of mental energy and inspiration. I play with words. I discover the assonant pairing of prospect and retrospect and consider whether joining them with presence adds to or takes away from their effect. I start a short story for the very last new writer contest at Glimmer Train. I am a new writer because I haven’t had a fiction story published. I am a new writer in non-fiction, too, but only because online articles don’t count. Actually, there is an ebook with a flash fiction story and a poem of mine in it. I’ve been sending stories out since 2004. I’ve been writing in my journals for almost thirty years.

Sunset in Boston is at 4:32 tonight. That’s still brutally early, but it’s twenty-one minutes later than the earliest, back in December. It hasn’t been this late since November 7th, actually, to be precise. Those twenty minutes are already making a difference. It’s still light when we get home from picking up the seven year old I nanny. It’s dark soon after that, but the light is returning. I hope for you the light is returning as well.

Love,
Jessica

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Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates about the book, my haircuts, and making it through the winter, and join in the conversation!

Twenty ways to say, “I love you” to someone who is depressed

Vincent_Willem_van_Gogh_002If you haven’t experienced depression yourself, it can be difficult to understand what your loved one is going through. Your daughter, or friend, or spouse, or sibling who used to be cheerful and energetic now stays in bed most of the day. Or they still get up, go to school or work, but don’t smile anymore, or talk to you much. Or they talk so much that it’s exhausting, and it’s all about how bad they’re feeling, and you don’t know what to say or to do. They don’t seem to hear you, or believe you, when you say you love them. As someone who has been through times of deep depression, I thought I’d write down some of ways my friends and family said, “I love you,” that meant a lot to me, as well as some things I wish someone had been able to say. If you struggle with depression yourself, I would love if you would add to this list in the comments.

Love,
Jessica


“I am not going anywhere.”

“You are worth more than your accomplishments.”

“I believe you are doing the best you can.”

“What do you need?”

“You are important to me.”

“We need you here.”

“Your needs are valid.”

“If you want to talk, I will listen.”

“It’s okay if you want to be alone, but I am here when you need me.

“I don’t understand what you’re going through, but I want to. Can you tell me how you’re feeling?”

“I believe you.”

“Call me anytime.”

“I can’t talk on the phone much but I will read every text, email, or message that you send me.”

“I can’t _____ but I can _____.”

“I can’t _____ but it is not because you are too needy; it’s just that my resources are limited.”

“Can I help you find someone to talk to?”

“Can I bring you a meal? Ice cream?”

“We are going to get through this together.”

“You are not alone.”

“I love you.”

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If you want to read more about my own experience of depression and how I made it through, I’m writing a book for Fortress Press due out in 2019. Subscribe to this blog or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates and to join in the conversation.

Anger beauty

JessSwimmingOn Monday I was mad that at forty-four years old I am still struggling with my eating and with body image.  On Wednesday I read this article about obesity and was angry about all the years that society and even doctors have lied to women and made us unhealthy in the name of health. On Thursday I got a letter from a woman who had gained weight and said she hated herself, and I was furious that my self-image and that of so many other women has been decimated by this toxic culture since we were very young. All week I’ve been pissed off reading reactions to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s account of sexual assault, and reading the #WhyIdidntreport hashtag, realizing again and again how many of us women have been sexually assaulted and then shamed about it. I felt the anger in my body. My muscles felt tensed and taut and strong. My blood flowed faster. My skin warmed.

On Saturday I went to the gym and in the locker room I changed into my bathing suit. I walked by the full-length mirror on the way back to my locker, head down, thinking about goggles and kick boards, then I made myself come back and look at myself. I gained twenty pounds last year, and another five this summer, and I’d been fixated on my stomach and thighs, how much bigger they felt and looked, how the skin lay unevenly after years of losing and gaining those same twenty-five pounds. I’d been walking bravely from the locker room to the pool this past year, but it was not because I thought I looked good — it was because even though I thought I didn’t I was determined to not let it stop me.

I had done so much work to accept and love myself twenty-five pounds ago, but this recent weight gain seemed to unravel all my self-confidence. I looked in the mirror because I wanted to learn to love myself in the present, how I was on any given day, not wishing I weighed what I did in 2016, or looking forward to what I hope to weigh in 2019. I wanted to be em-bodied, not lost in my mind like I was for so long, sometimes so much that I was surprised that people could see me. I wanted to be friends with my body, and a part of her. But I still expected to have mixed feelings when I looked in the mirror. I expected to like parts of myself, but not all.

Instead, what I saw was a perfectly-fleshed, fully-bodied woman. I was beautiful. The flaws I expected to see were probably there, but I would have had to search them out and I didn’t. I looked at myself like I would look at another woman I saw in the locker room, noticing her kind and open face, her long legs and statuesque figure, her pale skin against the black of her bathing suit, her short, asymmetrical hair. I was younger than I expected, too. In my mind I had become middle-aged, lumpy, gray. But my eyes were bright and the highlights in my hair were silver.

I didn’t look angry. But I have a theory. I think the anger of the week is what made me beautiful. I think I spend so much time trying to fix the parts of myself that were broken by this horrible, toxic, misogynistic culture with self-love, and ministering to my likewise wounded friends and sisters and siblings with kindness and love — and that is good and necessary. But sometimes I think it can turn into just one more thing I need to fix about myself. Anger turns that feeling outward, towards the culture that hurt me and others and is still hurting girls and women today. When I am angry at the right things it draws the poison out of my own body. Anger strengthens my muscles, stirs my blood, prepares me for battle. Anger reunites me with my body, and reminds me that my body — like all bodies — is good.

Love,
Jessica

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Books I can’t wait to read:

Fat and FaithfulFat and Faithful: Learning to Love our Bodies, Our Neighbors, and Ourselves, by J. Nicole Morgan. It is well past time that we address the convergence of the culture of body-shaming and (white) Christian culture. I am so grateful to Nicole for writing this book, and I want everyone I know to read it. You can order it here.

 

 

 

 

 

A Light so Lovely

A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L’Engle, by Sarah Arthur. I met Sarah at a writer’s conference where I basically sidled up to her and said, “Hi, can I sit with you? Did you know there are famous authors here?” not realizing she was a famous author herself. Nevertheless she was delightful and welcoming to me, and as a personal favor (i.e. a complete coincidence) has written a spiritual autobiography about my favorite author, Madeleine L’Engle. I did a bunch of research myself two years ago for an essay that I never wrote, and uncovered some sad and fascinating things about Madeleine’s life. I can’t wait to read Sarah’s take on it. You can order it here.

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