Welcome, friends! Pull up a cupcake. It’s been a full couple of months since my last newsletter, and I have some things to tell you about. The most exciting thing, for me, is that all six of the endorsements for The Long Night are in, and they’re incredible. I chose the kindest people I knew (as well as the most amazing writers) to ask for endorsements, but even so I was unprepared for their words about my book.
I’ve written a lot of things over the past years, but this is my first book, so I really didn’t know how I’d done. I knew parts of it were good. I knew I’d done the best I could. But it wasn’t until the last of the endorsements came in that I realized: Either six people were really extravagantly lying to me, or my book is…good? I think it is. I think I wrote something good for you. Without further ado, here are the endorsements for The Long Night: Readings and Stories to Help You through Depression:
“Jessica Kantrowitz is a poet, prophet, and healer who joins the ranks of Merton, Nouwen and L’Engle with The Long Night. We trust her as she guides us through the dark night of the soul because she offers no solutions except the only one that helps: the honesty of someone who has been there and made it through. The Long Night will bring hope to the hurting and comfort to the weary. It’s a book I’ll keep by my bedside forever.”
– Glennon Doyle, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of Untamed and Love Warrior; founder of Together Rising
“In The Long Night, Jessica Kantrowitz reveals her divine purpose: meeting hurting souls right where they are and gently offering them the knowledge and tools to help them choose pathways toward hope. This book is a gift to its reader, and it goes beyond that; I see this as a gift to humanity. The Long Night taps into the power of human resilience; the power of feeling unalone; the power of removing the stigma around mental health. It is my greatest hope that the world will find and embrace this illuminating, soul-soothing guide as a beloved companion for life’s heartaches.”
-Rachel Macy Stafford, New York Times bestselling author, speaker, and certified special education teacher
“When I started reading Jessica Kantrowitz’s The Long Night, I was in tears on page one. Jessica holds space for others, and her words are kindness and solidarity embodied, an open invitation to rest. Please read this book. It will take your hand and walk you home. It will help you heal wounds and remind you that you aren’t alone. Jessica has given us a very precious gift— may we accept the invitation to receive it.”
-Kaitlin Curtice, author of Glory Happening: Finding the Divine in Everyday Places and Native: Identity, Belonging, and Rediscovering God
“Jessica Kantrowitz’s The Long Night is not simply a must-read addition to the broad field of books on depression, it is also an invitation—as warm and welcoming as it is informative—to walk with her and learn. Her vulnerability and authenticity in speaking of her journey become an open door for the reader as she offers not only the struggles but also the techniques, practices, writers and an understanding of a suffering-with-us God that have helped over the years. The book offers a theology of beautifully inclusive acceptance and a sense of community that is its own gift of healing. I am grateful this book exists in our world.
-Joy Jordan-Lake, Ph.D., author of Why Jesus Makes Me Nervous, A Tangled Mercy, and other books
“In the long and despairing shadow of depression, many of us who live with mental illness long for the compassionate presence of a friend unafraid of the weight we carry. In Long Night, Jessica Kantrowitz has found a way to embody that companionship. This book bears the possibility of walking with us, whenever we may find it, through our own long nights and dreary days, providing balm and a hint of hope for each of us resolving to take one more step towards the dawn.”
-Emmy Kegler, author of One Coin Found
“I don’t understand pain or needless suffering. I find them to be absolutely ridiculous. Not moderately ridiculous, but roll-your-eyes-at-the-heavens ridiculous. While reading The Long Night a dear friend of mine called to tell me he had cancer. He was crying so hard on the phone that it was difficult to understand his words. To me, the only thing more ridiculous than tragedy, is when a someone offers a suffering soul a book to pacify their pain. But…now I will be that someone. Because Jessica isn’t offering a book here. She is offering herself.”
-Matt Bays, author of Finding God in the Ruins
My other news is still a secret, so don’t tell anyone, okay? I wrote up a book proposal for the benedictions I’ve been doing on social media every night. So many of you have asked when they’re going to be made into a book, and I am working to get that into your hands. In the meantime, keep following me on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram for a new one each evening around 8:30PM EST. Here’s one from December you may have missed:
Peace to your knotted muscles
aching back, sore feet
Peace to the place
between your eyebrows
that cramps from frowning
Peace to the injury
that will not heal because
you can’t afford to rest
Peace to your heart
& too sad
I’m working on getting a Goodreads author page so I can do some fun things like giveaways over there. If you’re on Goodreads you can already follow me there, and click “want to read” on my book! (The first one listed is the hardcover and the second one is Kindle–it’s the same book.)
Those are all the writerly updates for now, but I wanted to share something personal. *Content warning* for discussion of weight, exercise, and eating disorders.
About 2 1/2 years ago I started gaining weight and kept going. I leveled out this fall, just where I expected to level out, because I’ve been this weight twice before, once ten years ago and once twenty. I have done so much work since those past two times, in the areas of body image and healthy eating and exercise, reclaiming my self after decades of disordered eating and exercise, binging and restricting. I’ve never received a diagnosis, but I’m pretty sure I have — or had — an eating disorder, that came and went connected in weird ways with depression and anxiety.
The last two times I was at this weight I was having a major depressive disorder and eating a lot. My depression generally includes a lot of anxiety, and food is one thing that helps. It’s a chemical thing. It’s self-medicating and, you know what? — I’m grateful for it. I’ve gotten myself through some pretty low, hard times, using the tools I had at the time. I’m alive. It might have gone differently.
The last two times I was at this weight I was looking for love. At age 25 and age 35 I really wanted to fall in love, get married, and have a family. I was worried that gaining weight would make that harder. I was worried that I was less beautiful. Now, at 45, I have made a pretty great life for myself, and really don’t see how a significant other could significantly improve it. I wouldn’t rule it out, but it’s not a priority to me. Writing, learning to live in community, learning to be a good friend, daughter, sister, niece, getting a pet, living a creative life in general — those are all higher up on the list than a romantic partner.
I eat more vegetables and less sweets than I did in the past, and I’m not interested in adapting my diet any further than that. I’m done with diets, in all forms. I actually think that an elimination diet I did three years ago to test for allergies was what triggered this weight gain. It wasn’t meant as a low-calorie, weight loss diet, and I tried to make sure I ate enough every day, but with my history I can see how it would have triggered my body’s starvation response, signaling that there wasn’t enough food available and we’d have to slow our metabolism and hunker down in order to survive.
I’ve also been dealing with some chronic injuries that have made it more difficult to exercise as much as I like to. I really enjoy exercise. If I didn’t get exercise-induced migraines, if I didn’t have these chronic injuries, I could see myself being the kind of person who runs 6Ks and hikes all the 5000ft peaks in New England. I love the feeling of being strong, and getting stronger, I love the burn when you push hard, I love the surge of dopamine–the “runner’s high.” I’m less depressed when I’m getting regular exercise. But I almost always get a migraine after cardio exercise, and two years ago I pushed at the gym and ended up in urgent care with a migraine aura (the visual disturbance that often comes with migraines) that lasted five days. My body has limits, and it’s getting more strict about them. I have to exercise slowly and carefully. Even yoga classes can trigger migraines, so I use videos at home and go at my own pace.
So I’m at that highest weight again, but without the major depression, without the fear that my weight will prevent me from falling in love, and without (as much) of the compulsive eating I’ve had in the past. It’s really…different. It’s interesting. I feel beautiful — in some ways I feel more beautiful than when I was thinner. It’s harder, though, just physically to do all my daily activities carrying forty more pounds than before. But even though there’s frustration about that there’s much less shame than there was before. It’s interesting to peel back all those layers and see what’s under them all. It’s also an ongoing process, to re-commit to not dieting or exercising too much. I know I could do it. I could lose weight by starving myself, but it would mess up my body even more down the line.
I’ve been thinking about my book launch in May, and the possibilities of more readings and speaking engagements. I put my words out in front of people all the time, but I might be moving to a season of life where I’m putting my body out there more. In the past if I had a big event like a book launch coming up, 50% of my energy would be going toward figuring out how much weight I could lose by then. But I want to live differently now. I want to be my beautiful, real self with you, who I am right now, whatever the number on the scale is. I want to be able to tell my amazing fat, curvy, zaftig friends that they’re beautiful and not contradict that by beating my body to look less like theirs. I want to define health as more than a number on a scale, to move joyfully through my life, right now, whether I’m taking care of kids or doing the twenty minutes I can do on the stationary bike or reading to friends and strangers from the gorgeous blue and yellow book I’ll be holding soon.
A couple of weeks ago I got out a big pad and a Sharpie and wrote out some goals I have for 2020. Some were writing goals. Some were financial. One was to find a therapist. And one was to join a gym that had a hot tub. I did that last weekend. So now, after my 20 minute, careful workouts, I go and soak for a few minutes. I’m hoping that over time I’ll build up strength and my injuries will get better and I’ll be able to do a little more, and a little more. But I’m trying not to think about losing weight. What I weigh is up to my body, not my brain, anyway. My plan is to eat nourishing food, exercise however much I’m able to without hurting myself, and soak in the hot tub. Whatever the number on the scale happens to be when I’m living that wonderful life, that’s my goal weight.
I’m so excited about my next newsletter. I’m getting advance copies of two books I’m R E A L L Y excited about, by two of my F A V O R I T E authors, and I cannot wait to tell you about them. So please click the “subscribe” button on the bottom left to receive email updates when I post here, and follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, too! And don’t forget to preorder The Long Night: Readings and Stories to Help You through Depression, through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or through your local bookstore with IndieBound! See you back here soon!