Mar 5 • 12M

Wink and Keep Smiling | 3.5.23

The Sunday Edition

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Tyler Knott Gregson
Tyler Knott Gregson and his weekly "Sunday Edition" of his Signal Fire newsletter. Diving into life, poetry, relationships, sex, human nature, the universe, and all things beautiful.
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Lintel stone - Stirling, Scotland

Hey, hey you there reading this bit of nonsense from me, ok I hope it’s not nonsense but you never know, I’m an echo chamber of my own madness, I want you to listen, and I want you to know a true thing:

I am no stranger to the darkness, to the shadows, in me and around me, and if it’s not here right now, I know it will return.

There’s no negativity when I say this, only a softness that comes when a truth has been accepted for long enough, when the awkward period of denial gave way to the fruitless bargaining, and finally through the anger haze that comes right before understanding. I’m not an always-light person, and while I know no-one truly is, I know about myself that there exists within me two things in a proportion probably higher than most: Silence, and Darkness.

No, I don’t mean I am a closet serial killer with an evil that rises in me from time to time, as darkness never needs fall on that side of the definition. When I speak of the darkness, which I do often on this Signal Fire, for me it has always been more the melancholy, the nostalgic ache, the sorrow that comes without a direct source, the deep, ocean deep silence that sneaks up and steals my voice and silliness. This is darkness, to me, and if it’s not here now, it will be again. It always returns, always on its own schedule.

Conversations with friends about what this Signal Fire could speak of, topics it should cover, often strike up ideas inside me that resonate in strange ways. Some are strong enough to become a Sunday Edition, and a question asked of me recently had the power to do just that. Here we sit, now, talking about something I really do believe I’ve needed to speak on, all because of a single question:

When days are dark mentally or physically, what are simple ways to stoke the fire for you?

When days are dark, oof. Living in Montana, dark days come often, and living in a house that’s halfway up a mountain means that light really doesn’t ever shine directly into my windows. I know this is not the way he meant the question he asked, but it does lean into the entire thing. When days are dark, literally or metaphorically, how do you keep the fire lit, how do you stoke that precious little flame so it doesn’t go all the way out and leave you frozen, alone, and shivering in the dark? There are ways, my friends, ways I have borrowed, adopted, and then called my own. There are things we can all do to keep our flames burning, to stoke the fires so we need not know the frost and teeth-chattering emptiness. I am by no means an expert, but I thought I could shine a little illumination on things I do, routines I keep, cheats I have discovered, to keep my own fire burning, no matter the cold, the dark, the loneliness that is cause-less but still very real. Sometimes, a list is the best way, the simplest method of doing this, and so that’s precisely what I’m going to do today, and I hope all my hopes you find even one thing on it that helps when your lights seem to dim. Here we go:

  1. Tea - Yep. It’s that simple. Maybe it’s the Scottish and Irish in me, but I would truly say that the simple routine of making loose-leaf tea every day is one of, if not the most grounding, calming, and centering rituals I have. When shit goes wrong, Tea. When I’m tired, scared, lonely, overwhelmed, busy, or trying to make sense of the madness of this world: Tea. It doesn’t have to be Tea for you, it can be anything like this that you control, something small that reminds you of simpler things. Find it. Hold it.

  2. Exercise - Sarah and I are a bit insane when it comes to our exercise, people often accuse us of “overtraining for absolutely nothing.” And that’s fair. We do train like we’re about to run a marathon whilst simultaneously fighting off a horde of zombies in a sea of jello, but you don’t have to. Exercise for us ain’t about how our bodies look nudey (though I suppose that’s a super fun side-effect) but about how our minds process a day. Exhausting our bodies means our minds get more relaxed too. On the darkest days, if you cannot find me anywhere else, I guarantee you, I am in our little gym we built, sweating. I always, Always come out feeling better.

  3. Honesty - Weird one, yeah, but true one too. Being HONEST about our feelings, rather than hiding them, sugar-coating, or trying to be a stoic and silently endure it is a recipe for a problem that stops looking solvable, and starts looking debilitating. Be honest, share how you’re doing, and for goodness sake, ACCEPT THE HELP OFFERED TO YOU!

  4. Write - Write everything. Write the highs, the lows, write the goods, the beds, the hopes, the crushing defeats. Write poetry, write short stories, write journal entries, write f’ing recipes for chocolate cake, I don’t care. Just create something, and “Write” can also be Paint, or Sculpt, or Knit, or whatever other creative output you want. Don’t give me some song and dance about “not being creative” because there’s always something you could do, make, or try. Just do it. Creating is the OPPOSITE of destruction, and this mental shift is a massive help.

  5. Fresh F’ing Air - Yep. Go outside. Forest Bathe like the Japanese do, go on walks, go on hikes, go on slow bike rides, sip tea on your balcony, or even the front sidewalk, I don’t care. Aim your face to the sun, however shaded it may be, and allow the Vitamin D and the fresh breeze to get into your lungs. Even 10 minutes of this can be Huge.

  6. Be Gentle With Yourself - Maybe the biggest one here, is being gentle with yourself, your emotions, and your own response to the difficulties that pop up in your days. Don’t be frustrated if you have hard days, don’t expect yourself to bounce back from anything, just be the boat on the river and be the river under the boat and allow what comes to come, and allow it to gently take you where it needs to take you. Only when we fight, and try so hard to swim upstream, do we exhaust ourselves completely. Float, friends, float, and you’ll get to where you’re supposed to be going. Be gentle, expect nothing, celebrate everything. This is the only way.

  7. Keep Smiling - Fake it if you have to, but fake it until it’s real. Smile through the shit, smile through the joy, smile not in a fake way, not in a way that reduces the hardship, but in a way that winks at it and says, “You silly bastard, I’m better than you, welcome back.” It’ll always come back, but we forget we can choose, we can grin and wink and promise it that we’re better than it. We can go through what we go through, and rather than devastation, can feel our own comfortable strength. This is do-able. This is vital.

I hope all of the above truly answers the question about how to keep the fire stoked, the spark safe.

I hope some of these work for you, and I hope, SO MUCH I hope, that you all ring in below with ways that YOU keep YOUR fires lit when days feel dark and light seems sparse. Let’s create a library of tips in the comments below on how we can all stay Ok, even when it doesn’t seem possible at all.

Keep smiling friends, and if you feel like you’re running out of reasons after all this, after all the tips above and below, reach out for help. There’s always help there, and we’re all here to give it.

I love you all.

If it’s not here now,

the darkness always returns.

Wink and keep smiling.

Haiku on Life by Tyler Knott Gregson


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