Dark Week 2023

By: Stephanie Reynolds


New year.

New ideas.

New projects.

New you.


I love the new year. Well, actually I love the week before the new year, between Christmas and January 1. It’s that quiet time when the busyness of Christmas is over, but no one’s in a hurry to get back to work.

I call that my “dark week.” Not dark as in sad or dreary, but dark as in comfy cocoon — snuggled all in the warmth of hearth and home, shedding the last year’s sorrows and strains that were getting too heavy for my heart to carry, working on my little nubbin-wings of ideas and plans, and ready to unfurl my arms out wide as soon as the calendar page turns over.

Resolutions? Eh, maybe.

Hopeful plans? Yes, definitely.

New fancy, colorful project management app? Absolutely.

I’ve learned many things this year:

1. It is okay, and even healthy, to whirl about and glare at those old hurts and traumas and shames straight in the eye and say, “Fine. Yes, that happened. Now, shoo.” and let all that go. I think it is shock more than sorrow that keeps us bound to the past. It’s the “I can’t believe this happened!” struggle between heart and mind that keeps us suspended in that moment of trial. When we can accept “Yes it did, but that’s over now,” we free ourselves from being stuck in that time. Our brains and hearts can digest what we have finally decided to swallow.

2. That life is brief, which sounds cliché when you keep it in your head, but when you actually think about it, it becomes the very fuel for your fire of activity. When you live like you are literally, actually on borrowed time, you learn to pare out the waste and seize the moment.

3. That sometimes rules have to be broken for the logical, more reasonable, more helpful, more heart-full good. Rules are useful and comfortable, giving structure to our lives, but the rules aren’t the master of love. Love is the master of rules.

4. That motivation only goes about |-| this far. Discipline and systems/habits make the hard things easy. Get to where you don’t think about doing, you just do it. If you give yourself time to think, your brain absolutely will come up with reasons not to do a hard thing. So don’t ask for its opinion. Just do the exercise, eat the broccoli, stay off the internet, say you’re sorry, whatever you need to do. Don’t wait to WANT to do it (no one really WANTS to eat broccoli — okay, there is one restaurant that makes broccoli taste better than fries, but I digress…). Don’t think “Am I going to?” think “I am going to.”

5. That new things stretch us and make us fly. They can be scary, but they are rewarding. The caterpillar chooses not to slowly but comfortably inch and wiggle around in the sun at its own whims, but takes the time to create a space to develop, to grow. It means having to say good-bye to the familiar, the comfortable, the habit, and to enter stillness and quiet for a time. But the reward is being able to walk AND fly.

So what are you doing for the new year, my beautiful caterpillars and butterflies? Are there old shackles from which you need to break free? Are there new horizons that you are eager to reach? Are you needing your own cozy, dark “cocoon week” to get a plan together but are thinking it’s too late by the time you read this wonderful suggestion in the paper after January 1? It isn’t too late! In reality there is nothing magic about the turn of the year, it’s just a convenient bookmark. The turn of the month, the turn of the day, the turn of a second is a great time for a new start. Take it. Do it. I’m pulling for you.

As for us, new things are on the horizon for our office, and I am so excited! We are looking at new ideas, new plans, new engagement with YOU, my amazing Athens-Limestone County people. You have been on my mind and in my heart.

I am listening to you moms who need to know where you can take your kids, you singles who want more than a bar scene, you new people who are eager to jump into Athens with both feet, you honored elders who hold the knowledge of our county under that amazingly coiffed hair.

I am also asking for your help. Send me your photos (I’m a terrible photographer, you would be doing me a HUGE favor if you would let me use your photos for our Facebook and Instagram), your favorite places, your ideas. I am one who LOVES the photos of your cat, dog, family, flowers, meals. Come to my office by the duck pond and have a cup of tea and tell me what you love about Athens. Email me at stephanie@athensal.com. Follow us on Instagram at athenslimestonetourism. Hit up our Facebook page: Athens-Limestone County Tourism. Help us let other people know how fabulous you are!

New things on the horizon are just waiting for us to run to them. I got my shoes on, who’s with me?

By: Stephanie Reynolds, Athens-Limestone Tourism Association