Becoming Buddhist

Attempting to Live a More Mindful Life

And February Was So Long, That it Lasted Into March*

7 Comments

I’m calling it: January is the cruelest month. Or maybe February. Or maybe the entire January-February continuum, from New Year’s to the first of March. I always have high expectations for January. I’m off school, so I make a copious to-do list, embrace the time, and plan to walk into February light as a feather, with 56,000 new words written, my closets cleaned out, my shoes polished, my psyche clean, and my body well-rested, in shape, perfect.

Instead, this January kind of sucked. I struggled constantly to figure out which project to work on. I got some good notes towards a novel but ended up only finishing one essay. The entire family got sick, and days went to tending L and M. I fought off low-grade depression the whole time. I did clean out my closet, the last night before school started, in a burst of desperate energy. I did not get to Goodwill, get my pants hemmed, find the Savings bond I was looking for, locate an affordable piece of furniture to house the six or seven box-worths of junk that’ve been waiting in the living room since we moved in in October. I did not get a date night with M. I did not sleep very well.

I did have some nice times: one perfect, lovely weekend in Inverness, a tiny town next to Pt. Reyes National Seashore, with my creative lady friends. We hiked, meditated, did yoga, read books, drank wine, chatted about writing and art and creativity. The last day, L and M met me there and we spent the day at the beach, L frolicking in his underpants in January sun (Boston, eat your heart out). We went out for lunch in Pt. Reyes Station, the charmingest of towns. Driving back into Berkeley, I felt M’s and my energy kind of sink with the weight of the impending week, though I held onto the nice feelings from the weekend for a few days, felt lighter, happier, more possible.

But last week, when classes started, this low-grade panic took over my body. Monday night, I told M I wasn’t sure I could do it (teach these classes I have taught a gazillion times, that is. I did it, obvs). Tuesday night, I junked out on the couch, exhausted. All I could think about was getting to Friday. But now that it’s the weekend, I feel more of the low-grade panic, plus a general feeling of malaise and depression, kind of like I just don’t want this life of mine anymore. Kind of this feeling that I never get a break, that a weekend isn’t even a weekend. And that maybe I wasted January.

I know how this sounds: whiny, extreme, annoying, privileged. And I must confess that I woke up with a really rotten cold and spent the morning moping in bed, trying to sleep, so that can’t be helping my mood. But it’s kind of, well, how I feel.

I wonder if this is a problem of expectations. Or of connectivity. Like, if I hope too much for things and don’t just accept things as they are. And if I feel depressed because I realize that, even when I don’t have students to attend to, I’m already too “on.” I used to look forward to weekends; now I dread soccer and the social events that characterize them. And I’m anticipating things to come—a conference I’m participating in, a workshop I’m leading—with an unhealthy level of anxiety. The other day, I thought to myself, I just have to get through February. And at least once a day, I have fantasized about getting in the car and just driving back to that beach in Inverness and hiding out until it’s all over. Until what’s all over? Exactly. Who knows.

This doesn’t seem like any way to live.

Last week, I saw this therapist I’ve been seeing lately, and I confessed that sometimes I wonder if January has been hard the last couple of years because it’s the anniversary of the miscarriage that nearly took my life. She looked shocked; I hadn’t told her of my dramatic ectopic explosion in January of 2013. I told her that last year, in January, I commemorated the miscarriage by getting salmonella and spending a week in bed, thinking far too much about what had happened a year earlier. This year, the depression, the family getting sick, and then a trip to the ER because I thought I might have a blood clot. I told her how, being back in the ER for just an hour (I was fine) last week, I had this strange desire to go back upstairs to my old room and stay the night, nurses poking and prodding me, everyone else in control. I didn’t want the loss again, but I wanted something else.

“Well,” she said. “Trauma works like that. We often have trauma anniversaries, times when we just feel off as the body remembers what’s happened.” She suggested I revisit the trauma, heal it, so I can move on. I haven’t thought of myself as deeply traumatized by what happened, honestly. But it still makes me teary to think of it, to write about it, so maybe there’s something to it. Maybe January is a little doomed because of it.

And I feel better even having written this. I’m sitting on my back porch. It’s the most gorgeous day ever. M is happily working in the yard. L has been a love lately. And tomorrow, it’s February. Maybe February will surprise me. Maybe next year will too. To quote Dar Williams: “You never know how next year will be.”

Love,

BB

*A line from a really fabulous and sad Dar Williams song called “February,” which you can listen to above. Thanks, Dar

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Author: becomingbuddhist

I am a writer, teacher, and mother living in Northern California. Recently I decided to try an experiment in living more mindfully. This blog is my testimonial.

7 thoughts on “And February Was So Long, That it Lasted Into March*

  1. We have been living parallel months, my friend. I was at a meeting with my pastor yesterday about the tiny farm we run and he texted me later to ask if I was okay, that I looked “weary and burdened.” And that is how I feel, but the burdens are the ordinary ones of a good life – work, home, family, nuclear and extended. But the weariness and anxiety can be too much. Tell me when you find a solution, yes?

    Sent from my T-Mobile 4G LTE Device

    • I hate to think of you weary and burdened, particularly in your birthday month! But it kind of comforts me to know I’m not the only one in this weird space. I will say, after I spent two hours at a meditation class I felt a bit better, but who can do two hours of meditation every day?! Perhaps church will help? And I send you much love. xo

      • No, you are not alone. I’m glad you feel a bit better after meditation. I feel better after running in the woods these days, particularly if there is mud and snow to slosh through. I do think I need to do something about my anxiety and weariness – beyond the occasional run – but I’m not sure what. It just feels like such a waste of good fortune and grace to be anxious and discontent when my life is truly good. You know, I found my college diaries and poetry notebooks the other day, and at the very least I can say I have grown in contentment since then. I send you love, too!

  2. I am with you, and you are not alone. And yes…Boston supremely sucks at the moment!

  3. i just love this. makes me feel a deep together-ness with you. and i was singing the line “February was so long that it lasted until March…” all afternoon. For humans on the Judeo-Christian calendar, maybe January is the fallowest of months. Holiday season over. Spring yet to come. Simply a pause between bursts of energy. I think its the pauses when our darker grumbles can be heard. I definitely hear mine more these days.

    • Good point, AHM, about these weird liminal times in the year. Spring yet to come, but–isn’t it spring here? Sure seems like it. I almost think that confuses things more, for me, it’s winter but…it’s not. Thanks for commenting! xox

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