No, T.S. Eliot, April is not always the cruelest month.
For some of us, it is September, when the leaves whisper the rumor of their upcoming change and a chill creeps into the early morning air.
September is a complex conundrum for me. It means new beginnings (I am a teacher) and an influx of lofty expectations after a short, hot season of few. It means disappointing some of those I love because I am less available, both physically and mentally. It means that my creativity well must give the majority of its bounty to my paid work and not my unpaid hobby.
Anyone out there with children and a full time job understands the dilemma. But, it is hard not to compare myself to others. I see some of you out there, writing prolifically amidst successful careers, rich family live…all while being abundantly and adventurously sexual. I am jealous. I know it is ridiculous and counterproductive, but I cannot help but look at others (from the superficial outside) and see the messy perfection that I crave, knowing full well that beneath, many are struggling just as hard as I am, comparing themselves and finding fault.
Basically no one seems happy with me during this season, except for my son and my students…because they are the ones who get the bulk of my attention and energy.
My husband builds this season up in his head well before it happens, setting the stage and bracing himself for it. For him, September is basically a month of feeling cast aside, even though I feel I do the best I can to stay connected. Despite that feeling, I fail.
September is cruel because she forces me to go face-to-face with all of my demons and to face my hardest question – how should I spend my most precious finite resource? Time.
My husband believes I don’t give him enough. I am not a good enough wife.
My parents believe I don’t give them enough. I am not a good enough daughter.
I don’t have enough time to write. It just takes time from other things, so why do I even bother? Maybe I should let it go…I am not good enough, anyway.
I don’t sleep enough. Shit…I can’t even get THAT right.
I don’t work out enough. I will always be fat.
I don’t socialize enough. I am a terrible friend.
It makes me weak, emotionally and spiritually, and it causes me to hide behind armor that says I don’t care and I can’t do anything about it so fuck it.
September hardens me and closes me in so many ways, at the same time that it is opening me to a new crop of kids and possibilities. I find myself vibrant and hopeful at the beginning of the month, yet stressed and breaking down by the end, because by being good at one thing, I become a disappointment in other areas of my life.
I’d love to be strong enough to handle this differently. But, after 16 years, I am still at a loss.
Some days I just feel like a mess.
And this morning, I got the news that I have been kicked out of the Smut Marathon.
My logical brain said this: You were disliking it anyway, you were secretly hoping this would happen so you’d be set free from it, you were putting the assignments off until the last minute because you didn’t like them, the whole thing was curdling your love of writing, these types of competition are not for you…
But my emotional brain said this: You suck at writing. This is something you should give up so you have more time for other things that matter more. Let it go.
I was leaning toward logic until I mentioned over coffee to my husband that I’d been eliminated from the competition. I said, “I got kicked out of the marathon…judges felt my entry was lazy and cliche.” He replied, “Well, you did leave it to the last minute.” I answered, “Fuck you.”
And then I cried…and he hugged me…for a long time.
Yes, September is the cruelest month.