November has long been my least favorite month. It was my mom’s too (except for my brother’s birthday). She and I used to lament to each other on the phone each year when the time changed and the world went dark way earlier than seemed fair. But it wasn't until mom died three years ago yesterday, November 9th, that I discovered something almost incredible (in the sense of unbelievable) that may explain the deep dread that hits me like a brick every year around this time.
My mom’s mother, my Mimi, died November 8, 1997, and her mother, my Nana, died November 7th, 1972. I’m not sure this bodes well for me when November 10th rolls around each year. Coincidentally, my dad and grandfather both died in early December, so holidays felt fraught for many years. It can be really a challenge to allow joy/celebration and sorrow/grieving to vie for attention especially when the days are short and dark as caves. But I guess Thanksgiving and Christmas at least provided a sense of purpose; there were things that just had to get done. The celery needed chopping, the table needed setting, the dishes needed washing, the gifts needed wrapping, the cookies needed baking, the cards needed sending. When you’re a doer, having something to do definitely helped.
This November has felt a little lighter than last. Maybe it’s because the past year and a half was so hard. When every day’s headlines caused a knot in the pit of our collective stomach, the dread that usually descends in late fall felt like a familiar pain for which I’ve developed a certain kind of tolerance. And despite the stubborn selfishness of too many people, the vaccine has made a difference in daily life. I’m spending time with friends, planning gatherings with my family, looking forward to going to the movies, and even a Broadway Show!
But beyond all of these personal pleasures, I am maybe most buoyed by a newfound sense of purpose. I am finally doing the work that I’ve dreamed about doing for many years, and for which I trained during my last stint in grad school. Having partnered with Courageous Counseling Colorado in Westminster and Maria Droste Counseling Center in Denver, I am delighted to be working in person again, with clients ranging from age 3 to 30. It might surprise my clients to know how much they are helping my own mental health by giving me the opportunity to support theirs.
The German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, said the three rules for happiness are someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for. At this moment, I feel immensely grateful to have all of these. For now at least, November 10th, you don’t scare me.