For some, March is a springboard to a blooming new season. For others it’s a slippery slide into grief or depression.
March was always the stuff of angry lions — and I’m not talking about the weather. The month’s windy grayness matched somber memories of my brother, whose birthday and death day at 19 forever book-ended it with shrouded memories. That is, until the year a kooky March wind blew in the guy who would become my husband. That year, March saw a first date in the restaurant that became ‘ours’ for every important celebration. One year later, that month saw a courthouse wedding, totally off script, but when the cancer dragon rudely inserts itself and you need new health insurance, you ad lib. But, since we were crazy romantics, a few weeks later, we also squeezed in both church wedding and casually cool reception, complete with rubber ducks swimming in a margarita fountain. Go figure.
With happier new markers in place, I was able to feng shui the month with brighter bookends. Yes, far too soon Death did come again to end this happily ever after but at least it picked a different month. This is not about how the story ended, however. It’s about things can be revised, with new defaults. If we allow ourselves, we can often see clearly how much a month can really hold, how everything can change according to how we view it and how we embrace it. Time can be inhabited with both good — and painful memories; love and loss, joy and tears. Happy times are no less happy when they are joined by the sad. As both lion and lamb, they can inhabit the same space and, while they are polar opposites, they are part of the same equation.
March is a month of expectation. Emily Dickinson
The flip side of joy is pain. That’s life’s eternal dichotomy. No one complains when the pendulum swings the fun way, when life seems perfect and all in our little world is balanced on its axis, spinning merrily along. But when it hands us things that really suck, things we are helpless to change, whoa! Yet, that IS life; the conundrum of all things good and bad. Like a seasonal temperature inversion, a peaceful, balmy day can morph into a hair wrecking windy storm in a nanosecond. And just as quickly the sea calms, the weighty fog lifts and, if we pay attention, we just might see the big picture with stunning clarity. We find our aha moments.
Half a lifetime has gone by and I can barely remember watching my prankster brother blow out birthday candles. Was he happy? Was he excited about life? I hope he was no matter how soon it was gone from him. This month marks 5 years since our late in life weddings, but I’m lucky enough to remember all that that colored that March ‘happy’. I also remember all the cancer consults that preceded them in that same month; the ying to the happy yang. Even death can’t eradicate the years my guy defied the odds nor the couple who dared cancer to divide them.
Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened. Dr. Suess
March is a month of changes. Winters starts to ebb away and spring begins to bud. We set clocks ahead, bringing more light than dark into our days. March is a month of new beginnings – as well as endings. It can spark a sad remembrance or a new lease on life. The whole idea of ‘spring fever’ encompasses both exuberance and restlessness, excitement and melancholy. As humans, we’re affected by light and temperature, both are roller coaster rides March has by the boatload. The seasons trigger our senses that, in turn, cues us to relive, year after year, events that happened in that month. While for some, March can be a springboard to a blooming new season, for others it’s a slippery slide into grief or depression.
Our life is March weather, savage and serene in one hour. Ralph Waldo Emerson
For people whose moods spark happy when they see a buffet of sunny daffodils, it’s hard to comprehend how these same flowers can make someone else want to hide under the covers. While most of us look to March as the gateway to a season of joy and renewal, it can also spotlight what’s missing for those who just can’t get with the “Will ya look at those tulips!” program. Once upon a time it would have been hard to see how endlessly warm, sunny days can shine obnoxiously on low moods some can’t escape. But I know better now. I’ve seen it in my own family and in others’, how depression and anxiety is not just triggered by memories but by what is hardwired into their systems. That looking at the glass half full is impossible when someone is too depressed to even see the glass at all.
Most people, even in the most somber gray moments, eventually take on the March’s technicolor hue. For those who struggle the most, calendars and clocks mean nothing. Gray hangs around endlessly and colors everything until, with the right treatment, understanding and support, spring can make its appearance. Healing has its own timetable. Illness, depression, death – none of them care about how we remember a month, a day or an hour. But it’s the fact that we care about the people who suffer or were taken from us that defines time for us. There’s a before and an after, a remember when and I don’t want to remember. Yet, as March is just one month in a year, the sad, the suffering, the melancholy are also just part of the story. The flip side of the pain, the love that props you up, gives us hope and, in spite of ourselves, makes us smile, that’s the good part. Do we remember the struggle, the tears, the anxiety, the fear? Um, yep. But, just like the goofy month we try to program more palatably, it’s a mixed bag. It’s the piece that weathers storms, sun and wind and still ushers in another month, another season, another year. It’s HOPE.
“March on; do not tarry. To go forward is to move toward perfection. March on, and fear not the thorns, or the sharp stones on life’s path.” Kahlil Gibran
And there is hope— for everyone who struggles with sadness that kicks your legs out from under you, whose mistakes and memories haunt, and have months that trigger what you fight the most. You are not alone. March, October or January don’t have to be endless groundhog days of anxiety, grief or depression. Take a spring break this year for help to make your life, your spring, your future, better. And if people don’t get it? If they wish you’d just get over it or that they have no patience with your sadness? Screw it.
You can’t be brave if only good things happen to you. In our early dating days, I was sitting on the fence, in ‘like’, not yet love, though my brave husband already knew where his heart was. He had the courage to proclaim it, which was one of the reasons he finally won my own heart. The courage to go after what you love or what you need, is gift and for some a necessity. The courage to know you MATTER, that you no longer want to live in a winter heart or head, that you want new ‘bookends’ is the spring you deserve to find. Death is one of the only stories that begin – at the end. But all the excitement, the love, the striving, the hoping that made the story unforgettable, lives on. Screw March madness. I pick those feisty crocuses that push their way to the sun, even through the frozen earth because it’s their time.
Now when I hear ‘they lived happily ever after” I like to think the most important words are ‘they lived’.
We certainly did.