February is a strange month for me. In the later years of my drinking, February was such a “strange” month that I would hit a spectacular bottom by the end of it.
I went to rehab in March 2007.
I went again in March 2008.
And then, in March 2009, I got sober, after the bottom that ended all bottoms, though it was an internal collapse that time.
A few years after that, I noticed that every year (even sober), around February, I am hit with a persistent, vague malaise.
Nothing in particular is wrong. Everything in particular is wrong.
A therapist once floated the idea of “seasonal depression.” That sounded plausible, but I’ve always been able to manage this state with exercise and eating a little better and forcing myself outside or staying inside and the steadfast knowledge that it will end, and I go through this every year.
So I don’t think it’s depression. I think it’s a yearly shithole I enter for some reason, or many reasons, which remain not entirely clear.
“Manage” it. What does that mean, exactly? Endure it to get through, I suppose.
Not die. Not drink again. Not obliterate my life some other way.
On February 8, I attended the hearing of the mentally ill cousin who killed my grandmother. I heard testimony of what happened that night. I sat in a room with him, the kid I knew as a kid, with whom I played and even lived for a while. He did not look the same. A couple times he looked back at me. I could not smile, or even nod.
On the way home, I fell asleep in the passenger seat and stayed half-asleep for two days.
And then I got some sort of ten day illness which I am not entirely sure was not a sickness caused by my shaking in that courtroom and a re-entering of the images I thought had faded in the past 14 months.
But I took antibiotics and it improved, so probably not.
The Parkland shooting happened shortly after, as you know. Seventeen more babies dead. AR-15s. The NRA. The President suggesting we turn our schools into dystopian wastelands of gun-wielding ex-marines and teachers. I wonder if we should stay. I wonder if I belong here. I wonder where we’ll go.
I want to be funny. I want to write you a funny post.
It will come.
Is that how I manage? Because I know it will come again?
I know that after the greatest pain of my life, the relief has come. The freedom. The facing, and the letting go. This isn’t the greatest pain of my life. Not even close.
I think of the parents in Florida living theirs. I think of the kids who survived, the ones telling the NRA-whore politicians to get the fuck out of their way.
The other day I looked over at Arlo, my three-year-old, as he was kneeling on the living room rug, carefully trying to push a little figure into a car that wasn’t meant for it, and I watched his little fingers move. Have you ever noticed the way toddler fingers move? Just these tiny hands working so damn hard, these chubby, sweet things working, working.
A task that doesn’t matter. The only task that matters.
I thought maybe it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
Because in February’s defense, this is the month when I cry looking at the faces of my children, when tears come so quickly I’m ashamed of myself. Then I’m ashamed for being ashamed of myself.
I am on the edge of what my body can contain, right on the rim of my person, where every insult, every joy, every sting hits me faster, and harder, than when I’m on the inside, protected, drawn deeper into myself where the days are safer and the world kinder.
This is the month of raw nerve.
I have learned to “manage” until I fall back where life is more comfortable. And I suppose, in some strange way, I’ve learned to appreciate what this feeling is, and what it does, because like it or not the pain casts the joy in more vivid light, and the ears of my dog feel softer, and the arm of my husband feels denser, and the curl of my baby seems perfectly fallen over his eye like a weird piece of art.
And I notice it.
In thirty minutes, I’m going to leave my house to hear one of my favorite singers. I’m going to dance. I’m going to feel my body move.
I’m going to notice the cracked love and sin of his voice, and manage.
In case you’re managing too.
Here we are.
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