“The world is tired, the year is old,
The faded leaves are glad to die…”
― Sara Teasdale, “November”
Time flows strangely in November. The month passes slowly and then all at once it is here and gone and over. It is a month of waiting for what comes next. The time is spent in a joyous and terrible state of anticipation and anxiety waiting for the holiday rush and stress to begin. At the end we are in worked up into such a frenzy we can barely think. We gorge ourselves, indulge ourselves, we’re drunk and merry and tired, and still waiting, still waiting, on what more December will bring.
And while we were warm and waiting, merry and full inside, the beauty of autumn passed and the dreary and drab look of cold and death settled over the world. November is when winter really begins to dominate, to show it’s strength, to lash out in a strange insecurity. Soon it will settle, when it no longer fears the return of summer’s warmth nor the hope of spring’s return. Soon we will all settle into a duality of happiness and hopelessness.
I am doing my best this year not to let that cold hopelessness seep into my bones. I’m brining the memory of summer with me and letting it warm me whenever I begin to feel low. November need not be all waiting. This year I wrote, and I read, I got out into the world more than most Novembers. I found much to be grateful for and let my accomplishments outshine my failures. I learned not to let the snow or the freezing temperatures keep me down. I found beauty in the season and I hope to find beauty in the next too.
But before I do, here is what I am currently…
Writing every single day. This month I read Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing and I was reminded what it felt like to both take my writing seriously and to have fun with it. I was reminded of when I used to wake up in the middle of the night to jot down ideas and how excited I was to share them no matter how ugly or jarring my words were. I miss simply enjoying the work. I miss considering it work! So, going forward I am refocused. I am not thinking of what a writer should be, or even of the writer I want to be. I am simply being the writer I am right now. I’m writing what is in my head and heart now, what excites me now, what feels good to finally say, right now.
Making cut up and blackout poems and collages, still. I had stopped last month thinking that these little pieces I created were rather pointless and dumb but my wife has convinced me otherwise recently so I am back at it. This month I cleaned up my side of the “creativity room” separated my space into a writing space on one side and an art space on the other. Going forward it’ll be easier for me to slip into “art mode” and to share more of my work in the coming year as it improves.
Planning for the new year. The last month of the year begins tomorrow and I think the best use of the days leading up to 2020 are to spend them figuring out my goals, priorities, expectations, and obstacles. I want to have clear ideas for projects and at least a basic idea of the steps to take, how to spend my time, and what to do when I fall behind. I want to take my failures and their lessons with me next year but not as baggage. I want to see my weakness clearly and plan how I might overcome my most disappointing and persistent shortcoming going forward.
Reading The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Moral Letters to Lucilius: Volume 1 by Seneca. I’m almost done with both actually and in addition to finishing Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert M. Sapolsky, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, and, as I already mentioned, Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury, plus the two more for December: Ethics by Baruch Spinoza and The Plague by Albert Camus, should put me just 10 books behind my 2019 goal. That’s a lot but I’m choosing to focus on the good. I have read more books every year than the last and 2019 is my best year yet. I know I can hit my goals in 2020.
Watching The Crown on Netflix, Shameless on Showtime, Watchmen on HBO, and re-watching all the Star Wars films on Disney+ in preparation for seeing Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker next month. Beyond that, and the news playing in the background most of the time, I’m trying to limit my time in front ot the television. I lose far too much time and sleep to the comfort of the couch and mindlessly binging episode after episode of shows that aren’t all that entertaining or exciting when I really think about it.
Learning about Modern & Contemporary American Poetry and International Women’s Health and Human Rights, still. To be honest, I made not a bit of progress throughout all of November. I’ve not had the time or the energy to finish any courses this month and I’m not sure I’ll be able to pick them up again until after the new year. I enjoy learning in such a structured way and I miss the feeling of accomplishment I got week after week but finding time for writing is my top priority now and that is hard enough without adding expection and excuses to procrastinate.
Anticipating a very busy December! This month we have “Friendsgiving”, a production of Shakespear’s Twelfth Night, a new Star Wars film, Christmas shopping, Christmas Day, a possible trip, and New Year Eve celebrations with friends. It’s a lot but I’m looking forward to it all. I had purposely left November’s calendar blank thinking I would relish the down time before the holiday season. In reality, I felt quite the opposite. I felt restless, bored, cooped up, and lonely. I hate venturing out into the world when the weather turns frigid but I am learning that that isn’t very good for my mental health. I’m trying, instead, to keep busy, to get outside, to see people, and enjoy the winter rather than feeling trapped by it.
Reflecting on all that I am thankful for and how I can better show gratitude. November is the month of giving thanks and no matter my feelings surrounding the origin story of Thanksgiving, I do think a holiday meant simply for being with the people you love and expressing gratitude before the end of the year is essential. I’ve made vast improvement over the years in my ability to take stock of all the good in my life not just once a year but nearly daily. Where I need to do the work now is in learning to express that gratitude to the people I love, an act that for some reason surfaces deep feelings of embarrassment and inadequacy. I’m exploring and working to overcome the reasons why I feel that way when all I want to say is, “thank you”.
Feeling tired. My health has not been good lately. Since the start of autumn I have had an upper respiratory infection, an ear infection, a bout with a stomach virus, and now the worst of my ulcerative colitis symptoms have returned. I’m stressed, disappointed, worried, and, above all, exhausted. I had hoped to end the year with a reduction in both the number of medications I was taking and the dosage of the ones I was to stay on but now I may be back at square one, taking steroids and looking to start yet another medication. I am getting ahead of myself though. My latest round of lab results are not back and the doctor has not decided the next course of action but even the waiting wears me out.
Fearing a possible upcoming promotion at work. I’m excited to take on a new role and to have more time to do the things I feel passionate about there, but I am afraid of not getting it and worse I’m afraid of not getting it due to my own lack of preparation. I’m afraid of failing, so I am avoiding working on my resume, gathering letters of recommendation, or practicing my interview answers, and that, in turn, is making me even more afraid to fail, which is only making me more avoidant. I know how to stop the cycle, but the fear of responsibility and of the unknown is overwhelming. I need help.
Hating holiday expectations. I’ve never been big on Thanksgiving or Christmas. I enjoy the food, and the time with friends and family, but the cloud of consumerism and the expectations we place on each other and ourselves to show our love through things disgusts me. I am disgusted with who I become this time of year. I’m disgusted by all the wanting and the disappointment I feel from not receiving what I desire. I am disgusted by the anger I feel when I have to force myself not to buy things for myself and I disgusted by my envy of what others and buy and have. The season brings out just as much bad in us as it does good.
Loving coffee! A cup of coffee is such and ordinary and everyday thing but I’m practicing not just finding joy in the ordinary but in injecting passion into the ordinary. I figure the best place to start is the most consistent part of my day, my cup of coffee. During the summer months I cannot bring myself to drink hot coffee and instead brew endless pitchers of strong cold brew to get me through the heat of the day but now that winter has come I have been able to make coffee with varying degrees of strength and taste through the Moka pot and my French press. I miss my espresso machine and doubt I will get to replace it this year but I’m considering buying an ibrik soon to practice making Turkish coffee.
Needing more time for me, always, always, always more time for me. The time exists but I feel guilty for claiming it. When I spend my hours on myself all I can see are hours I am taking from others. I am not contributing. I am not giving. I am being selfish, not selfless. I am being introverted, not extroverted. I am not being productive. I am wasting my time. So, I guess what I need isn’t the time but the strength, and the perspective, and the support needed to take time for myself and the things that are important or fulfilling to me no matter how little they contribute to or produce for anyone else.
Hoping that somewhere between here and 2020 something good happens for me, for the people I love, for every human all over the world. God knows we all need it. THis past year has been a hard one for everyone. Humans, humanity, we all need a win, a boost to our self-esteem and our desperate need to believe in the good of the universe and the good in each other. We need something to go well, to go right, to go the way we hoped. We need a little peace, love and understanding. We need the kind of holiday spirit we talk about but rarely see anymore. I hope we all can find it if even just a little bit. I know it would make all the difference.
So, yeah, all in all, November was a good month. I enjoyed my holiday, and all the time I took to rest and to wait, and though we saw a couple of significant snow storms for the most part even the weather cooperated. I’m looking forward to December and to the end of another year. I’m grateful I get to have it and all the good and bad it will bring too.
But what about you? Did you have a good Thanksgiving? Did you find much to be thankful for? Have you fallen very deeply into seasonal depression yet? Are you ready for a new year? How will you spend the last of this one?
Let me know in the comments.
“There is October in every November and there is November in every December! All seasons melted in each other’s life!”
— Mehmet Murat ildan
The inspiration for these posts comes from Andrea at Create.Share.Love
Photo by Cole Keister on Unsplash