My mother hates November. I grew up hearing about how awful it was and at the age of 92 she still has a lot to say about it.
Although T.S. Eliot coined April as the Cruelest month, many people feel this way about the second last month on the calendar.
First there is the time change, compounding the loss of daylight, the grey days, and the anxiety that comes with the feeling that accompanies the closing of another year.
My challenge to you is to learn to love it. Looming ahead of course is The Big C, Christmas, a residual religious occasion marked by secular and observant Christians alike. Although you, like many people, may not like Christmas, with its commercialism and forced family jolliness, it may help to remember that there are many others celebrating at this time of year for different reasons, thankful for what nature gives us before going to sleep as we all should. Other religions and cultures have marked the time with their own celebrations – Hannukah, Rabī‘ al-Awwal, Bodhi Day, Pancha Ganapati, Kwanzaa, Human Rights Day, Quaid-e-Azam’s Day – the list is very long.
All of which ties this time of year to historical, festivals of lights fighting the winter doldrums. November is probably the only month of the year that could be called restful. The weather is probably not calling you outside, unless you live down under. The grey light is like a luxurious piece of silk blanketing the earth. If this doesn’t work for you, use a SAD light indoors to minimize the physical effect of Vitamin D withdrawal. Like animals getting ready for winter, grow your body and facial hair and turn to food that your body will store for the lean months ahead, most likely cookies, eggnog, or possibly deep-fried potato cakes. Go to bed early, unless you are invited out for more fat-and sugar soaked food. If you have to drive after dark, take the long way home and enjoy the ridiculous and/or fabulous light displays of people who have the energy or money to put them up. If you don’t like Christmas music, buy one of those World collections that book stores sell at the counter and play it until Jingle Bells is Chimerenga-ed out of your head. Hannukah songs are also quite catchy.
November, with its encouragement to hibernate, is a great time to take stock, before the news and music stations start doing it. As humans, most of us measure our life in arbitrary groups of 365 ¼ days, and we end up feeling, especially at this time, like we could have done more with the 304 ¼ days we had until November started.
We don’t know at the start of those days what life will throw at us, so we can only be responsible for how we made it to this point. That is something to feel good about. Put it at the top of a list and then continue, noting other things you did. Maybe you changed jobs, or got a job – Major. Maybe you got to 3 out 4 of your kid’s school events – major. Maybe you finally took that weekend with your college mates that you’ve talked about for the last 20 years. Maybe you got a flu shot and felt pretty good most of the year. Maybe you cleaned out half the garage last Victoria Day weekend. Maybe you took up/gave up golfing, quilting, health supplements. Those 304 ¼ days are long, even though they go by quickly, and you did some good stuff during that time.
Earth knows to take a rest during this period. My challenge to you is to do the same thing, whatever your ethno-religious-cultural background is. This is the home stretch, 61 days to be grateful, take it easy, and enjoy the light show.