Dec 29, 2021 • 7M

The Ides of December

Side effects may include disconnection, wandering hopelessness, and a lack of Vitamin D.

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What are the days of our lives, if not the passing of time into tomorrow? The moments here and now are stolen away and buried under all that will be, cast long like a shadow of the future. That darkened image sketched before me, mirroring back my movements, copying my arm waves and leg shuffles—it grows the darkest in December. Always black as the evening tide in the ides of December. I hate the twelfth month of the year, when everything’s rounded out and times tick down and everyone’s busy as the bees in spring. But it’s winter, it’s hibernation time, ice-time, time to batten down the hatches and cradle in warm, fire-lit living rooms with people we know, filling up on their chuckles like melted marshmallows in a mug of hot cocoa. Always so warm and willing and it’s December, the worst month of the year.

I shouldn’t be surprised. The calendar rolls out like an ancient scroll every year, the same months following one after another. I shouldn’t be surprised when November ends and December punches the ticket for thirty-one days to come. It always has. It’s the bookend, the capper, the final act of the play, the anticlimactic climax of two-thousand twenty-one just as it was in twenty-twenty, and all the gatherings of days before. I shouldn’t be surprised. But for some reason I always am, always struck by the mood of winter, the emotions of slumber. When dopamine finds itself in hibernation, leagues away from the meat of my mind. I wake up in December like counting to twelve, and am stunned that I made it all this way. All the way up the rungs to twelve, just like I did every other year. Still caught off guard, ignorantly off guard, still wondering why I can’t manage the melting enigma behind my eyes. It’s seasonal. And we’re here in December and I’m always dazed.

December’s a big pharma commercial. The ones we see on television while we watch “Christmas Special” football—this year it’s my green men, my Packers, versus the Browns. We won. It was too close, an ugly victory. And the commercials reel like fast-jargoned cinema. It’s hard to keep up and the small print is so small the pixels deflate when you step a little closer. It’s so lovely, though. Two grandparents, pacing through a meadow, hand-in-hand. They smile and sheen their pearly whites at each other, a kiss on the cheek, the woman rests her head on the collar bone of the man. It’s a snapshot of days to come, future days. Floating through love and life like the kitschy family room signs plastered up above entryways—live, laugh, love it all. They sure are in this forty-five second ad run. The screen shifts to a family, dancing around the holiday tree, lights blipping and beaming bright and it’s all slow motion and perfect. Their teeth are all so perfect, lined up and whitened up and spotlighting the aftereffects of December. The parts we all live for, the times we all pray, eat, drink, and hope for.

But December’s big pharma, it still lists its attributes to me and every year I forget what the coked-out auctioneer voice raced through as side effects of ingesting the twelfth month of the year. Short days, a low sun, cold temperatures, and holiday extremes may have secondaries including mellow moods, depression, existential anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, invisibility, and a disconnect from the world around you. You may also consider wrapping your car around the nearest telephone pole once every third car ride downtown, but results may vary. If you are pregnant or at risk of heart failure, please consult Father Time before ingesting the twelfth month of the year. It’s a doozy. Do all the consulting you want, you can’t out run, out hibernate, out navigate the onslaught of December. I still try.

It’s a month of extremes, a span of double-living. Either lost in the emotional sauce of another year passing you by, or flipped one-eighty and hugging and kissing and sitting with family and telling tales of the last three-hundred-sixty-four days. There’s scarcely time for anything in between. It’s all chaotic and whimsied and experience tries its hardest to live up to expectation, but it often falls short and I wonder if expectation is the root of all evil. The happy-juice brain robber, the self-convincing conman. But that’s just big pharma December—telling you that every day will be flowers and bliss, while most the month is dark and surprisingly hopeless. Maybe that’s why they smushed Christmas into the last month of the year. It needed a little lightening up, it was taking itself too seriously. They gave December a prescription of its own. Here, take a baby Jesus for your troubles.

And it’s not all bad. It ends just like every other space of days. Memories are a fickle thing; they inform decisions and warm up current moments when you’re around the ones you shared them with. So potent that we live entire lifetimes dedicated toward trying to make it all happen for fear of missing out. The absolute fear of missing out. But what is life, if not but the passing of time into tomorrow? What are moments, if not the ones you are living? 

I was given a new journal for Christmas. It’s leather-backed—real animal hide, you can smell it—and the pages feel like canvas. As looks and vibes go, this one tops the list. On the front there’s a quote stamped deep into the faded chestnut leather. It reads, “Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” That was spoken by Omar Khayyam, a Persian mathematician and philosopher who lived almost a thousand years ago. And I read that and I wonder how someone could ever be so spot on.

We are ruined by the future. Destroyed by the past. But the present is as blank as the canvas pages in my new journal. December is black and shadowed, and that’s fine. December has shorter days than most the year. The sun hides away, it’s cold, and the year ends and you remember how little or much you did or didn’t do over the last eleven months. You see a new year horizon-lining and recall that you’re about to start three-hundred and sixty-five days over again. And again. And again. And that’s fine. December is just December, and it seems to me that if this moment is my life, then this month isn’t that different from the rest of ‘em.

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