It may not last forever, but I hate November and its rain. It’s a vile month. It is, as noted, rainy. It’s also dark, seemingly endlessly so. Otherwise it’s grey. Always it’s bleak.
I’ve always been afflicted to some degree with seasonal affective disorder. To that end, a few years ago, A bought me a lightbox, which admittedly has been moderately useful – but nonetheless, as soon as November descends upon this country, my mood tends to reflect the palpable depression that swirls around the streets as people go about their business, their heads slumped protectively forward in defiance of the chills and the cold, bitter precipitation.
There is a romantic notion – one in which I believe, to a certain extent, despite what I’m saying here – regarding the comfort of being tucked away in your warm, welcoming, cosy house on dark, rainy nights. A fire roaring, a delicious, hearty meal just consumed, a fat dog or cat contentedly snoring on the mat, the bare starkness of the outside world reminding you of how fortunate you are to have this rosy existence.
The problem is that we don’t all have the allure of an open fire and a view of a Wuthering Heights-esque scene outside our protective windows. Some of us have questionable functional central heating and, literally, the sides of houses upon which to fix our gazes. Some of us have miserably whingy fat cats that prefer to randomly stab you with their claws rather than sit about being cute and postcard-y, and some of us are too fucking useless both in the kitchen and in the mind to create and consume foodstuffs other than Pot bloody Noodles (though admittedly that would be with extra salt, garlic and piri-piri sauce). So, in practical terms, the romantic idea of a winter’s night isn’t as successful as it may appear.
Two issues considerably compound my hatred of November. The first is the spectre, the accursed wailing bloody banshee, of Christmas. I hate it. I know I published a really whingy post here before the occasion last year, lamenting the absence of my father at Christmas; there can be absolutely no doubt that that is a very pertinent issue, but as you may imagine, the associations with the day and its build-up probably run deeper, as I shall discuss in a minute.
For now though, let it be known that of course I detest Shitmas for entirely practical reasons too. I’m not a Christian, so in any meaningful sense, it’s not a relevant celebration or festival for me. I believe that family (an excuse often given for the importance of Shitmas) is merely a confluence of random genetics and that therefore, in and of itself, it is not of the divine importance that society would like us, for whatever reasons, to believe it is. I can piss it up with the best of people, but I really dislike drunken hooliganism, and Christmas parties seem to bring out the worst in people in this regard (probably because those of whom I speak are not generally accustomed to drinking a lot, but maybe they should wise the fuck up and know their limits before they turn into such utter wankers). I cannot bear crowds at the best of times, but they are multiplied at Christmas to a degree that is essentially unparalleled the rest of the year, and should be permanently unparalleled across all of time and space. I mean, I go shopping as infrequently as possible in any month, and try to avoid it in December at all costs. But occasionally, for whatever reason (perhaps God’s punishment for my rejection of him and failure to celebrate his only son’s perfect birth), I have no choice but to venture out into this strange and o’er-populated world, and when I do, a nice stash of Valium invariably comes with me.
But yeah. It’s all very good analysing the matter-of-fact points of this but as I said, there is of course more to it than that – most, if in fact not all, of my early Christmasses were spent in the dubious company of the infernal McFaul dynasty. For the avoidance of doubt, I don’t think anything untoward happened at Christmas – the houses were always full to the brim with the half-trillion members of Maisie’s Matriarchy, a grossly distressing state of affairs in its own right – but, having said that, last year when I was out with A and a friend, something curious happened. The three of us were sitting there chatting, when to their (and my) considerable surprise, I had to go running to hide in the pisser when a Christmas song came on in the venue. I was a bit mystified by my wide-eyed horror at the time; Christmas sucks, yes, but what’s this about? Traumatic? That would have been a big word for it. I am less baffled now; I do understand the power of psychological association, after all. Still, my reaction to the song seems like an extreme one to an association with a relatively benign if still un-enjoyable set of experiences.
Of course, any of you that have followed the bilge that is this journal for a good while will be aware that last Christmas was definitely rather traumatic – but then this has its upside. Every cloud, yadda etc. It means that we will have learnt from the experience and will ergo not be repeating those particular gruesome proceedings this year.
I spend November in a state of acute and painful awareness that this heinous occasion is just around the corner. November is worse than December itself because of the anticipation of the sodding thing – at least in December you can look forward to it being fucking over. In the meantime, everywhere you look, something screams in reminder of it – the TV, radio, billboards you pass in the car, even when you’re innocently web-browsing or using some sort of social media. Advertising is a cruel, almost Orwellian industry in many ways.
But I digress. There is a second reason other than the weather and the darkness to hate November. It brings my birthday.
Birthday, you say? An excuse for a party, and an occasion on which one is likely to receive desired and desirable materials? Not such a bad thing really?
Ten years ago I’d have agreed. Maybe even five years ago. We all joke about being another year older, but I think oftentimes it is in little more than jest. In terms of my (natural, which is something of a dubious presumption) likely lifespan, I will not be ‘old’. I will merely be entering my 28th year, not transitioning into a new geological eon (although that would actually be rather cool). However, each passing birthday over the last few years has brought with it a dark and stark reminder – I live, in the technical sense, but I have nothing other than a string of student debts and a few fancy but uninspiring pieces of A4 to show for it.
I happened to ask A the other day what I had achieved in my life. He said, charitably enough, “you’re a successful blogger.” I’m not sure how he measures ‘success’, but evidently not in the same way I do – but let’s assume for argument’s sake that he is correct. Can I write reasonably passable stuff, and can I exhibit my intelligence sometimes? Arguably, yes – but so what? What, at the end of the day, does writing a “successful” blog mean in the grand scheme of human endeavour? Damn all. It’s important to me, to be sure – very much so – but it’s ultimately purposeless.
At the risk of self-aggrandising, I am intelligent. I know that, and it’s one of the few points on which I will always defend myself. But possessing a brain and not translating that into something useful and/or meaningful renders such possession redundant.
When I go into these reflective self-disgusted whinges in person with A, he points out that I am smart, very well educated and, apparently, personable and charismatic (!!!). He says that if mental illness hadn’t cruelly intervened, I would now have an excellent job and not be a listless dolescum. For a number of reasons related to my academic background, I feel that that is an overly optimistic assessment of matters, but I do believe that I might actually be doing something moderately useful to someone, even if were not particularly profound. And then I get to the stage where I resent my illnesses and any related trauma immensely, because it’s effectively ruined my life. I was always meant to be a career woman. I never wanted a nice little family with a nice little house on the fucking prairie and a nice batch of 2.4 children. I wanted a contented home life certainly (namely in the form of the companionship and love of a good man, an endeavour in which I have been successful), but knowledge and the productive or helpful application of same were what I was dreaming of when other kids were looking at their fantasy wedding dresses and designer baby-gros.
So I resent being mental, which is not a particularly useful thing for me to do, but no matter, as it doesn’t stay: it then progresses to self-directed fury. I always feel when I employ the “but I’m sick!” argument that I am just making excuses for my multitude of failings and that I should somehow pull myself the fuck together and get on with it. After all, there are plenty of others out there that work, or at least behave productively, with mental illnesses. For some, doing so actively helps to keep them relatively sane.
And then I get even angrier at myself for being angry at myself for being unable to work, because in demonising myself, I am also demonising all the other mentals out there who cannot work for the same or similar reasons. If I feel that I am using mental illness as an excuse for my failures to be a ‘successful’ member of society, then by extension I am accusing each and every one of them of being the useless malingerer that I think I am. And that really does not represent my views of the others at all, not in the least. It only applies to me :-/
Yet another reason for self-directed anger within this arena is my existential nihilism. I believe that we are a pointless species on a pointless planet in a pointless galaxy in a pointless universe (and possibly in a pointless multiverse, should you subscribe to String or M Theory or similar, or even if you just like Doctor Who in the RTD era ((or, preferably, some more credible science fiction…))). To that end, my failure to do anything with my innately pointless life should be an irrelevance. If anything, it should comfort me to know that existence is merely accidental and of no particular consequence. Since it does not reassure me thus, my anger at my complete lack of self-fulfilment turns to anger about my anger!
Over the top? Reading to much into things? Laughably neurotic? Me? Noooo, never!
I know that to come from the mind of someone with such a notable intellect all of these thought processes are actually completely stupid. I know this, so then I have more reason to be self-critical – I may be academically clever, but I’m really rather dumb in other mental dimensions…
So as you can see, November – which is just a nasty month for meteorological and geographical reasons anyway – is a constant reminder to me of everything (and I do mean everything, much of it tangential) that I can find wrong with myself and my ‘life’. Answers on a postcard if you can think of any other “why Pandora is shit” Novemberist insults ;)
As an aside – I’ve always hated the ‘surprise’ element that comes with both birthdays and Christmas. I don’t mean that I find it mildly but amusingly frustrating; I genuinely hate it. I never really thought much about the possible reasons as to why until I read this article on Overcoming Sexual Abuse. I related strongly to what the author had written, though I did find myself wondering if I was reading too much into the potential connection. However, I’m presently reading The Myth of Sanity by Martha Stout which, although at times vaguely irritating in its prose, is a nonetheless fascinating book on dissociation and the associations between (sometimes un-recalled) trauma and later-life anxieties. I knew it already, but Dr Stout’s book exemplifies it so well – human psychology is a complex and subtle thing, so who knows what’s connected to what, however apparently loosely?