This Time of Year

I have this weird things with dates and events. They stick in my head and take up room whether I want them to or not. If there’s something significant - good or bad - that happens one year, then that date will still be in my head for the year after and my subconscious will automatically gear me up for it whether there’s something there or not. 

I usually don’t have to look at a calendar to experience this. Something on an unconscious level must be tuned into the changing smells of different seasons, or the shifting angles of light throughout the year. My emotions and memories start going places before I’ve had chance to realise what’s going on.

I realised this last year in September when my thoughts and feelings were going haywire and began to ask what had previously happened in mid-Septembers to make me feel this way.

Um, it turned out to be a LOT. 

It should’ve been a great time of year for our family as it’s when we celebrated our double birthday. The twins were born on September 16th during a very hot autumn. That wasn’t the easiest of times though. As well as the difficult pregnancy and the whole birthing-two-babies thing, their first week of life was complicated by their separation and some considerable anxiety because one of them wasn’t feeding properly and giving concern about his breathing. He was whisked away to the special care unit on a different floor for several days while I was left with the sole responsibility of the other twin on a very busy ward (did you know that September birth rates are higher than any other months?). The overwhelm of not being able to stretch myself far enough to be present for both of them, with the impending knowledge that once they were both okay and able to come home I would then have to care for two newborns and a toddler, was quite a lot for a 24-year-old to handle.

We got through the whirlwind of those first few years together but then came another series of Septembers that seemed to start fine and then suddenly throw a gut-winding punch out of the blue.

In the first year of Daniel’s illness we had convinced ourselves that he was getting better as his outward symptoms seemed to have lessened, only to find out around his seventh birthday that the steroids had been masking the growing shadows that showed up on his brain scans. We were told at that point that there would be a long arduous journey ahead. The following September his health was so bad that the day after his eighth birthday he had his worst seizure yet and we needed to call an ambulance to Morecambe prom while we tried to keep him breathing. It was the same week that we were told he would need to start chemotherapy immediately and we knew that his return to full health would never be an option.

A couple of years later it was the week when Richard was whisked into surgery to have tumours removed from his spine. Almost immediately we got the diagnosis that it was indeed fast-moving cancer that had been causing his severe back pain and that he needed to start a course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, turning the rhythm of our family life upside down again.

Then a few years later the sucker punch came in the form of our plans for moving house. We had been poised ready to head in one direction once we had an offer on our house, and as soon as that offer came, a series of events happened that meant that within a week the plan had completely changed and we were heading somewhere unexpected instead.

And then in 2020 - the Year of the Unexpected Everything - mid-September excelled all the other months when my dad died of an instant heart attack on the night of the seventeenth. We definitely didn’t see that one coming.

Last year as my mum and I talked & identified all of these life-changing, earth-shattering moments that have followed each other in a month that should be about fresh starts and new routines, it made sense of why we now enter September with a sense of unease. It’s hard to shake something that’s been imprinted deeper than logic. The pattern wasn’t broken that year either, as I got my first bout of Covid right then which wrecked Joel’s plans for his 18th birthday and led to me having to let go of roles and responsibilities I could no longer carry because of the long term effect it had on my health. It was another month that totally altered the trajectory of where I thought life was headed.

So what’s the point of summing up all of this? Mainly because it’s therapeutic to stop and understand what’s actually happened. My sense of unease and emotional imbalance hasn’t come as much of a shock to me this year and that means I’ve been able to handle it much better. I’ve given myself a break and had a good cry with safe people when I’ve needed to. I’ve reminded myself of how far I’ve come and how each of those incredibly difficult pieces of bad news didn’t finish me off, even if they did herald the start of significant losses each time.

And I wanted to write it down in case anyone else has recognised something similar in their own lives when the calendar rolls around and despite applying logic, your feelings won’t let you settle. Peace once disturbed can be hard to get back, and our brilliant brains, always ready to learn and protect us, often kickstart our defence mechanisms whether we ask them to or not. If you don’t know why it’s happening, the feeling of despondency, panic or paralysis (I find it reeeeally hard to make future plans at this point of the year) can be worse because it doesn’t seem to have a source. 

One of my dad’s favourite sayings was, “We don’t know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future.” It seems like a very trite thing to say but in the shock of everything we had to deal with as a result of his death, that phrase shone like a beacon in the middle of everything else .

Sometimes one line of truth is all we need to anchor us and ride the waves of emotion that come to us because we are human. I’m holding onto this until the end of September and then I’ll hold onto another truth for the month of October (because there’s no reason it should be any less predictable), and keep going like that because there’s more of God’s truths to hold onto than months any of us will be around for anyway.

I hope that’s helped somebody x


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