October

When I was a kid, October was my favorite month.

It started, every year, with anticipation for my birthday – I’d go from “my birthday’s next month” on September 30th to “it’s almost here!” on October 1st.  The lovely two-week stretch of beautiful fall weather that signaled the transition from Michigan’s suffocating, humid summers to face-achingly cold winters usually fell in early October.  Then, with my birthday party behind me and the last of the leftover cake eaten, October would slide smoothly into the Halloween season, with just enough time for me to make a costume and plan a trick-or-treating route and maybe carve a pumpkin at some point.  And even thirty years ago, Halloween was the gateway to the holiday season; we could spot Christmas looming over the horizon before we’d even gotten halfway through our candy.

But at some point, it became easier to buy things for myself, and the raw, materialistic glee of birthday presents and free candy began to fade; birthdays became a yearly memento mori and Halloween became a bulwark defying Christmas’s constant encroachment.  At some point, I moved to Seattle, where the beautiful fall days belong to September, while October is the beginning of six months’ worth of near-daily rain.  At some point, October became a biannual whirlwind of political garbage, as campaign ads and Facebook arguments raise to fever pitch and democracy seems to be crumbling in real time.

At some point, my mom died, just a couple hours into October.

She was 47.  She should have been at my wedding, the following year.  She should have met her grandchildren.  She should still be here, lively and full of love.  She should have had decades more time.

Ten years later, it seems like the worst October yet.  We’re bogged down in one fight for our lives after another, against a constant stream of horrible people who have given up any pretension of acting in anyone’s interests beyond their own.  We tell ourselves stories of justice, of the eventual yet inevitable victory of good if we just fight hard enough, of clear evidence of wrongdoing being enough to ensure that consequences actually ever happen.

But October taught me that justice is a lie.  It’s a fairy tale with no impact on reality.  There’s no inherent moral sense to be made of a world where someone like my mom dies at 47 but Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell survive into their 70s.

I miss being a child, sometimes; I miss the comforting lies I used to believe about how the world made sense, how good would win eventually, how my mom would always be there for me.  Thirty-five Octobers have stripped all that away.

1 comment so far ↓

#1 Richard on 10.08.18 at 4:45 pm

There are two kinds of nihilists: those who learn that life has no meaning, and despair, or those who learn that life has no meaning, and rejoice, for there is a blank slate upon which any meaning at all can be written.

The fairy tales which you learned in your youth might have turned out to be lies, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t write your own, true ones, for the next generation.

Write the right story, and you might even get that happy ending you were promised.

Or, at least, that’s one of the thoughts that keeps me going.

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