Septembers are weird for me.
Septembers are exciting, and poignant. My middle child’s birthday is September 10th, so the early part of the month is always spent planning his celebration, and reflecting on just how far my preemie (he was due in the latter part of October) has come. September marks the month when my husband and I began dating. Our school year begins in late August, so September also contains an overwhelming and stressful, yet exhilarating, rush of parent nights and class retreats and fall sports’ contests.
September requires a reservoir of physical and emotional energy.
September is also the month that my life changed forever.
They say that you know you have healed when you can tell your story without flinching. If that is the criteria for discharge, then close my file and declare me well adjusted, because I have that part nailed. Recently I was chatting with a new colleague friend, and she asked about my divorce; I found myself relaying the plot and players with a nonchalant “just the facts, ma’am” skeletal overview, and forgot the narrative was even evocative until the expression on her face slowly turned to horror.
It has all been so normalized for me, for all of us. I forget it’s not.
Except, six years later, my body still remembers September 22nd, even when I forget. It fascinates me, truly, how the layers of the subconscious work. This year I am paying attention (clearly) but some years, I forget. At least, I think that I forget, except that I always stop sleeping at the end of August. I’ll chalk it up to back to school stress and my miles-long to do list, but then I gradually become more reactionary, moody, short-tempered. I find myself responding to emails that, 11 months out of the year, I easily disregard. I find myself a mile or two into my runs with my jaws and fists clenched. I have headaches. I drink some wine with dinner 5 or 6 nights a week instead of my usual, disciplined no-alcohol-except-for-Saturday-nights training protocol.
Some years, I don’t realize why this is happening until Sept 21st, or even the 22nd itself, when I might be in the middle of a lecture on Shakespeare’s sonnets or filling the grocery cart or driving mindlessly on the well worn route to work, and it dawns on me: “This is when I got the phone call.”
Some years, like this year, I wearily say to myself as the calendar rolls over, “Welcome back September. You fucker.”
I wonder if this condition is permanent, if the ghost of trauma past will always revisit on the ninth month. But whereas I once railed against this intrusion, shaking my fist at the unfair universe that not only burned my illusory happily ever after to the ground, but forced me to make an annual pilgrimage to the wreckage, I now accept it as part of me. Like my left handedness or inability to roll my “R”s, it’s a part of me that is sometimes inconvenient, occasionally noteworthy but ultimately, an aspect of my identity beyond my control (no matter how many after school tutoring sessions with my high school Spanish teacher, who finally admitted defeat and stopped deducting points from my pronunciation grade).
September 22nd made me who I am today. It continues to cause difficulty for my children and myself, but it also gave me my husband, my running and my new life, which is exponentially happier and healthier than all previous incarnations.