April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
– T.S. Eliot, fromThe Waste Land
One of the great follies of mankind is putting too much stock in the future.
“Things will be better when _____ happens.” “Once I’m able to _____, life will get easier.” “If we can just _____, everything will improve.”
Then the future gets here, and it turns out to be the present, and we cast our hopes on other people, places, and things that have yet to arrive.
April is my annual reminder of this.
I trudge through the winter, head down, face carved with an expression of grim determination, bitter fist shaking at the fluffy flakes and frozen rain.
“Just wait ’til spring gets here,” I say to myself and anyone else who will listen. “Things will be better then.”
Sure enough, spring arrives, and with it comes a steaming batch of disappointment.
The weather isn’t what I was hoping for. I suddenly don’t have enough time to do all the writing I want because I have work to do outside. I don’t have enough time to work outside because I have writing to do. Sickness has hit the family harder over the past three weeks than it did the entire winter. And on and on.
Wintertime has a way of numbing me to certain things. Despite my generally negative attitude toward the season, there’s a weird comfort that goes with it, as well. My expectations freeze solid.
Then April shows up, and I start to thaw out. That’s when the painful feelings arise. The stuff that’s been iced up for the past few months. Everything lets loose at once, and my river of ambitions gets jammed up with chunks of frustration and impatience.
I remember when I was in sixth grade and had surgery for an inguinal hernia. At that young age, I was so scared about how much the surgery would hurt, unaware of how numb to the whole experience I’d be. But I was also unaware of how painful healing would be. How uncomfortable and odd the process of recovery would make me feel. How damned itchy and raw it all had to be.
That’s April. The time of winter’s sedative wearing off. The painful thaw that compels nerve endings back to life. As T.S. Eliot put it, “breeding lilacs out of dead land.”
And as Eliot also said, “April is the cruelest month.” He was right. It is. Not so much because of what April brings, but because of the baggage we hoist upon the fourth month of the year.
The cruelest month? Yes. But it’s largely self-inflicted. So is the choice to work through the pain.