How could a month that holds both the fortunous reputation of a clean slate and a month that holds my beautiful wedding anniversary be the toughest one of the year?
Another is I am not one for the holiday busy, it clutters my mind and whaps my center of gravity out a bit. I have theories as to why, but this torch has burned for decades and so it rarely surprises me that I start the year with a disheveled heart.
A deeper layer reveals that it is also my birthday month. However, in hearing stories and recallings of my youth, it is suspected I am a December birthday. This un–anchors me. To know one’s birthday seems woven into being human, being known, being worth celebration.
I do not know mine.
I have an assigned birthday by dear catholic sisters and a gracious adoption paperwork system, but it is false and that has always mattered to me. I used to loathe the phrase and mention of the day. I have grown to appreciate the sentiment and the reality that I have a day, like others–inaccurate, but still mine. I look forward to intentional extensions of love in January due to my “birthday” now as a grown adult, but the little girl in me will always falter a bit when the month rolls around.
Foundational imprints of the month have history and hurt. Statements said, recovery from pain gone ary, and cloudiness of memories and moments that have both shaped and stripped from me–they edge the month with grief.
Stark streaks also invade the month. Life lived through that I now have to coach my mind in. My mind must believe these wounds can connect to my call to others for their courage despite trauma.
But how I wish the cavernous wounds away. The loss of our first child in our first miscarriage in 2007 was anguish. Standing amid 70,000 mourners and respect-givers as the late President Gerald R. Ford was driven through my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, I stood there when I could not stand in front of my classroom of 10th graders. My body reeling from the physiolocigal truth of the miscarriage–I stood there wondering what the little life could have done in the world as this hometown boy gone President was laid to rest. My heart asunder in lies that I was a failure in yet another way.
Not even a decade later from that life lost, I found my mind hurtled into the chaos of depression from re-exposure to abandonment and trauma.
The dark felt insurmountable and I became a shell of myself. A suicide attempt tore through my own story and consequentially the lives of those close to me. I may never like the month because of this unforgiving blemish on my action record. I beg many, each week, to know their worth and turn towards help… It does not lessen my shame, but it is what I can offer their hurting place.
January has fallen to a place of remembering and always questioning if my rise from the grips of ugliness is true and trustworthy.
But hope wins.
Not as a strategy.
Not as a method.
Not as a privilege or a luxury.
But as a Truth.
Students need to know this. Grieving parents need to know this. Trauma victims, homeless, and struggling people need to know this. It is not swift and it is not mess free, but life — whether gone too soon or grappling for another day, it is comprised of hope and breath.
For all of us still standing, breathe deep, this month and every month. If you have extra air, lend it in your service, your faith, your extra hand, your benevolent spirit, your career, your neighborhood, your people. Lend hope to those who need to be fought for.