I won't expound on the systemic difficulties experienced by our collective consciousness since last March; however, they have given me an appreciation of how seasonal changes and weather pattern affected our already dour mood (and usually for the worse).
November 2020 was a shocking month, for example. The days grew shorter, and the precious few rays of light were unavailable to most of us as we stayed indoors, hiding from the rain and wind. Those of us who willed ourselves out for a run or walk in such inclement conditions returned home drenched and cold, and no boost in endorphins post-workout could compensate for the harsh brutality our bodies and minds had just endured. The whole month was a grainy black-and-white film of oppression, depression, and suppression, and we had to survive thirty days of it.
December was arguably worse, the only solace coming in the form of the shorter month before the holiday season (which for many, was a pyrrhic victory resulting in a little more sleep but exponentially greater loneliness, isolation, and boredom).
Rumours and reports of vaccine distribution reached our ears in late December-early January, but these felt intangible and far away. January slapped us with thirty-one dark, rainy, snowy, windy days. In an inverse-November pattern, the days grew unnoticeably longer, and felt even more so as we willed ourselves to climb to the top of the hill and say goodbye to the month. For those of us in healthcare, January represented a cacophonic combination of dark days and neverending medical crises, rendered artificially longer by the promise of vaccination without tangible dates or results. So we waited, trying to be as patient [sic] as we could be, knowing that we had to control our various anxieties and impatience with potential light right around the next corner. January was a preparatory month as we tried to clear our heads and mould fresh clay into wet bricks we would need for the rest of the year. We waited for those thirty-one days, and they were hard. They even felt NP-hard, for the mathematically-inclined amongst us. January 2021 is probably the most difficult month I have endured, in recent memory.
This year in particular, February has made it okay to dream again.
Historically, I was never fond of February. It felt like a closed-minded bouncer in the way of Spring Break, blocking March from rescuing us and preparing us for the summer. I vividly remember one day in February 2019 however (when life was still blissful), looking around and thinking that it was a better month than the flak it had received. Had I just been trained to dislike the month, blindly succumbing to the pathos I felt for my peers who categorically hated the month?
Fast-forward to 2021, and I can safely declare that I love February. The feeling started exactly on the 1st, when I woke up with hope. January was behind us, the day felt noticeably longer and brighter, and there were only 27 more to go. I recall several excited conversations on the topic with a friend overseas, as we both convinced ourselves each day that February was bloody brilliant. As the month continued, I noticed that:
- Whereas January was about shaping wet clay bricks, February was the kiln that fired them into sturdy and useable form. In other words, the month gave me tangible building blocks in life, work, and matters of art and heart.
- February was drier than both January and March, cold, but without too much snow or rain. I could venture outside for a run or a walk in the fresh chill most days.
- Each day was tangibly, noticeably, and delightfully brighter and longer.
- The shorter month granted more positive and focused urgency. People responded more quickly to emails and had more clarity in their answers (since they too had kiln-fired bricks to manipulate and offer instead of simply wet clay).
- The North-American calendar representation of February 2021 (where the week starts on Monday) spanned a picture-perfect four weeks, with the 1st on a Monday and the 28th on a Sunday. No dangling days, no fifth weeks, no spill-overs, it was mathematical and artistic perfection.
February's character is perhaps best personified by Herr Mendel, the Swiss banker from Casino Royale. He dresses smartly, arrives punctually after a terrible January, and with the gentlest of smiles, grants me a paycheque a few days sooner than I would see in other months. This year, he is also bringing vials of vaccine along with him, restoring our mental wealth even as we wait for restored physical health, and unleashing our trapped and stifled optimism. Without making a fuss, he transfers his gifts to us, court-bows, and leaves promptly without overstaying his welcome. Even during his leap-year visits, he stays just one additional day without abusing our hospitality any further. His role is transactional and he is content with it, for that is his job, one he performs expertly and quickly with grace and charm. This year in particular, February has made it okay to dream again.
As I look outside on this gloriously sunny Saturday (did I mention February days felt longer and brighter?), I am wistful. I am excited for March, the vernal equinox, and the true gateway to the summer, but my adoration for March is only amplified by February's polish, efficiency, and kindness in getting out of the way after saddling us with presents. I will miss these quick 28 days, and if nothing else, that itself is a true testament to February's self-awareness. He has mentored me onto a path towards a crescendo and stayed behind, knowing I can manage the rest of the way myself. He bows and waves auf Wiedersehen to me now, confident that we will meet again next year.
Long live Herr Mendel, and long live the short February!