April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain
The cruellest month.
I find myself repeating that every year. This year it’s a little bit worse, because that poem (The Waste Land) affected, infected my life so much this winter that I started to fall apart over its opening lines. When it wasn’t even April.
I’m not alone in hating the early spring. A friend of mine told me about Leslie Cheung, Hong Kong gay icon who eventually committed suicide. He hated April too. He killed himself on the 1st, 2003, after having suffered quietly from depression for a long time. Obviously, he didn’t die of spring. This is just an example of someone who felt hurt by it.
What is it about April?
It’s SPRING! S.A.D is supposed to lift. The weather is meant to brighten (though it hasn’t, this year, 3 degrees and snowing). Flowers bud and blossom. The skies clear and the days lengthen. Slowly, the world becomes more beautiful. They say. But…
This year’s theory. Maybe it’s the weight of expectation. Like New Year’s Eve, spring is meant to be a time of hope, lifted spirits. If you just don’t feel it, if the sunshine comes and there’s a blank where the joy should be, it isn’t only the standard low you’re left with… it’s the guilt at having failed to live up to the expected lift. It’s the rejection of a gift.
Once something has been idealised, we tend to put pressure on others or ourselves to live up to the ideal. Christmas, birthdays, the New Year and the revelries of its Eve. Spring. We convince ourselves that the ideal- in this case, hope- is “natural” and so view the failure to live up to it as contrariness, perversity, failure. We beat ourselves up about it. April is the cruellest month because, in laying these expectations on ourselves, we become the cruellest people. We demand that something arbitrary change our mood and outlook. I think, for people who are depressed or low, expectation of this kind is particularly painful. Spring is meant to lift our moods, we are told. It’s oppressive, it’s heavy, it weighs us down. It doesn’t help.
The clocks turn just like the midnight bells demand kisses, and we are expected to turn with them, just like that. Embrace the newness of it all. If we can’t? If we don’t? It’s like trying to blow up a punctured balloon- tiring, pointless, eventually depressing. Who needs to feel like a punctured balloon? Especially one trying to blow itself up!
April is the cruellest month, because it demands something we can’t always give.
Or I am weird, do I have some kind of upside-down, winter-loving S.A.D.?
Who knows. Who cares. T.S. Eliot got it, and Leslie Cheung. Neither of them was especially happy but as everyone knows, it’s nice not to be alone.
(And yes, I am feeling a little bit lost just now)