Friday, March 11, 2011

March Madness

Each year I have all I can do to get through the month of March. I refer to the unsettling emotions of the month as my own personal "March Madness". Ironically, my birthday is smack dab in the middle, on March 15th, the Ides of March. Prior to each birthday I feel overtired, physically and mentally spent, and even sad that in the rush of our daily lives my day might not be as special as I would like it to be. It is not that my family and friends do not send appropriate notes of cheer or shower me with loving presents, (for they most certainly treat me as a princess, much to my delight!) but I myself feel overburdened each March by the pressures of time. Part of it is the timing, pun intended. With the end of third quarter at school approaching, there is an overwhelming amount of correcting I have to do, and my schedule and those of my children seem busier than ever.

This year, however, has brought more poignant reminders of the passing of time. After several weeks of declining health, Charlie, my beloved dog of nearly 17 years, passed away on February 9th. Understanding that grief is a process, I try to be patient with myself as I wake up feeling out of sorts after yet another dream about her. As a dear friend pointed out, the death of a family pet can mean so much as it marks the end of one phase of life and serves as a reminder of another beginning.

A few weeks after Charlie was gone, I was alerted to the death of a student of mine who lost his life due to illness. He had graduated from high school only this past June. A sweet boy who was just at the start of his adult life, he'd been in two of my classes over the past two years. His class and I had gone on a writing marathon trip to the ocean almost one year ago and I can still bring to mind his exact smile and his sense of humor as it's all displayed in the photographs I took that day. Losing Jordan reminds me of how precious our time is. We never know when our time is up and we never know when life will take a sudden turn and take away someone quite younger than us.

And then last week I received word that my Mom's best friend had died. With her own birthday in March, she was nearly 86 years old. Friends for over 60 years, our families had been close. Traveling to that funeral in my hometown took me back to my childhood and seeing the way in which the families have grown and yet still remain connected spoke to those core values in my life that I hang onto dearly. Time does not dissolve who we are and what we treasure.

I grow a little Mad in March due to my tendency to reflect and find meaning in each day's events. As each birthday approaches, especially this year after having experienced these three deaths in such a short period, I recognize that time is fleeting. I am sure I think far too much than is good for me, but then again, I like the fact that my contemplation slows life down for me; I have the ability to push the pause button and ponder the scene of each day as I want to, or need to.

A favorite author of mine, Anna Quindlen, once wrote, "You are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul". On Tuesday, I am going to give myself the best possible birthday gift I could give myself. I am going to push the pause button several times during the day, no matter where I am or what I am in the midst of doing, whether at home or at school with my students, whether at my desk, in the hallway of the school, or on the road back home. I am going to take life and celebrate, more exuberantly, the special moments of my own. Happy Birthday to Me !

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