September is the Cruelest Month
Poet TS Eliot surmised April was the cruelest month.
He believed April–despite the chirping birds, scampering squirrels, and blooming Spring flowers, despite the hope and promise–was actually the beginning of what Eliot called am, “endless cycle of suffering.”
To Eliot, the new beginnings were meaningless. They tricked us into thinking life will improve with a fresh start. April simply restarted the hurt and sadness and suffering all people were destined to experience.
Not surprisingly,(and thankfully) Eliot didn’t have any children.
Sure he’s one of the finest poets who ever lived, but he would have been a dangling participle of a parent.
Because every parent knows: September is the cruelest month.
School. School activities.School functions.Schools sign ups.School shopping. School meetings. School sports. School picnics. School potluck parties. Back to School Night.
30 calendar days so packed with school obligations that family dinners happen through a straw, family conversations happen through emojis, and family thinking happens through a fog of exhaustion and fluoride while brushing your teeth before you stagger to bed.
When kids go back to school, I worry about their parents.
I worry that being a busy parent is the easiest way to lull oneself into a trance of ignorance and short-mindedness. I worry the demands on our calendar might be our greatest distraction from living. I worry we will grind through our lives day after day, being present for our obligations but absent from ourselves. I worry about autopilot living. I worry about fast food nutrition. I worry we will try to be in two places at once. I worry we will mistake doing for being.
I’m keeping this letter short because I know you’re busy and that you’re reading this between chicken nuggets and traffic lights.
I can’t ease or lighten your schedule. I can’t call you and Uber or a Nanny service. But I can remind you to notice. Notice the falling leaves. The early sunsets. The cool mornings. That summer is now swept away. Notice the patter of approaching feet. Your kid’s laughter. Their smiles. Their bedhead. And the sudden emergence of Pumpkin spice everything.
We cannot take the present moment for granted. Because September will pass by faster than we can say October. Life has taught me, the future that lies before us is uncertain. That noticing is one of the most powerful things a poet, a parent, a human can do.
Notice mortality and fragility and transformation.
Notice changes and growth and conscious choices.
Before you go, I need your help.
To celebrate my 10 year diagnosis-versary (September 4), International Ataxia Awareness Day (September 25), the release of my new book Ordinary Hero (November 1), and The National Ataxia Foundation’s upcoming “Hike for Mike” event, I’m participating in an exclusive NAF fundraising campaign.
My goal is to increase Ataxia awareness and raise $5,000 to accelerate finding a cure for Ataxia.
Upon making a donation, you will receive two chapters from my upcoming book Ordinary Hero, which is set to be released on November 1, 2023. Using my misfortune I explore the age-old question, “Does adversity build character?” It’s a book that brings comfort, insight, and might just change your perspective on misfortune.
Greetings to everyone who found me on the University of Pennsylvania’s Ataxia Clinic’s website! Thanks for stopping by. I have ataxia and though I’m not a doctor, I hope my words comfort, encourage, empower, and serve as good company on your journey.
Arriving Gracefully on 11/1/23!
September Book Promos for You:
Are looking for inspiration? Are you searching for a better version of yourself?
This month I joined literary forces with some best-selling authors in two awesome book promotions. Click the link below:
Recent letters you may enjoy:
Jay Armstrong is a speaker and an award-winning author. Despite being diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, that impairs his movement, balance, eyesight, and speech–Jay presses on. The leader of the Philadelphia Ataxia Support Group, he hopes to help you find joy, peace, and meaning in life.
For Jay, a good day consists of 5 things:
4. Hearing his three children laugh
5. Hugging his wife
(Bonus points for a dinner with his parents or a drink with his friends)
Jay hasn’t had a bad day in quite a long time.
You can also visit Jay at jayarmstrongwrites.com