Sunday, April 6, 2014

NOT the Cruelest Month

T. S. Eliot famously pronounced April to be the "cruelest month." I've often thought that he must have had the academic calendar in mind, as it's by April that we're all burnt out, faculty and students alike, and yearning for the end of the second semester, which still seems impossibly distant. But other professions may have their own grievances against the month. I imagine that tax accountants are feeling weary as they approach April 15. Here in Colorado, even the weather can provoke charges of cruelty, for "springtime in the Rockies" can be marked by heavy, wet dumps of snow onto poor trees struggling to blossom and leaf.

In my own April this year I'm obsessed by the clock that is ticking away the days to my early retirement from CU and transition to my long-awaited career as a full-time writer. You might think this tick-tock is a cheerful sound, and by all rights it should be. I'm 100 percent happy with my decision and 100 percent willing and eager to go. But the trouble is that now that the decision has been made, I'm willing and eager to GO RIGHT NOW. I'm like a pregnant woman well past the end of her ninth month: come on, baby, come on, new life, it's time for you to POP!

All I want to do is count down the days, hours, and minutes to the birth of my new self. But that is a depressing way to spend an entire month. To quote T. S. Eliot again, I don't want to "measure out my life with coffee spoons." Besides, I have a LOT LOT LOT of work to do this month, both as the last hurrah of my old job and as the transition to my new future. So I can't fill my days with nothing but looking at my watch and crossing off each hour as it passes.

So I sat down last night with my trusty little notebook and made a plan.

Why should April be the cruelest month? Why not make it the happiest month? I started a list (my favorite activity of all): "Ways to Maximize Happiness." I wrote down thirty things to do to stuff the rest of the month full of joy. Some are huge. Some are tiny. Some were already going to happen. Some will happen now because I'm going to make them happen.

Here are a few of the items from the list, in random order:

1. Kataleya's baptism, scheduled for Palm Sunday, the same Sunday on which Christopher was baptized
2. Reading Elizabeth Gilbert's The Signature of All Things, which I got for Christmas and have yet to open
3. Writing with my friend Cat
4. Going to Gregory's jazz ensemble concert this week, where they'll perform one of his original compositions
5. Eating jelly beans
6. Buying myself flowers
7. Calling my friend Robin on her April 20 birthday (last year we celebrated her birthday together in Chicago, when I was an Indiana person)
8. Seeing beloved former grad student Sara, the queen of all things fun, at the Pacific Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association in San Diego the week after this one
9. Easter sunrise sevice
10. Buying myself the new CD from French songstress Carla Bruni ("J'Arrive a Toi" is my new favorite song).

I have TWENTY more items on my list. My goal: to do all of them. Or at least half of them. Or at least some of them. And to start them TODAY. Number sixteen on the list is: blog more (I love blogging). At 6:15 a.m., I've already made progress on that one. I might order the Carla Bruni CD right now. I can buy a bag of jelly beans on my way home from church. I can read the first chapter of The Signature of All Things this afternoon. Of course, the main thing on the list, the main thing on any list of ways to maximize happiness in my life, is to write for an hour a day. I'll do that, too.

Cruelest month? Not THIS April! Not for me.


  1. Claudia, this resonates so much with me! I imagine that if one were leaving a hated job for a dream career, the last month would be an entirely different experience. But I left, and you are leaving, what was once a dream career and one that was never hated or even disliked (right? You sound like you've always enjoyed it). Such a mixture of anticipation, regret, curiosity in those last days! I've loved every minute of my two years post-teaching and I'm just know you will too. I'm doing a session at SCBWI in LA this summer on leaving your day job; while I imagine the attendees will be hoping for worksheets to figure out if they can afford it financially, I'll mostly be talking about the emotional side of it. I'd love to mine your blog for insights--credited, of course!

  2. Tracy, as your wonderful blog on quitting your day job helped give me the courage to take the plunge, and I pored over it endlessly as I pondered my choice, you are most welcome to use any insights from mine however you wish!

  3. I really loved Signature of All Things and will be interested to hear what you think of it. The science of it is quite good! I'd recommend reading (eventually) past the first chapter; the book really gets going once we meet the daughter of the man who's the center of the first few chapters.

  4. If my dear plant-loving book-loving Dana D recommends this book, I'm ready to go!

  5. Go Claudia! Always irrepressible! Easter Sunrise services shared hit a happy note for me ! Katherine