THE CRUELEST MONTH

"Only from the heart can you touch the sky." ~ Rumi  (all photos by Marylin Warner)

“Only from the heart can you touch the sky.” ~ Rumi   (all photos by Marylin Warner)

April’s weather is half March, half May, a month of conflicting allergies and confusing mood swings.   In THE WASTE LAND, T.S. Eliot wrote that April was the cruelest month, and according to the National Center For Health Statistics, depression and suicide rates are lowest in the winter months and highest in the springtime.  I never would have suspected that.

On one day, April 14th, there are actually three “special days” devoted to offsetting doldrums and banishing blues. The first is INTERNATIONAL MOMENT OF LAUGHTER DAY. An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but laughter is the best medicine, even in small doses. If you have a favorite food or a friend, movie or activity that makes you laugh, enjoy it to the fullest. If the local, national or world news has the opposite effect, this is the day to turn it off.

April 14th is also LOOK UP AT THE SKY DAY. Buddha wrote: “Meditate. Live purely. Be quiet. Do your work with mastery. Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds! Shine.”    I love this. Before her dementia, my mother’s pure, quiet shine came from equal doses of looking up at the sky and kneeling to dig her fingers in the earth.

REACH AS HIGH AS YOU CAN DAY is the third April 14th special day, and this goal also supports looking up at the sky, stretching for dreams and hopeful plans, and reaching for what you want. Combine it with Buddha’s advice; find your way to come out from behind the clouds and shine, even for one day.

I was in high school when I read “The Grand Essentials of Happiness” at the end of a Dear Abby advice column. It was attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, but since then I’ve seen the credit given to Rita Mae Brown, George Washington Burnap, Immanuel Kant and others. Whoever first said it, many authors and philosophers have agreed with it. It was the purest formula for happiness I’d ever read, and I’ve never forgotten it. To be happy, we need “Something to do, Someone to love, and Something to look forward to.”

During this “cruelest month,” on bleak days we can always begin with something to do: sit quietly or find a reason to laugh; look up at the sky and reach as high as we can…or kneel and dig our fingers in the soil, and imagine what might grow.

On April 14th, to laugh like a child, act like a child: jump in with both feet.

On April 14th, to laugh like a child, act like a child: jump in with both feet.

Happiness advice from a 10-year-old boy: Keep Calm and Eat Cookies

Happiness advice from a 10-year-old boy: Keep Calm and Eat Cookies

April 10th is "National Siblings Day" ~ so this is for my brother.

April 10th is “National Siblings Day” ~ so this is for my brother. ( I thanked him for not pushing me off the bench; he said I was trying to push him off… I don’t think so.)

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76 Comments

Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, life questions, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, special days in April, special quotations

76 responses to “THE CRUELEST MONTH

  1. I was surprised to read that suicide rates are higher in the Spring than in Winter when so many people suffer from SAD during the Winter.
    Having so many special events on the one day is unusual but from all you’ve said I can see Look Up At The Sky Day as being one for your Mom. You too I think.
    I’m sure you weren’t pushing your brother off the bench, I believe you.
    xxx Massive Hugs Marylin xxx

    • I also had the same reaction because of SAD, David. So I checked another source that added allergy swings as part of the culprit. This time of year, I have up and down allergies, depending on tree pollens, but I actually enjoy the part winter/part spring changes. Maybe it is the clouds; they do some amazing things in April.
      Thanks for supporting the baby me on the bench. I still don’t think I had the upper body strength to push off a brother 21 mos. older. 🙂
      Massive Hugs back to you!

      • I have heard that it us when someone is moving out of the deeoest depression that tgry are in most danger of suicide. In deepest droression there isn’t even the energy for ending things. When Spring comes the depressed person may find the energy needed to sct on their feelings of hopelessness.
        Your three part advice fir happiness is so true.

      • I think you’re right, Rod, especially about those who are depressed having no energy in their helplessness. The three essentials of happiness have proven themselves again and again in my life and also so many experiences shared by others.

  2. The transitional months, weather-wise, are often the hardest on us. I will look forward to April 14th. And I will look forward to your next post. 🙂

    • Thanks, Gallivanta. I was beginning to wonder if, at least in America, part of the April problem was the 15th, the last day to file/pay income taxes, in which case the 3 activities on the 14th would be REALLY necessary. 😉

      • Would you believe that my calendar tells me that April 15th is tax day in the US? It’s not even a US calendar!

      • April 15 is often an additional stress for last minute tax filers who run into glitches trying to submit online or are waiting in long lines to mail their forms at the post office. I thought it was interesting that the three happiness-creating days all fall together on the day before taxes are due. 🙂

  3. We are descending into colder weather here in Australia so April is not the best of months and I am trying VERY hard to enjoy each warm day that does somehow still sneak through.

    • And here, we’re looking forward to more and more warm and sunny days, Elizabeth. But Colorado has many sunny days, and since it is arid, April showers are very important. When you were having warm weather, I think we were having snow.

  4. The statistic by the National Center For Health Statistics is very surprising to me, Marylin…interesting.
    Oh, the photo of you and your brother is precious! It made me smile this morning.

    • The statistic surprised me, too. I’d always heard that the darkness of winter was more of a problem, Jill, so I double checked the source and it was confirmed. It is interesting.
      The picture of us together is one of my favorites, and we both have our opinions of whether I was trying to push him off the bench or pat his arm. The arm pat is my story, and I’m sticking to it. 😉

      • It’s definitely an endearing pat, Marylin. Your brother was such a dapper little boy. 🙂

      • Dapper is right, Jill. In this picture the black hair he had from birth had suddenly gone very light. It gradually turned dark again and stayed that way. As we grew up he convinced me that my red hair meant I was adopted but Mom and Dad didn’t want to tell me. Yep, a dapper little charmer he was. 😉

  5. I guess the higher suicide rates in the spring could be explained as a delayed reaction from winter stress. I’ve never quite understood T. S. Eliot’s line. Even when I lived in PA the forsythia bushes were thinking yellow thoughts right about now. You have a treasury of photos, which you immortalize here. Love all of them!

    • I like your perspective on this, Marian, as the statistics really surprised me. Delayed winter stress is a possibility, but I love your reminder that the forsythia are thinking yellow thoughts now! And crocus, too.
      I remember studying THE WASTELAND and having trouble with many of Eliot’s lines. He could have used some forsythias, I think. 😉

  6. Nancy Parker Brummett

    Great advice. Now the second half of April is “something to look forward to.”

    • Absolutely, Nancy. Especially since our taxes have to finished by the 15th. That frees us to watch the crocus and hyacinth bulbs bloom and the cottony clouds float in warm blue skies!

  7. I remember reading Dear Abby’s special post which included this article or poetic endeavor, “The Grand Essentials of Happiness.” April has these great days which I did not include (once again we need to compile these with what I put into my monthly calendar, Marylin! smiles!)

    • Robin, I cut out that little tidbit from Dear Abby and taped it to a tiny square of cardboard that I carried in my purse for years. The editors for Dear Abby had attributed it to Ralph Waldo Emerson, and it wasn’t until much later that I began seeing other names given the credit. But I still love the three things, and each month when I visit my mom and see some of the sad residents, I realize that it’s from losing those they love and being unable to do the things they used to enjoy doing, and overall they don’t feel they have much to look forward to.
      Yes, you and I do need to compile these together! 🙂

  8. Wow…your post was so enlightening. I had no idea April was declared a dark, bleak month. I love April for all of the Spring light, sounds, smells. Perhaps it is because I always have “Something to do, Someone to love, and Something to look forward to.” I love the reminders to reach up to the sky, to look up to the sky, and to let those actions be reminders of our dreams and hopes. Wonderful post, once again, my dear friend! XO

    • And that’s the secret, I think, Robyn. Your photographs all show that you love what you do and look forward to more opportunities, and your love for your family and friends is apparent. 🙂
      Frankly, I like April. I sneeze a lot and cough when the tree pollen is in full swing, but I love the surprises of light snow some days and full sunshine and warm breezes the next.

  9. It does surprise me that suicide rates are higher in the spring than in the winter. I would think all of those days being cooped up in our homes would cause greater depression.

    I love that photo of you and your brother. It appears that he was patiently considering your youthful innocence and decided not to retaliate. 😉

    • Actually–and I gave him a hard time about this–if you look closely you’ll see his gorgeous little-boy eyes looking off to the left of the person taking the picture. I think my mother was there, watching to be sure he was on his good behavior. Our first few years were difficult as I think he really liked being the only child and let me know it. But soon I was almost as tall as he was, and I could fight back.
      Aw, the joys of sibling rivalry. 😉

  10. Laughter is definitely the best medicine. I’ll take that, thank you! Must tell my sister about Siblings Day – we need another excuse for a celebration.

    • Actually, my brother and I have had a good time emailing back and forth for Siblings Day. I sent him this picture, and the banter began. It’s been fun. You and your sister will really have a good time.

  11. calvin

    Huh. Given April is the worst month and Monday the scourge of the week. Perhaps it best to stay in bed on all Mondays in April. So far I have did just that, which might explain why am rather liking April thus far.

  12. Marylin, is your brother still as cute as he was in the picture? He looks so sweet. I have a very nice younger brother and I have to tell him how much I appreciate him and the care he gave my mother. Thanks and Hugs !

  13. Jim

    Well, okay, I can understand why April may be the “cruel” month for some people, but I have a longstanding, good relationship with April that goes way back to my childhood. I loved spring because it meant summer vacation from school was near. I bought into the slogan, “April showers bring May flowers”–and no more school, so I started looking for ‘flowers’ even in April. Sure enough, the pretty little yellow ones that grew in everyone’s yard starting popping up already in April and gave me hope for–“No more school, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks.” To this day those little yellow harbingers of spring in our yard make me smile with pleasant memories of anticipation of my forever favorite month–June.

    • And as a young girl I used to pick those wonderful yellow dandelions and put them in little jelly glasses and display them all over the house. My mother even taught me how to carefully wash the blossoms, roll them in cornmeal and fry them! (So-so taste.)
      Between the two of us, honey, we have a great appreciate for April’s “special flowers.”

      • Huh – fried dandelion blossoms. Who knew? You’ll have to write a post about that!

      • The secret of fried dandelion blossoms is to pick them when they first bloom…and only from yards or fields where you are certain they haven’t been sprayed. Then you just break them off the stem, wash carefully and roll them in cornmeal (with a little garlic salt and black pepper). Stir fry quickly in pan with some butter and serve hot. Very good, if you like dandelions… 😉 Not like “Dandelion Wine” but still good. 😉

  14. Claudia

    Love the cloud/sky picture! The Midwest sky is beautiful…usually. I will admit that thunderous and twisting skies often make me wonder if I should live somewhere else! Some inlaws (originated in Neosho and Craford Counties) were in from Montana and they went through severe thunderstorm and tornado watch in their camper on Thursday…he said, “Now I remember why I moved to Montana!”

    • Southeast Kansas certainly has its share of wind, hail and tornado warnings, Claudia. I grew up learning to identify the greenish colors and that certain smell and “feeling” before severe storms and tornado watches. But while Colorado has very few tornados in comparison, we also do not have the vivid, true Spring “Irish green” grass and fields, and our Fall colors are mostly Aspen Gold and Pine green, which is very nice against the mountains, but I miss the brilliant red, orange, copper, yellow leaves on all the wonderful and different trees.

  15. Oh I love April – right now it is dry, sunny, bright and cheery. Everything is blossoming or in bud. No SAD for me – just don’t talk about house refurbishment or builders bills. They WILLA depress me in any month.

    • Your adventures with this move–and the ongoing bills and construction– are enough to depress all of us, Andrew. So I’m glad you’re having sunny, cheery blossoming life. And soon you’ll have a wonderful “new” home to go with it!

  16. Thank you for this very informative post. I have now marked April 14th as a special day on my calendar. A very insightful post! 🙂

    • I’m glad you like it, too, Carol. I think it’s an effective way to brace Americans for Tax Day the next day, but it should also be a mid-April schedule for all of us for cheering up and laughing!

  17. I love hearing about the different holidays and how they got started. I hadn’t heard about National Siblings Day until about two weeks ago. All my siblings live in different states and I don’t see my brothers for years at a time. Managed to find the perfect e-card (those postcard-looking jokes all over Pinterest) for each to send with my FB greeting. I’m making note of the National Laughing Day for next year, Marylin – that’s my type of celebration. I can’t even IMAGINE a day without laughter!

    • I was thrilled to see the 3 different but inspiring and encouraging “special days” on April 14, Shel. Especially with the tax deadline on the 15th, which for many makes it the “cruelest day of the month.”
      It was also fun for me to discover Siblings Day; my brother and I have argued the picture I emailed him, debating who was actually the one to try to push the other off the bench. These pictures of us with our siblings as children are the best!

  18. This is an interesting statistic – always thought it was the winter months for SAD. I love your advice Marilyn, kicking off April in just the right frame of mind.

    • I thought so, too, Mary. So I checked another source to be sure, and it said the same thing about spring over winter. To be on the safe side, I cited all three of the cheerful days for mid-April. 🙂

  19. What a delightful post … well, suicide isn’t a delightful topic, but you quickly brought us around to reasons to celebrate April 14th! Thank you for that. I especially like the idea of either reaching for the sky or digging my fingers into the earth. Either activity could make me laugh … and cookies, definitely cookies 🙂

    • Absolutely! I wonder why the AMA doesn’t advocate cookies as part treating patients. We give children band-aids with action figure prints when they get a shot; imagine how many more adults would come in for vaccinations and checkups if they knew there would be cookies! 😉

  20. I love that combination of days Marylin – look up at the sky day just seems such a joyful thing to celebrate and when you add a little laughter, it sounds perfect.

  21. And you know, Andrea, looking up at the sky any time of the year is fascinating and cheery for me. I spent a lot of happy childhood days concocting stories about the things I saw in the clouds! 🙂

  22. Hi Marylin,
    I think my favorite out of everything you mentioned is the International Moment of Laughter Day. How awesome it is to recognize what a gift laughter is. I can remember my dad’s laugh even though he has been gone for nearly 19 years. And I have other friends with very distinctive laughs that I just love.
    And of course, it warms my heart when I can bring someone to laughter. So thank you for sharing this and I’ll do my best tomorrow to laugh and make others laugh as well.
    🙂 Joanne

    • There is something so magical about laughter, isn’t there, Joanne. I love it that you can still remember your dad’s distinctive laugh after all these years. That’s such a special memory.
      I’m glad you’ll be making others laugh tomorrow, too. A noble goal! 🙂

  23. I just love the photo of you and your brother!
    Thanks for the info on April 14th. I will make sure I laugh as I look toward the sky. I must look into the Grand Essentials of Happiness.
    Have a week filled with laughter!

    • Thank you, Elaine. Today on my walk I had not one but three choices of things to do, and in the end I reached for the sky, laughed (and it was a child in the park who was picking dandelions, so it was a very special laugh!), and then I sat down on a bench in the park and watched the clouds. What a great set of things to do on a walk in the sunshine…even though Colorado is predicted to get rain and snow tomorrow.

  24. I didn’t know depression and suicides would be up in springtime. How sad that it occurs at any time of the year. I think it’s so important to appreciate the small things in life. And I’ll reach even higher tomorrow (the 14th). Love the pic of you and your brother, Marylin. 🙂

    • Like you, Tracy, I would have thought the bleak days of winter would be more likely for depression and suicide, but a friend pointed out that maybe it’s because when spring does come and someone still feels no energy or interest, it might be the final straw.
      Despite the banter and my brother use to argue about this picture, it’s one of my favorites, too. 😉

  25. I was surprised about the April suicide rate but thinking about it I am wondering if it is a combination of SAD and personal habits? (People who don’t go outside or have a relationship with nature perhaps?) I definitely have SAD and this winter I felt like I was holding on by my fingertips all through February. But the light of March raises my spirits immediately – this may be because I go outside and walk or hike as much as I can even in the snow. April for me is a time of joy – but I am touching the earth & have crocuses blooming in my garden as soon as the snow melts and am outside every chance I get. But I can imagine if you were someone to stay inside – the continued cold and longish wait til summer could feel like torture.

    • And I think your last sentence might be part of the answer, especially for the elderly or the lonely, housebound or very ill. They can’t go out–on nice days or any days with any consistency–and that maybe accumulates and becomes too much. Since I visit my mother every month in her assisted living facility, I often see the same residents just sitting in their chairs, inside, waiting and watching for something.

  26. And here I am on April 14th reading your deligthful post dear Marylin! What perfect timing! Great photos, so cute of your grandchildren and of you and your brother too. No way would you be doing the pushing 😉 I love that about your dear mom too, looking up at the sky and working the earth below. And laughter sure is the best medicine there is. I was given the Happiness Manifesto at a Carer’s conference once, and I remember that line too. They use it a lot for people with Asperger’s but it applies to all of us, most definitely. So simple, yes so very important. I hope you have plenty of laughter in your day today my friend and also that you keep calm and eat lots of cookies too…what better way to reach for the sky than that 🙂

  27. Yea, Sherri! I’ll tell my brother you vote with me; there’s no way I was doing the pushing! 🙂 I am not at all surprised you received the Happiness Manifesto at a Carer’s conference. You would be a warm smile and a breath of fresh air for everyone.
    Let’s both laugh a lot and eat plenty of cookies…and look up at the sky and smile for those we’ve loved and lost, Sherri.

  28. juliabarrett

    April is actually my favorite month. And I like cookies!

    • I like the blend of Colorado’s April–part winter, part gorgeous spring, never quite making up its mind–and I also like cookies, Julia, especially Snickerdoodles and Rice Krispie cookies. 😉

  29. Oh, that photo of you and your brother is precious! So far, April has been a glorious month for me. I think it was all the Spring cleaning I did during the last week of March, and the Easter celebration the following week. Those “Grand Essentials of Happiness” made me think about my Christian faith, so thanks for sharing them. (I do wonder who first wrote them.)

  30. Jane Thorne

    I love the pictures, especially the one of you and your brother… ❤ Marylin xXx

    • This picture of my brother–he was 2 1/2–is everyone’s favorite, Jane. But how he thinks that I was trying to push him off the bench is beyond me. I was just a baby and learning to pat things, but if you look at his eyes, David was looking at our mother (standing by the photographer) and I think her stare kept him from shrugging off my hand. 🙂

  31. That advice that includes something to look forward to is the best–and so much better than something to dread!

    • Absolutely, Luanne, it is so much better than something to dread. And the older we get, it seems the more things we dread–health, losses, etc.–when we should find and hold tight to things we look forward to.

  32. Hi Marylin!

    Wow! I thought winter has more suicide than spring. Interesting! I’ve learnt something new.

    I will definitely take all your advice today! I reach high, look into the sky laugh and eat cookies! Perfect 🙂

    • I know, Ilka. I double checked, though, and maybe it’s the final disappointed for depressed people when winter ends, spring blooms in full color, and still they don’t feel happier or more hopeful.
      It’s worth trying to look at the sky, laugh…and eat cookies to try to feel better, don’t you think? 😉

  33. Pingback: Try early spring gardening to relieve SAD | composting words

  34. So much to think about in this post…and then to end with this precious photo! Thank you.

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