One afternoon I had what seemed like an epiphany. I was at the Town Mall with my three boys and we were on a mission; get the boys haircuts, grab something quick for lunch and then head over to the grocery store to get the weekly grocery shopping trip over with. As we were walking through the mall the boys spotted one of those round coin donation bins. They immediately began begging me for change. I had a few pennies floating around in my worn jeans pocket so I handed them out. As the boys released the coins into the bin, I waited impatiently. For a moment it felt like time completely froze. The pennies just continued to circle the bin. On and on they went. I wanted nothing more then for the coins to crash into each other and slide down into the belly of the bin so we could just move on with our day. Boundless for what seemed like an eternity, they just continued circling the bin. I finally realized that I was witnessing a perfect demonstration of what the month of February generally feels like. Round and round it goes, like an infinite echo. Continuously stirring the pot to the point where you feel that if change doesn’t happen soon, the month will eventually just swallow you whole.
I often turn off my social switch and go into complete hibernation during this bleak and frigid month. I stay focused on routine and lie low until spring arrives. As time goes by things slowly begin to drag me down; the cold weather, the lack of activity and the depressing stories constantly running in the news and on social media. I get stuck in a little rut and eventually a small spell of depression sets in. I slowly begin to feel like a deeply scratched vinyl record. I’m stuck on repeat and anxiously waiting for someone or something to move the needle forward so I can continue on. February always seems to have this annoying hump that I often find to be very challenging to scale, at least not without a little help. It doesn’t take much, just something positive or uplifting. As soon as a little sunlight is cast onto the month of February, I am easily rejuvenated and ready to conquer the rest of the year, one day at a time.
During that first week of February I found myself standing in the kitchen on a drizzly and brisk overcast afternoon. I was awaiting the soft innocent beep of the coffee pot. As I paced back and forth I looked out into the living room. My youngest son David was playing a game on the Xbox. It was the first time he had played a video game in weeks. Video games generally bring out the worst in my kids, so I had to cut them off cold turkey. I now only let the kids use the Xbox as a desperate act of entertainment every so often. David looked over at me and smiled. I smiled back. As I drank my coffee I began to visualize what things would be like next year, when David is in Kindergarten. Unfortunately this is still a topic that I can’t ponder over for very long before my emotions begin to get the best of me. Sure, I’ll be working more and having plenty of other things on my mind, but not having Little D by my side 24/7 is still somewhat frightening. He’s still so small, with that cute little voice, full of smiles and always asking for daddy. He’ll always be my Little D.
I quickly realized that the month of February was beginning to get to me again. Instead of sitting around and over thinking things, I decided to start taking advantage of the time I have left with David. I marched into the basement and knocked the dust off of all of our baseball equipment. David’s first t-ball practice would be starting in the next 6-8 weeks, so I figured why not get an early start. It wasn’t long before I had our car loaded up with balls, gloves, bats and the batting tee. We put our sweatshirts, jackets and winter hats on and we headed out to Deer Park to start preparing for David’s t-ball season. This immediately became a routine for us each day after preschool. We eventually started going to the field twice a day, so David’s brothers could also take part in practicing after school. Even though the month was just beginning, things were off to a really good start. I think our excitement and energy for the baseball season rubbed off on February, because it wasn’t long before the month began to feel like spring.
As the weeks have progressed, we’ve practiced baseball, met up with friends at the city park, attended a family cookout and went bowling with grandma on President’s Day. We also went to a birthday party and hung out with friends that we haven’t seen in a long time. I attended my son Rylan’s first grade Valentines Day dance, brought our dog Avery to Little D’s preschool for “Pet Day” and one afternoon I even stopped in at my oldest son’s school to have lunch with him. My wife and I managed to set up a date night and I recently managed to spend some time with my sister, who I haven’t hung out with in years. Considering how well the month has gone, I am more than convinced that the report on Punxsutawney Phil seeing his shadow on Groundhog’s Day has to be part of the “fake news” conspiracy that the media is feeding to the public. If I’m wrong, well, then that fat little bastard just doesn’t know what he’s talking about and he should probably consider looking for a retirement home for woodchucks. Regardless of how mild the winter has been or what we may be in store for over the next six weeks, spring has indeed arrived early in the Catania household.
Recent changes to my work schedule have also proven to be refreshingly beneficial in battling the month of February. With my Friday nights now open for the first time in years, I noticed that the boys had an upcoming family movie night on their school calendar. When they got home from school that evening, without hesitation, I told them to freshen up and grab their pillows because we were going to family movie night! As long as you come prepared, and can get past the claustrophobia, family movie night can actually be pretty fun. We arrived early and were pleasantly greeted by the polite and helpful students of the SGA. Once we were inside I found a great spot to set up the boys camp. I laid down their blanket, pillows and a small cooler full of snacks, then made my way to the back of the cafeteria to set up my chair. I tucked the boys jackets and shoes under my chair to make sure they didn’t accidentally get kicked around. I sat back sipping my coffee and watching the kids run around while they waited for the movie to start. At first it seemed perfect. It wasn’t even that crowded, which I found very surprising.
As it got closer to movie time, families quickly began to pour into the cafeteria. Every inch of the floor became covered in pillows, blankets, sleeping bags and chairs. From where I was sitting, I barely took up two feet of space. Before I knew it I had families brushed up on all four sides of me. It was like a new form of cancer spreading at record setting numbers. This was definitely old February at its best, trying one last time to open up a can of “whoop ass” on me.
The SGA students announced that the movie would soon be starting, so I motioned for the boys to settle down and get seated at their camp. After the lights went out and the movie began, I nonchalantly glanced at everything hovering around me, briefly evaluating my situation. One family was right up against the back of my chair, awkwardly seated well within the limits of my bubble. In front of me was another family lying on sleeping bags that were draped over my feet. To my side and pushed right up against my chair was a stroller with a toddler sitting in it, staring at me and smelling like rotten popcorn. Since I forgot my cattle prod, my first thought was to weasel my way out of there and pull the damn fire alarm, but that just seemed too drastic. I couldn’t let February win. Instead, I just decided to put on my ear phones. I pulled up my Spotify playlists, and before I knew it, I was sipping my coffee and relaxing to the calming sounds of The Menzingers, Off With Their Heads and The Hard Aches.
Life honestly couldn’t have been any better. My boys were seated on their blanket like angels, sharing their snacks and enjoying the movie. I had my coffee, my punk rock and my cozy chair. Every so often Little D would look back at me and give me a “thumbs up”, letting me know he was doing well. I would smile back at him and return the “thumbs up”. Because they were so well behaved, I eventually caved in and felt the need to buy them each a pack of M&M’s from the SGA kids. The problem was getting the candy to them. There was absolutely no walking space. I simply decided to just fire the candy over the heads of all of the other kids, hitting Rylan in the butt and Evan and David in the back. Afterwards I returned to my chair.
As the movie wound down, I began to feel a hint of remorse. My evening was spent bobbing my head to music, sipping coffee and watching my three little angels enjoy themselves. Meanwhile the parents with all of the wild children and toddlers wandering about were all showing signs of frustration, anger and regret for having attended family movie night. Although these parents were just dealing with the typical aches and pains that often come with the territory, you could still sense a touch of February at its finest in the air. The facial expressions coming from all of these parents were priceless. Despite all of the chaos, movie night was still another valuable weapon that helped fend off the depressing atmosphere that this month always seems to offer.
On a final note, for anyone else who suffers from February depression, the best advice I can give you is to stay active, stay busy and switch up your routine. Take control of February before it takes control of you!
~Anxious & Angry~ Inspired