20 minute read

Alright, let’s just get it out of the way — November is not my favorite month.

There is no getting around it, and yet I feel it is the prime month for reflection and introspection, looking inwards. This is made possible by the advent of the cold — picture a darkly-cloaked stranger with a black hood and matching gloves, trudging through the elements in weather sufficiently cold enough to enable one to see their own breath, arriving at your cozy, log cabin in the woods where smoke is full-swing pumping out the chimney, in the dead of night around midnight. In my mind’s eye, this is one guise I would imagine Winter to take, if they were to ever don humanoid form.

November is also a happening month, in truth — and it follows on the footsteps of October which already features Halloween, so certainly it has some big shoes to fill. And it certainly does a bang-up job too — In November, one will find Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, all neatly rolled into one. November aspires to be one of the most-loved months for the majority of folks, if not join the hall of fame for the title of “most awesome month of all time”.

And yet, November is one of my least favorite months. But how can that be, you might ask? Do I not look forward to spending time with loved ones for Thanksgiving, or jumping aboard the discount bandwagon and joining the shopping craze for Black Friday, and hunting alongside fellow money-wise enthusiasts for deeply discounted, no-brainer deals? The truth is, I certainly look forward to it.

But the reason runs deeper, like the silent undercurrents of a murky river darkened with a pure-red hue of blood. Deep underwater, sheltered from prying eyes, anything is possible and even potentially goes unnoticed, like the infamous iceberg that sank the Titanic, a behemoth of a ship. Anything, even a seamount which aspires to the world’s tallest structure, is possible.

Here then, is my subcutaneous wound laid bare to all who may bear witness to it. To confess, my family had a magnificent pet — a dog — a couple years ago, and he passed away in November. Although I never cried or showed any emotion the entire month that it transpired due to the overwhelming shock of it (if memory serves correct), I still remember the tragic event and the buried memories of when our paths crossed for the briefest of instants, and how that impacted me and shaped me into the individual that I am. I also, coincidentally remember the exact day of when our dog passed away, and even after all other memory fades with time, I recall the afternoon I took my family dog for a walk, with almost perfect clarity. It’s hard not to, when the very heavens open up their awe-inspiring maw, and a transcendent, otherworldly light shines down on you.

Oft times I am a non-believer, but to tell the truth that day makes me want to believe, in something else, in something greater than myself, and greater certainly than the pebble-sized world I find myself currently inhabiting, encompassed in turn by an ant-sized universe, of no great consequence. All consequence is out the window, when I picture with perfect clarify, the sheer sadness-tinged wonder of that day. It is inescapable to me. I picture myself in a cave hidden behind a great, man-sized rock, and a sudden vortex springs up in front of me, which in short order transforms into a black hole, of pure nothingness. I cannot stop myself from being sucked in. Even clinging to the rock, scrambling for anything to hold on to, I am pulled into the open, all-consuming and indiscriminating mouth of the black hole. The Devourer of Worlds, and of half-remembered, unrealized Dreams. To me, that day is the both the best and worst day of my life, all neatly rolled into one.

I don’t really remember how that day started out. But I remember the sluggishness of the day, the pure lethargy, like stars stuck in stasis in the sky, like an insect trapped in an amber fossil, forevermore. I remember petting my dog, of course. I don’t remember putting on the leash. I barely remember how the sun felt on my skin on that last walk. But I remember the way the sun shined through the clouds, and the patterns in the sky — it was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. I don’t remember it well enough that I could reproduce it from my mind’s eye alone, but I remember the broad strokes of it, and how I wished secretly that no other waking day through the rest of all my years on this world would be as beautiful or as perfect. That day the sky and the sunlight and the weather and the light breeze was all perfect and blended together so intimately and so intricately and carefully, and it was like nothing I’ve ever seen, or cared to ever see again. I wished for the walk to never end. I wished to be stuck in time, like the aforementioned insect frozen in amber; together, me and him in tandem. But of course, that would be a cruel thing to wish — he was truly suffering, in a lot of inhumane pain, and the humane thing was to let him to go.

Perhaps, I wished I could rewind time and go back to three or four years a priori to that day, when I was still in my early 20s, still in college and maybe visiting over summer break, in my family’s old home, where I spent every waking day with my faithful companion. My best friend in the whole, wide world. I deeply regret sometimes, not spending more time with him, or foregoing taking him for walks, on more days than I care to name. There’s always so many what-if’s that filter through my mind, and time is a constant friend and my greatest enemy at times, for I deeply regret and wished I could have done more with him. But I have some good memories. Like shoveling Virginia snow in the pathway on a cold winter all those years back, and the golden blur that was him, trailing behind me with his black nose buried in the snow. Well, some good memories at least. There is that. And I guess I got my wish after all, in that never since have I ever seen a day as perfect as that day. On November 17th all those years ago, when our dog passed away. So yes, there is that to be thankful for.

Miss you buddy, wherever you are and hope you find everlasting peace. I rarely have wept or thought about it since, but today as I write (or type) this out, tears stream down my face endlessly. It reminds me of that memorable phrase from Blade Runner — all will be lost one day, like teardrops in the rain. Woe to the world.

Indeed, and by all means — “Carry on, my wayward son, there’ll be peace when you are done; lay your weary head to rest, don’t you cry no more.” I love or care about very few things in life, but I think two of them must be, Supernatural, and my faithful companion and best friend long since past.

So alas now, each year that November rolls around, I am filled with a bottomless sadness and longing and despair, a little more than my usual dose. It must be so many years back now, but as I said I still remember the exact day. November 17th. Even after all memory fades into the distance and into the background, I remember the sheer force and power splayed out on that day all those years ago. And each year, I take that day off from work — I take it as a mental health day, as a day of reflection and thought and introspection. On that day, I took it off and drove to a coffee shop, and after that to the Bagel Shop, and after that I drove and rejoined my family, and I took our current dog to a walk and then to the dog park to allow time for socialization. And all in all, it was a decent day.

As stated, I usually try to lay low in November. I don’t really want to do any major events or even going out to festivals or to concerts, and even social activities are largely muted and I would prefer spending them with family if possible. I suppose that I become a bit more of a recluse than usual. The last year, I went to Vegas as my company sponsored me attending a big tech event there. That happened on the cusp of November and December of course, so I don’t know honestly that it really counts. But anyway, that was the same month last year that I actually ended up down with COVID. So another reason to despise the month of November, I suppose. Again, hate is a strong word, and I don’t know if I can bring myself to say I “hate” November. Maybe I reserve it for quiet reflection and introspection, and it’s a sadder month for me than usual, as I feel the heavy, burdensome weight of thoughts and memories, a bit more strongly than I usually would.

If nothing else, it helps to break the monotony sometimes. Sulking and feeling morose and dejected on the same month every year, is not a good way to live. Thankfully, it helps that my organization decided to do something new on November this year, 2023. That also enabled me to spread my wings and travel, and provided a welcome respite and an opportunity to make fresh, new memories of a place I haven’t been to in a long time — Chicago, the Windy City.

The year is winding down, and honestly I feel like it’s kind of a good thing. But also, I feel like time is moving too fast. It’s a weird feeling and kind of like in between, and I don’t know how to explain it. Anyway, this month on the second week of November, we had a corporate retreat. A long time in preparation and I actually booked flight tickets about a month or so in advance. I got a one night stay at a 4-star hotel and I checked the price of the stay later, and it was like $360 for one night, which is pretty expensive, and that is even at the corporate rate which is supposed to be discounted, so I feel like the actual rate must be much higher, which is mind-boggling.

Anyway, I was a bit hesitant and unsure if I should actually go through with it and with the travel to Chicago all by myself, but thankfully my decision was largely taken from me because it was technically a mandatory event for all full-time employees, so everyone I knew was going and it was about a thousand or so attendees which had signed up. Anyway, I’ll add a post on my time in Chicago this year, if I find the time to. But, I had a good time whilst there, and certainly enjoyed building some lasting, meaningful memories along the way. It is the journey that matters, not the destination. This I have to remind myself of, constantly.

There are a few highlights of this month. I went to a 5-mile jog with a group in Chicago, in 40-ish degree (Fahrenheit) weather. I went on 40-minute endurance runs on the treadmill in studios around the Chicago area, at a gym that I earlier this year became a member at, Orangetheory Fitness. Shameless plug I suppose, even though normally I am adverse to promoting any brand in my personal blog. Anyway, there was a benchmark for a 12-minute run for distance (RFD) in an indoor setting on the treadmill, and I feel that my endurance runs in Chicago helped gear me up for that. I gave my legs a rest day before the day of the benchmark. I ran my newest and best shoes on the “race day”, and I think I did pretty well. Well I did surprise myself, and generally I feel like that’s the best thing you can ask for. So on the fitness (and wellness) level, I feel like I crushed it.

On the social level, still a never-ending struggle, like an uphill climb at Mount Everest. Me and society have never seen eye-to-eye on this. I struggle with friendships and with finding someone worthy to be my lover, but I suppose the time is still young, and there is no rush to get anywhere fast. After all, it’s the journey that matters in the end.

I spent this Thanksgiving with family. My sister drove back here from Georgia. I don’t know that she is going back to Georgia, or to Atlanta. But It was a quiet, reserved Thanksgiving this year. I worked out at gym on Thanksgiving day, and then I went to Giant Food and purchased a six-pack of Brookie, after much thought and deliberation (entirely too much). I rejoined family and helped with a signature dish, mashed potatoes. Didn’t really do much as I’m not exceptional by any means in the kitchen, really just mashes the potatoes well and helped taste it to determine if more flavor or spices was called for. In the end, we substituted chicken for turkey. Somewhat of a mental and morale blow, but sustainable. There was a lot of great stuff. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Green bean casserole with mushrooms and other veggies. Cornbread, sourced from a ready-made mix from Costco. And of course, the meat and potatoes itself, a grilled and seasoned whole chicken, baked to perfection in the oven. The food was pretty great. Even before that, we gave heartfelt thanks to the power that be, and I felt how I was real lucky to have a pretty solid family, as I did.

I don’t know if we spoke or thought much about what we’d done earlier this year, or if there was anything we would have changed about it. I guess December (and January) is more the time for looking backwards, than November is. What Thanksgiving really provides us is a time of careful reflection, and contemplation, and thinking about what we have to be thankful for in this life and in this world, and what we can do to sustain ourselves and improve on going forward. It was a quiet thanksgiving with only four of us and our current dog (a black lab), but I spent this time reflecting on what I am blessed with and what I am grateful for most in life. Afterwards, we just chilled and watched some TV, and hung out. On the weekend succeeding Black Friday, we hunkered down and played some board games that I’d bought on a deal. Some new, some old. They were all good and all family-friendly, which was great. It was a splendid time over the weekend, and know we all had a great time. Even we went out to our favorite seafood restaurant for dinner, and one day we even hung out at pubs and bars in the area around Reston Town Center, and one day I even drove down to D.C. and joined my sister and her friend, and we went to the Union Market, and then to a hole-in-the-wall pub where there was a small concert with a known band going on. It was good times all around, and hopefully will reflect back on the time spent together, and cherish these memories for some time yet to come.

Anyway, wanted to end this short here. This post I just wanted to get published while it is still November. I rarely have any time to write or journal down thoughts on going ons anymore. I still have to write about my recent trip down to Atlanta, and my family trip to India, and my trip to Chicago. I guess we all have to find the time when we can.

For now, I am content to continue to exercise and stay fit and also retain my competitive edge to see how can I can push myself, and content to continue with my original plan to study and do well in graduate classes and hopefully complete my Master’s by next year, 2024. Friendship is always elusive, and I suppose that’s because I find it incredibly hard usually to open up to others, and to even initiate or hold conversations with them, but hopefully I can work on that and improve it. I just want things to come naturally, but I fear that sometimes I might have to “get out of my comfort zone” and force the issue at times. That’ll be challenging, but hopefully I can find time and effort to tackle that.

Anyway, I want to end this on a closing note to ask, what in life do you (and others) have to be thankful or grateful for?

After all, Thanksgiving is the highlight of November, more so than Black Friday, and even though I bought myself a shiny new Mac Air laptop for BF which I plan to review soon on Amazon when time allows, it stands to reason that Thanksgiving is the standout holiday of the month, and after all most companies give almost a whole week off for it, because they understand that this time is needed for reflection and to improve the wellness of the people who work there, the people they care about.

Most people have friends to be thankful for, but I don’t really have that luxury myself. I have family to be thankful for. And I have my blog to be thankful for. And I am thankful that I can find time on odd yet meaningful occasions, on days that I least expect it like the day after Cyber Monday, and that I have the mind and willpower and am able to expend the time and effort to follow through with it and convert emotions and thoughts into words, something similar to an alchemist who has the ability to transform a hot, steaming pile of shit into gold. Well, a rather crass analogy, but I sense ’tis a fitting one.

So, I challenge you (and others) to think about it. Like, really think about it. Swish it and roll it around your mouth — like aged, dark whiskey before swallowing it. What remains in this world to provide one pleasure or satisfaction, and the drive and motivation to persist and go on? Being thankful and grateful for the grains of sand one holds in their hand is all well and good certainly, but oft times it is hard to look too closely and separate the grains of sand from one another. Distinguishing one emotion from another can be similarly hard. Or picking out one particular memory, and not having it be mixed in with another one.

Really appreciating the respite and the opportunity for reflection that November provides, each year, can be a tricky thing, a hairy beast to contend with. The stuff of “Here be dragons” or somewhere approaching that realm. But I feel that it also provides an opportunity to “slow down” and smell the roses, and most of us are stuck in the fast track, and incapable to “slow down” and allow time for reflection and introspection that a heartfelt, joyous occasion such as Thanksgiving asks for, and sometimes demands.

In these cases, spontaneity really shines. If every year on November one resists the sway and temptation of introspection and reflection, why not give it into it this year — or the next year? What is preventing us? It’s like a mental blockage, like an unseen, invisible wall lying between us and the path to spiritual enlightenment, to something akin to Nirvana (and no, I don’t mean the rock band). Break the mold this or the next time around, and carve some time out of your hectic, meaningless schedule, in order to do something that you wouldn’t normally ever do — reflect and think, deep thoughts laced with the undercurrents of emotion! Even when you feel as an unmovable rock in the cold, biting wind of winder, you can harness emotion and contemplation, and really introspect on what one has in this life, in this world, and whether one is truly satisfied and fulfilled in life, and if not what one can do to get there.

I myself still don’t have the answers to these questions, and I struggle sometimes with discovering new things and finding hobbies and interests that captivate and fulfill me as an individual, but I feel that I am slowly improving and getting better with this. Somewhere in the future — down the long, winding road alongside the straits of time — I can see enlightenment and fulfillment in the horizon for me. Like the rays of a sunshine that can really complete me, only seen in the peripheral vision, which dissipates like a mirage in the desert once you focus all attention on it. But I feel, deep inside, that it must be possible. I just have to reach my arms out, and it will happen. One day it will all “just click”. I yearn for that day to come, but until then I’ll continue carrying on, like the prodigal, wayward son.

In my mind’s eye, I am transported back to a day in the Fall of 2015 or earlier, when I was really young and foolish. I am still foolish now, but at least not so young. I see a golden blur and I see him on his eternal throne, in his perch seated on the stairway. I can remember his peculiarities and then the ordeal of putting on the leash and taking him for a walk. And then that blurs, and I can see him playing with his favorite toy, and I am refilling the treats for him. And then that fades into smoke and the mist of time, and I can see myself outside in winter with a hat and gloves sub-zero celsius temperate, shoveling show in the walkway and then the driveway, and meanwhile he is walking beside me with specks of snow on his black nose, and peeing into the snow with the ease of pose that only a male could manage, and then licking at and biting at the snow everywhere. I guess he really loved the snow. Also some memories I’d forgotten but I now recall, like in a hazy blur like it’s hidden behind the thinnest of curtains that are meant to obscure — for instance, remembering how he used to hide under my bed when he was really young. In some ways, I feel like he is a part of me, and standing me up even when I am feeling down as I am now. Because I sorely wish that I was transported back in time to when I was young and foolish, and able to rejoin my younger self along with my long-past friend.

I feel like this is the power of the month of November. It forces us, and especially me, to introspect and think deeply about what satisfies and keeps the clock ticking for us. What do we want most out of life. The big questions. I don’t profess to knowing the right answer to any of these ambiguous, all-too-philosophical questions. But I know what I miss, and I know which memories are worth keeping, and I don’t yet know which memories are worth building or which spheres are worth intersecting with my own sphere of existence, but I am hopeful to learn that going forward.

Happy Thanksgiving all, and let’s spend what remains of November, this year of 2023, to introspect and think about what makes us happy, and what fills us with hope, and what makes us sad, and what makes us uncomfortable, and what makes us despair and give up hope. I believe each of these things are equally as important, and in order to achieve happiness in this life, we must wrestle with and understand each aspect of it. That is what I will aspire to do, and I will look over this with a different lens again, in the next year, 2024. Until then, adieu for now and let’s keep putting our best foot forward and rowing the one-man boat, into the dark cold of night, where the mist hangs low and the cold bites through flesh, but our spirits, dreams, and our mind and memories are still intact. Because that’s all we really need to go on.