Three years on, a new feeling
The month of February will never be the same again. It was always this gangly, short month at the start of a year when life gets back to normal after the rush and excess of Christmas and New Year.
In Christchurch, it's something different. February is always going to hold the anniversary of an earthquake.
We are a week out from the third anniversary of the 6.3 quake. Traditionalists may wish to mark it with a gift of leather.
It's hard knowing how or what to feel as the day approaches. It caught me by surprise last year. I genuinely thought I'd feel no different; after all, a day on a calendar seems arbitrary. Three-hundred-and-sixty-five 24-hour blocks. So what?
But as I arrived at work on February 22 last year, my mood turned quite sombre. My cynical, disinterested self suddenly felt it important to attend a memorial service in Latimer Square.
At some point I took a walk around the streets nearest to The Press building which took in the site of the flattened PGC building. It was just a field, covered in grass that had been perfectly trimmed and watered for the day. I saw two pot plants with the words "To Mummy" written in children's scrawl and I felt very sad indeed. For them, for me, for the city.
Now, while I can't predict what feelings will do a Jack-in-the-box next Saturday, this year already feels different, for me at least.
The folk behind the All Right? campaign (the Mental Health Foundation and the Canterbury District Health Board) have been busy. You'll see their posters around the workplace, at bus stops and on billboards around the city.
They're the ones that remind you that however you're feeling is pretty much normal. A few weeks ago they released a series of "three years on" digital banners that you can use as your Facebook cover photo. They carry messages such as "It's all right to grieve for what we've lost" or "It's all right to feel proud of how we've coped".
The one that struck me said: "Three years on, it's all right to feel excited about our future". And while I just had to pay for a wheel alignment for my car (which I have no doubt can be directly blamed on these cursed bumpy roads), I am feeling very positive about Christchurch.
The road cones, the unexpected traffic jams and detours, the loss of precious people, history and buildings can make you despair. Battles with EQC and insurance companies can eat you alive from the inside and a change of seasons is looming, but for the minute things are OK and I'm feeling positive. At least, I will until someone says "kia kaha" or "resilience" in which case the red mist may appear, I'll buy the quakes a leather strap for its third anniversary and someone's going to get a whipping.
So, next week marks three years since the big February quake that took everyone by surprise. I'll carry a tissue in my pocket just in case but I have a sneaky suspicion I won't need it.
Like the first hints of a daffodil, those early signs of spring that make you feel hopeful, I feel good about building sites in construction rather than demolition. They contribute to a feeling of positivity.
A sunny day, a new piece of street art, passing someone who smiles at you when you're walking through the Square, they are all small reminders that it's all right to feel positive about our future. Three years on from the quake, it's a welcome feeling all right.