There is nothing like the onset of Autumn to get me writing again. It signals a return to purpose and activity after the languid, albeit disappointingly grey summer. And to me, perhaps more so than in Spring, Autumn is the season when life feels most vivid and abundant. There are fruit and harvests, crisp air and all those bright reds and oranges, the trees alight in a brazen celebration of the cycles of life.
Autumn is also, indubitably, a season for change, and this year I am embracing that. My life over the past year has become exhausting. All that joie de vivre I had when I was younger, has, frankly, run dry. Long work hours, a hangover from the pain of recent losses and an anxious desire to constantly do more and do better have buried my heart and soul. Shauna Niequist* writes of feeling the same way:
[I feel] wrung out and over-scheduled to the point where even things I love to do sound like obligations and all my deepest desires and fantasies involve sleep and being left alone. My greatest dream is to be left alone? Things have gone terribly awry…
Awry, indeed. So, it being the season, I am making changes.
Strangely, my effort to reclaim my mental, spiritual and physical health has required one thing more than any others. It’s a rather stern word: discipline. Discipline to get up early and get on the cross trainer; to eat healthily; to leave work on time; to rest. Discipline to ‘pray about everything, bringing my petitions with thanksgiving.’** Discipline to train my brain to trust, to put worries in their right places. Discipline, also, counter-intuitively, to allow myself grace and love when my brain still fogs with anxiety and my choices don’t quite match up to whatever ‘healthy’ is meant to look like.
And, in spite of all their imperfections (and my imperfections), these Autumn changes I am making are working. Slowly, steadily, I am regaining a rhythm of life that balances work and rest, a life that celebrates purpose but allows for whimsy, a life that is beginning to sing again. Strange, how a thing like discipline can unlock the door to grace, but that’s what I’m finding. As the leaves outside begin to turn and the air begins to freshen, there’s a turning and a freshness in me, too. A turning back to work, yes. A turning back to rest, also, and health and balance. But mostly, it’s a turning back to my Father God – the weaver of all this richness. He made the Autumn of the woods and fields and he made the Autumn in me, too. It’s a season to lean in to the richness of a life of loss and struggle, of change and turning and, of course, a life of growth, abundance and beauty. Tentatively, prayerfully, I am beginning to re-find optimism. God’s Spirit is helping me to find my soul underneath the dead leaves of past seasons and to lead her out again, into the cool September air.
*In her brilliant book, Present Over Perfect.
** An abbreviation of Philippians 4:6-7.