3:30 Thursday, Projects

A season for taking stock

In Florida, fall is the most wonderful time of the year. The weather slowly transitions from barely tolerable heat to obscenely pleasant. At the beginning of October, most days are in the mid to high 90s and the whole state watches every thunderstorm that rolls off Cape Verde in fearful anticipation that it will form a hurricane. By the end of the month, we’re putting out pumpkins, and basically moving outdoors to settle in for what I consider to be the BEST time of the year.

Seriously. I spend the summer months fantasizing about moving somewhere, anywhere, less hot. But, if you just wait, the relief of cooler temperatures will come.

The other wonderful thing about Fall in Florida is that it’s a fall/spring hybrid. You get the relief from summer heat, the anticipation of the holidays, fall festivals, pumpkin spice everything, AND it’s planting season. Yes, planting. Like normal places do in spring. Because (from what I can tell) summer in Florida is so hot and rainy that most plants are doing good just survive the summer. But, in the fall, you can plant a garden – or, in my case, purchase the fruit of other people’s gardens at seasons peak in the grocery store! Over the next few months we’ll start enjoying fresh oranges, strawberries and more.

So, yes, fall in Florida is my favorite.

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Another upside: Floridians get the beach all to ourselves in the Fall.

I also have a sense of satisfaction about 2017. I almost hate to say this since I see so much suffering and turmoil in our country and around the world. But, in my little corner of the world, things are going pretty well.

Thanks to the 3:30 Project, I’ve intentionally set about being a little better in various areas of my life this year.

  • I haven’t experienced a total body transformation, but I have exercised at least twice a week all year.
  • My house still falls into disarray, but on the average it’s cleaner than it’s ever been.
  • My marriage is warmer, more loving and more fun than it was at the beginning of the year.
  • I’ve not achieved financial freedom, but I have maintained a sustainable budget for several months.
  • I have done a little better this year at keeping up with friends and family than I have in the past.
  • I’ve also managed to walk my dog sometimes.

In fact, now that my youngest baby is settling into toddlerhood, I feel – for the first time since becoming a parent – a little more like myself. I’m feeling a little more able to successfully make and execute plans. Sure, some of them are foiled when my four-year-old dives face first into a book case. Sure, some of them are executed while my two-year-old cries and cries because she refused to take a nap today. And yes, I spend more time than I’d care to admit watching Super Why, Sesame Street and the PJ Masks.

A season of transition, like fall, is a nice time to assess how the year is going and make any final adjustments as we head into the holiday whirlwind. And, this year, unlike the past several years, I have the satisfaction of knowing I’ve had the year I set out to have. I don’t want to say that this year has been free of sadness, worry, heartbreak, outrage, dismay, and writing letters to my elected representatives – because that has also been a part of this year. But, I think – on mornings like this – when there’s the a nip in the air, when my daughters are resting in a room that feels clean-ish, when I’ve done some very grown up things like get life insurance and called a roofer – that I am doing okay. And from that place, I have more. More energy to reach my goals, more compassion for others, and more acceptance for my own and others’ pain.

I think there’s a very real fear when we’re having a happy season in our lives that “If I acknowledge my happiness or take credit for how well things are going right now, if I am too happy – I might jinx everything and my life will fall apart.”

Nevertheless, I am going to acknowledge and enjoy my current happiness. Because another thing this year has taught me is that a hurricane or wildfire can destroy everything you have in a moment. As Master Oogway says in Kung Fu Panda, “Control is an Illusion.”

He also says:

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”

(Side Note: Kung Fu Panda is full of little gems like this, and you should probably go watch it…now)

So, rather than trying to protect my happiness by hedging, hiding or holding back, my reflection on this fall is to acknowledge that this is “good times.”

Someday, I will miss the nights where my daughter wanted to set up a little bed in my room so she didn’t have to be alone while she slept. Someday, I’ll miss the days when my two year old could be soothed by me carrying her in my arms. And it’s entirely possible that there will be a day when I miss the PJ Masks theme song, and I might even look back with loving fondness on the day my daughter had a temper tantrum in the Halloween costume aisle at Target because there was no Owlette costume in her size.

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3:30 Thursday, Motivation Monday, Something Swell on Saturday

Falling Forward…

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by life long friends: this month,  Maggie and Mary Margaret muse on the arrival of the autumnal season! This week Mary Margaret admits to being less than thrilled to see summer slip away, but asks herself to confront that attitude. 

If I had a dime for every time someone told me that fall was their favorite season in the city…well, I’d say it might help make a dent in the rent on my Brooklyn apartment. (But who’s passing out these proverbial dimes for common occurrences anyway? Put them in touch with me, please.)

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The love of fall in New York runs deep, and once the conversation begins, inevitably leads to talk of sweaters and boots, crisp, cool air, pumpkin-spiced everything, Halloween and Thanksgiving. While the autumnal season was a different matter altogether when I lived in Georgia, I’m afraid that now I feel twinges of guilt at not sharing completely in everyone else’s harvest exaltations (bring on the cornucopias!). It’s not that I dislike fall, exactly; pears are, after all, my favorite fruit.

Honestly fall, it’s just what you portend that I dread: (Now it’s time for me to make a cultural reference to a wildly popular television show that I don’t watch…)

Winter is coming.

People complain vociferously about the heat and smells of July and August in NYC, but I can’t help but love summer here with long days, sunny parks, free outdoor concerts and yoga classes, languid evenings when I feel like I could walk the city sidewalks forever. As summer winds to its conclusion, though, I find it hard to combat the images I see stretched out before me. I feel in that exquisitely crisp air the air that follows close behind—bitter, sometimes painful, winter winds that leave me seeking the shortest distance between one building and another, scurrying around without peripheral vision, which has been obliterated by my cocoon of hat and scarf and hood. I know that the crunchy dry leaves under my feet signal that soon my skin will get so dry and raw that it will split open constantly at work, threatening to spread scarlet spots onto the costumes I’m working with. I know that each day for many months ahead will allow me fewer and fewer minutes in which to seek out sunlight.

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I fully understand that the world has far more inhospitable winter climates than New York. I recognize the incredible privilege of owning warm clothes and living and working in heated spaces. At the same time that I try to remind myself of these factors, perhaps I am also allowed to concede that winter is just simply more tiring to this heat-loving southern girl.  Maggie and I have talked often about the need to resist the complaining impulse, which is ever close at hand, but I think there is also a space we can hold to acknowledge that something is simply difficult for us. Winter is coming. And winter is not my favorite, taking a greater toll on me physically and emotionally than any other time of year.

I think there could actually be something beneficial in naming this as a personal challenge for me, so that I can do two things in the immediate present…

  1. Not skip over the lovely things of fall by mentally somersaulting into my frigid future.
  2. Rather than wallowing in memories of unpleasant winters past, use those memories to prepare myself for what lies ahead.

Since we all know I love a list, I see no better place to begin than by finding some things I can delight in immediately now that fall has arrived; then, beginning to name some simple reminders of things I can do to have a healthier, more balanced winter…I think sometimes it takes surprisingly little to challenge a sense of dread with a measure of joyful expectation.

  1. Things to love in autumn:

*The brilliant leaves in Prospect Park and Greenwood Cemetery near my house

*Pumpkin, yes pumpkin-flavored stuff (I admit it, I like it- Sorry! Unoriginal but true!) Also, tiny pumpkins that are suddenly sold everywhere. They are the most adorable of gourds; just admit it.

*Knitting weather (one of my favorite hobbies is so much nicer this time of year)

*Scary Halloween movies on Netflix. I can’t fully explain my love of silly horror movies, but there it is.

*Warm soup, hot coffee

*University of Georgia football- I don’t always get to watch, since I work on Saturdays, but I still enjoy keeping up with the season!

  1. Ways to make this winter more bearable:

*Candles: This is ultra-simple, but the act of lighting a candle in my home is inexplicably warming and soothing to my soul in the dark days of winter

*Yoga, yoga, yoga. Winter makes me tense because of the sheer act of bracing against the cold. By having a regular plan to practice several times a week, I can help myself from becoming a solid mass of nerves and clenched muscle.

*Plan a break: It was very helpful to me last year to know that I would be able to leave New York for a while and visit Georgia in January. Of course it is also winter in Georgia, but it was immensely helpful to have a momentary break from the intensity of New York winter specifically.

*Long novels, more writing, more learning. I want to challenge myself this year to see what I can do when the weather drives me indoors. With less desire to take my long rambling walks, what indoor adventures and pursuits of the mind can I engage with this year?

So there’s somewhere for me to start. When Maggie suggested that we write about the season of fall as a general topic, I knew that I needed to confront head-on the negativity that I felt creeping in these past two weeks as temperatures started to drop. I’m not exactly ready to join the fall-e-lu-jah chorus and make a joyful noise, but even though winter is coming (scarier than Halloween!!), I already feel a little better (by leaning harder into a spirit of thanks-giving, another excellent fall holiday!).

Never underestimate the power of the list, especially lists that help us count our blessing.