I began my run this morning through colored leaves, breathing in the distinct New England smell in the air. The crisp chill gently pierced through my long sleeved top. I put my face to the sun, the sun that is noticeably further away. The autumn season seems to come about more quickly than the others. When the calendar reads September first, summer vanishes away. I round the corner in front of my house and stop at the fence around my humble yard. Just a few weeks prior the fence was adorned with hundreds of purple morning glories. Now they lean heavily against the fence, their once bursting purple color a monotone of dark, brittle, dried-out leaves; the stems already rotting and hollowed through. These lifeless flowers are clutching for life, resisting inevitable change. I immediately start to remove them, pulling hard on the roots and the massively intertwined stems wrapped fiercely around each fence post. A woman walks by. She is an old woman who I see spending much of her time in her garden that is adjacent to my yard. She stops and watches as I add to my large pile of dead flowers and brush. She says: "It's bittersweet, isn't it?" I nod politely and continue my task. As she walks away I hear her words settle inside of me. Fall is indeed a transitional time. For me this time of year has always sparked thoughts of sadness, of death, and of change, as well as restarting, rest and reflection. The change is so prevalent in my surroundings. The once lush grass now has a slight tint of brown. Flowers in bloom now hang towards the dry, used-up soil. There is a chill in the air in the mornings and the windows are covered with a fine fog. The last crickets make their presence known in a distant forlorn chant. All that change coincides with the changing of the leaves, their remarkable colors beckoning you to stare into the tall trees, taking your breath away. Something about knowing that the beauty is temporary makes me want to savor every second. The change seems particularly strong this year, especially as I become more aware of my own transitioning. I continue tugging at the stems that have taken months to wrap tightly and embed themselves in. I pull at one and get frustrated. I try to work faster, only to be faced with the intricate weaving of the long, strong stems. Each weave is slightly different from the one before. Each one is equally trying.
In my writing, I have mentioned my discontent- never quite sure if this is just a feeling that I, as a human being, am supposed to tolerate, deny or just ignore. I love my job for the community it brings me; yet I often stand alone among a busy restaurant. The white noise feeds my deep thoughts and I begin to think that there is something more for me. I think of the older man that helped me at Home Depot last week. He was a man in his late seventies, with blue eyes, that stood out sharply underneath his grey, bearded face. His voice was pronounced. He was friendly, helpful and one of those people you feel like you were meant to share a brief connection with. He told me that he was with a company for 30 years and got laid off. He now works part-time for this large corporate chain. I thought I sensed a sadness from him, but then I came to realize that the sadness I perceived was, in fact, my own. I knew he had the wisdom I wished for. I am sure he at times experienced the my same thoughts of wanting more or feeling like there must be more. The wisdom he seemed to have was this: it was not necessarily a better life we needed, it was being content in the lives we have. I left the store glancing at the fall mums in front, thinking of the tangled pile left in my driveway. I ruminated in the grueling process of self-discovery and, most importantly, self-acceptance, knowing this was the most difficult of all.
I have always been in survival mode. I have the nagging feeling the rug will be pulled out from me, and that in an instant I will lose everything I know. I see how many times this has happened in my life. I do not suffer from the actual events as much as from the constant anticipation. The constant drive of always squandering things away and always having a plan B has created a feeling of never being content. This drive, however, has served as beneficial in my life and has led me to become a resourceful and self-sufficient person. The desperation and fear no longer serves a purpose to my life. I look at my life right now and see the ball of entwined stems, the deep layers, some of them that took years to get there. The thought of digging deep is overwhelming. Facing those embedded patterns and cutting away the unhealthy layers means that I will have to trust that there will be something left after I am done. However scary this task is, I know it is something I need to do to move forward. I want to desperately to break free from the false sense of security of the familiar life I have and really live the life I am meant to live.
I venture out on another run the following day. As I try to piece things together in my head, I watch magnificent orange and red leaves rapidly fall to the ground. I see the bare trees exposed. I pause a moment knowing that the most challenging phases of life, of change, are the stark, gray moments. These are sometimes lifeless moments, like the tree will have in the winter months to come. The cold darkness brings about a void that immediately I feel an urgency to fill. I will remind myself to embrace the process of life, of nature and growth that I know will lead me to slow down. I want to sit with that stark bare tree and somehow find content moments. I need to accept that the cycle and circle of life will always continue to go around. I want to let the fleeting feelings of seasons changing to symbolize real life and real existence and feel empowered by that, rather than feel powerless. This October afternoon I surrender to the turn of the wind. I see in all the colors spinning around me that life is what you make out of every situation, every moment, especially the darkest ones.