I'm preparing for fall in the usual ways. I bought canned pumpkin and an extra bag of flour at the grocery store last Saturday. I spent a half hour yesterday googling new pumpkin recipes. Today I unearthed the rubbermaid bin of fall decor from my basement and it is waiting by the door for my girls to return home from school. It's their job to stick the scarecrows in the front yard.
This year the seasonal change from summer to fall feels especially appropriate, as if Mother Nature is watching me through my front window and thinking, "Oh yes. It's time to move on, isn't it." What felt wonderful for a long time, what felt right and appropriate, doesn't always last.
Last weekend for Labor Day some of my family members were visiting and we were seated around my kitchen table talking. I have a million memory freeze frames of similar moments, family gathered together around a kitchen table. I felt happy to be there and even happier that my sister-in-law Lorie brought an Italian Cannoli Cake. My dad turned to me and asked, "So Lauren, what's new with you guys."
I paused long enough to set down my fork. I cleared my throat. "Well there is one thing." All heads turned in my direction. "I've become a morning person."
My sister Carolyn burst out laughing. My older brother shook his head and said, "Whatever." My younger sister Vauna appeared confused. I understood. "No, really. I go to bed early and wake up before seven every day. And I'm in a good mood." They didn't believe me. "Fine," I said to Carolyn. "You're sleeping over tonight so you can see for yourself."
The next morning was exactly as I said it would be. I woke up early and I woke up happy. Truly, I never thought I had it in me and obviously my family felt the same way. I've been a night owl forever and suddenly its not working for me anymore. Staying up late makes me feel lousy the next day. I'm short tempered with everyone, and nothing feels good enough. I cannot believe the difference between going to bed at ten or ten thirty and going to bed after midnight.
The success of my new sleep schedule inspired me to look at other areas of my life and think, What else? What other changes am I capable of? A lot, as it turns out. This week is the fifth week that I've taken a walk as soon as I drop my older girls at school. This isn't so hard, I've decided. Why did exercising regularly always feel so hard before? What else?
I've always felt antipathy toward drastic diets. I feel sorry for diligent dieters and all the chocolate covered happiness that they forego. But you know what? Life is also too short to be a slave to cravings. Chocolate stops being a delight when your hands start to tremble everyday around three o'clock and you wish for an i.v. so that you can inject it directly into your blood stream. I hear the same reports from caffeine addicts. So, I looked around at my life and said okay then. I can go to bed early, I can walk every day. Surely I can get my relationship with sugar in a better place. Wouldn't you know this last one has been the hardest. I would walk to Florida if someone dangled Lindt chocolate on a string in front of me.
Striking a balance with sugar and desserts has been a tricky tango. I would rather go without water than without dessert, so where is the balance? Someone suggested eating dessert only as part of an occasion, rather whenever you feel like it. I thought that sounded smart and so I've adopted it as my own rule. I eat dessert when its an occasion. I eat dessert with other people. I do not eat dessert by myself, sitting at my computer at two o'clock in the afternoon. The first week was excruciating and I worried twenty times a day that I might cheat. The second week was easier. Now I'm starting the third week and it's slowly starting to feel like a new normal. Very slowly.
I am inspired each day by all the people who choose to take a long hard look at their life and say, What else? My sister Ellen just started a graduate program, which she is juggling with a part time job and two kids. You can do hard things, I tell her. Another sister is making spiritual changes, perhaps the hardest sort of change to make. When I see how hard she is trying I tell myself, Put the chocolate down and back away from the kitchen. You can be in charge of your habits. You can be in charge of your life. You can do hard things too, and in another few days it won't feel so hard anymore.
I hope that during the next few days you'll make time to take a walk and discover which parts of your neighborhood have been visited by Fall. I hope this post reminds you of how empowering it can be to take a good look at your life and think, what else? You too can do hard things!