It's late August, and it's rainy and gray out. A foreshadow of what is to come - a transition to Fall. Hate to be the bearer of this news - I know many of us are working to avoid this reality! We may be saying things like - "But it's still summer! Labour Day isn't the real end - we go until September 23rd!" Yes - and, summer, I'm afraid, will, eventually, end. And we are definitely past its midpoint.
Some of us may be wrestling with FOMO - Fears of Missing Out - fears of not having taken full advantage of the summer months, done all the things we like to do in the summer - whether it be camping, hiking, water sports, or sunbathing. Perhaps there is some anticipatory anxiety - of extra responsibilities or a return to a bulky work load that may accompany the start of the fall. Perhaps, more concretely, anxiety about needing to live, love, and work without the brightest rays of sunshine gracing our slice of earth.
Certainly, this may motivate many of us to make the most of the sunny time we have left - get in that last hiking trip, spend as much time as we can outdoors, have our last summer 'hurrah's. Another strategy we may take is to intentionally look forward to the fall, list the pleasures of fall that we enjoy to increase our excitement and decrease hard feelings. For me, this includes things like crisp air, winter squash, baking, spicy drinks, soups and stews, cozy clothing, candles, and holidays. And some reprieve from the heat.
The piece of the coping puzzle we may be most likely to leave out is allowing feelings of anticipatory grief. This involves mourning what we are certain to lose even before we have experienced the final loss. This can help take the edge off the final blow, allow us to grieve more gradually and pave the way for a grief process that may be a bit gentler. In my last blog post, I discussed grief, mostly focusing on bigger loses like the death of a loved one. However, as we live, we experience losses of many kinds, some less grave but no less real. And no less in need of a kind of mourning or grief process in order to most effectively move through and ultimately let go of the loss.
So how do we begin to let ourselves grieve the many wonders of summer before they have fully passed us by? Maybe we let ourselves feel the subtle stabs of pain, as well as the joy, when we experience the parts of summer that we love so much and are sad to be imminently losing.
For me, this comes now when I look at bees buzzing around in my backyard. I particularly love bumblebees - their furry girth, the way they hold sacks of pollen in their legs, how they remind me of flying teddy bears:) How I will miss their presence! I am also really enjoying the sound of Cicadas, the large bug that creates that low buzzing, steady hum. I know that I will miss this buzzing in the still of the Winter. I will miss the birds chirping, swimming outdoors, wearing light airy clothing, bearing my toes.
As I write this, there is an ease, a lightening. A sense of feeling validated for the truth of what I will most certainly lose when frost sets in. Of allowing myself to begin to grieve the ending that I know will come.
Having allowed some feelings of anticipatory grief, I find myself now having more internal space to look forward, to celebrate, in anticipation, the new beginnings that fall will surely bring.
For many, fall is a time where we return to a more heavily routined schedule, where we re-commit ourselves to our work. It can often involve new beginnings in work or school. For helper types, this work - whether paid or unpaid - usually involves some kind of higher purpose, and service.
I know from experience that it can feel good to be working within a rhythm and routine that is gentle enough to allow for a sustainable flow, a momentum, a dedication or re-dedication to the life we want to lead, the way we want to practice loving and working and living. Fall can jump start us into this process. Although it's not always easy to get there, and can involve a long journey filled with a fair bit of hard feelings and anxiety, this process often also feels satisfying!
Although a wonderful and necessary, the vacations and breaks from our routine that summer tends to involve for those of us lucky enough to take them can leave us feeling somewhat empty, somewhat disconnected from our striving toward purpose and from the flow of our regular lives. I had the luxury of taking a vacation this summer, and while it was lovely, I felt an existential angst of a kind that my work and sense of purpose it involves usually doesn't leave much room for.
A fundamental piece of my own personal work and the work that I offer in my practice is helping helpers cultivate a sense of ease in just being alive, in cherishing themselves and their own internal worlds. However, I don't think it can be denied - or is necessarily a problem - that many of us our most at ease when we are busy with meaningful work. Fall can be a time to awaken us back into a life of meaningful pursuit. And that, I think, is worth celebrating.
And if that's not particularly comforting - remember - summer will come again! I promise!