Fall, as a season, is a transition. It’s warmth to cold, sunshine to darkness, long days to short. In the past five years it’s been a strange kind of season for me; it’s either been the start of a slide into something not so great, or else the beginning of something new and wonderful. It’s like my life transitions coincide with this season. The days change, and so do the circumstances of my life.
Two years ago I was in the beautiful beginnings of a new love, and life was great. Fall was great, because life was great. I was enjoying the season, but I was also full of the feeling of change. I was so focused on where my life was moving and how to get there, always thinking about the future: about the next trip to Vermont to see my boyfriend, about his next visit to see me, about the next year and whether I would still be living in my apartment, about searching through craigslist and monster.com for new jobs.
A year later my relationship was falling apart (or, it had already fallen apart, but I was still holding on as tightly as I could), and fall was practically nonexistent. I didn’t want to see the changing leaves, I didn’t want to enjoy the pumpkin-flavored-everything, I just wanted to figure out how to make my relationship work, and how to be happy in my partnership again. I constantly thought about the past and what had gone wrong, and I kept looking to a point in the future, when I would feel better and when things would work out.
This fall? I’m trying to be here, now. I think I only really started trying in the past couple of weeks, and in a way, I’m amazed that it took me so long to practice this Camino lesson: don’t dwell in the past or the future, but just enjoy where you are.
I’ve always known that this is a valuable life lesson, but it’s a tough one to put into practice. On the Camino, it was almost effortless. There was so much going on, so much change every day, so much to engage your senses that it was almost impossible (for me, at least), to focus my mind on what had happened the day before, or what would happen tomorrow. And it was a strange practice for me, to not be constantly reflecting on what I had experienced, or preparing for what was to come. I was just letting things be- doing my best to process stuff through blog and journal writing- but otherwise just letting it be.
And it was a wonderful lesson for me to put into practice. Being present made me so happy: when I walked, sometimes I had a smile glued to my face because of the beauty and wonder of where I was and what I was doing. I’ve written about leaving my guidebook behind (and the lost guidebook ties into several Camino lessons for me), but it helped with the act of staying present: I didn’t read about what was going to happen in the future. For the most part, I stopped planning. I just woke up each day and I walked. I didn’t know who I would see or where I would stay, and it was an incredible and freeing feeling.
But when I came home, I got a bit stuck in the past and the future again. Missing my Camino, thinking about it and reflecting on it, going through my photos, even reading my own blog posts to try to get back to that time. And I’ve been very preoccupied about my future, about figuring out what my next step is, about whether I want to make a change, about how to know what is right for me.
It’s important to remember the past and to prepare for the future- what would life be like if we didn’t do either?- but it’s also extremely valuable to sometimes just let it go, and be in the moment. To just enjoy where you are.
So this fall, maybe it will end up being a time of transition for me, but I can’t know that right now. Right now, I’m in my kitchen, and I just pulled a warm loaf of pumpkin bread from the oven. I’m listening to XPN’s 885 Greatest Songs of All Time countdown (which is simply wonderful, right now ‘Wouldn’t it Be Nice‘ by the Beach Boys is playing, and just before was a long jazz number from Miles Davis). I’m noticing the changing leaves and the cooler air as I walk in loops through my neighborhood. I’m cooking foods like chili and butternut squash soup. This weekend, I’m going camping with two of my closest friends.
The last two weeks have been a great time, and I wonder if it’s because I’ve been trying to just be in my days, and to enjoy them as much as I can. I know that I’m going to continue to miss things from my past, and that I’m going to be a bit anxious about figuring out my future, but I’m trying to give those feelings a time and a place. And then I’m moving on… to now, to this beautiful fall season.