Cheers to the Fall

There is something stunning about the shifting of each season but the transition into autumn is my favorite. It's a beautiful undoing. The leaves begin to turn new colors, a change we all celebrate. But the different hue is actually a step toward falling, toward giving into the cold and winding up on the ground. Autumn is gorgeous, filled with warm light, crisp air, and delicious scents. But the things we love about this season are actually markers of the transition from the vibrancy of summer to the barrenness of winter.  

Over the past year, I've experienced my own personal autumn. It's been an undoing that hasn't felt as beautiful as nature's decent. While my world tumbled around, I fought surrender. The change and development that make autumn so wonderful and mysterious felt chaotic and foreign in my personal life. As I stumbled, I felt angry. With each shift I felt angry at God, life, others and myself.  Why after a vibrant period would I have to struggle, to endure a descent filled with challenges instead of pumpkins and mittens? Questions, frustrations, and grief have run through my mind as I have worked to reconcile a hard year.  I've been wondering why that is the case. Why am I quick to celebrate the decline of nature, a natural progression, but have only negative thoughts toward my own fall?

Because here is the truth of seasons. In order to have the fullness of summer, there must be the buds of spring. In order to have the buds of spring, there must be a desolate winter. In order to have the desolate winter, there must be a fall, a literal fall from the full moments of summer to the cold and craggy days of winter. September, with her welcoming autumn arms, begins the plunge. The beauty though, is she always eventually leads to spring. 

I highly doubt I will ever celebrate my struggles in the same way I cheer on the changing of leaves and the appearance of Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Honestly, that would be strange. But what I am learning is that  a little acceptance of the shifting of seasons, a little willingness to let go of the tree, goes a long way. Because maybe to thrive, I've got to prune my expectations. The expectation that I will always be healthy and whole is false. The expectation that I can stop life from changing or time from moving is simply not true. Spring and summer are wonderful but they never last more than a few months at a time. While the timeline may be different, the same principle is true of my life. I'm going to fall, again and again. I'm going to have autumns that are painful as I transition into dormant days. There will be winters, seasons where growth stops under the snow. In those days when the sun set's earlier, I need to be filled with self-compassion in the midst of struggle. The cooler days are a chance to practice pruning my expectations. As the season rolls on, I can choose to embrace the change, the undoing, as much as possible.  Because an internal autumn doesn't have to be traumatic or feel like a free fall. Instead, it can be a natural transition, a moment to let go and prepare for what is next. 

While the world is getting a little cooler (just kidding, Texas is still 95 and sunny) my heart feels like it is experiencing a bit of spring. A few buds are popping up and timidly venturing out of the snow. My hope is that these weeks of autumn are spent growing, blooming into something deeply rooted and lovely. As spring gently stirs in my soul, I want to simplify expectations, cheer loud at football games, pour out grace, drink whisky, go to bed early, send notes to friends. Perhaps this autumn is the season where I switch my mode from survive to thrive.

But if not, if it becomes another season of surrender and changing leaves in my own life, I'll be ready with a little more compassion and a mind fixed on celebration. It may be hard to raise a glass to our own descents but they are a natural step on the way to growth.

So autumn, with your lovely decay, I'm welcoming you. Cheers to the fall.