All changes, even the most longed for,
have their melancholy;
for what we leave behind is part of ourselves:
we must die to one life before we can enter another.
I love this quote by Anatole France. Being an Autumn person I suspect I’m drawn to it naturally. I sometimes think Autumn people are more acutely aware of the passing of time than folks who are drawn spiritually to other seasons. I reckon that’s because it brings a sense of peeling away another layer of me every harvest season. Sort of like an onion.
Like an onion, I have a finite number of layers to remove, and with the passing of each year I become more and more aware of how few I have left. And my tendency is to look back and examine the layer of me that is falling away. Did I squander the year by ignoring how I lived? Or did I stretch myself and grow? Did I learn to be kinder? More generous? More tolerant and loving? Or did I stay stuck, loaded down with old baggage?
I would rather be one of the folks who think that every January 1st they get to start all over again with all new layers. Isn’t that what New Years resolutions are all about? I believe our culture mistakenly teaches us that. It makes us feel we have all the time in the world to start again, make things right, repair those relationships with estranged loved ones. It can give one a false sense of their own longevity. Then suddenly, before we know it, time is fading and we are living with a multitude of missed opportunities and heart-breaking regrets.
But I’m not a January-type person. I’m an Autumn person who is very aware of the part of myself I’m leaving behind before the next layer of my life is revealed. And with that sense of leaving comes a melancholy, a grieving. Not just for the passage of time that brings me one year closer to the end of my life, but for lessons I didn’t learn, chances I had to make a difference in some way and chose to ignore. The truth is, Autumn makes me sad…
Interestingly, though, I’ve learned something significant this harvest season. I’ve learned that it’s important for me to force myself to also remember the causes for celebration in my life the past year. The victories, the joys, the new-found freedoms… Especially the new-found freedoms. After 64 years of struggling to get through the Autumns in my soul, I think I’m finally figuring out it’s essential and healthy to look for the good to balance the melancholy.
I will probably always be an Autumn person, but my lows are not as low this year, and there’s a faint sweet fragrance like ripe Jonathan apples that is beginning to permeate my often gloomy thoughts. That’s a huge thing for me, and it makes me wonder what other life gems are hidden under all the layers of me I have left. And that in itself is cause for celebration.