September is filled with possibilities. A new school year, a new beginning. New shoes, new clothes, new backpacks and new books. New teachers. New friends. A clean slate. A fresh start. The excitement. The adventure! A relief from the monotony of summer.
At least, that’s how I felt as a kid. But as an adult, not so much. September as an adult, at least to me, feels stressful. Hectic.
September is the beginning of the end. The end of summer. Of relaxing days and (theoretically) doing whatever I please. The end of sunshine, or so it seems, with the hours of daylight diminishing. The countdown to Christmas has begun. But first, Thanksgiving. And Halloween. So much to do. Too much to do. Too little time. So many deadlines.
I was plagued for many years with a recurring dream where it was the end of the school year and I had never attended my classes. I was still trying to find my locker. Or remember the combination. I didn’t understand my schedule. I couldn’t find the rooms. I hadn’t done my assignments. An entire year went by and I had missed it. This, as you probably know, is a classic stress dream. A nightmare, really. That’s what September feels like to me. If I don’t get this right, if I’m not prepared, not on top of it from the beginning, I will miss it. I will fail.
September takes energy. So much energy. To lay the foundation for a successful school year and a healthy winter. Do I have enough nuts and berries to get me through the cold and the snow? I don’t think so. Just thinking about it makes me exhausted.
According to Chinese Medicine, I was born with very little chi. Life energy. You wouldn’t expect this, judging from my personality. But acupuncturists have been telling me this for decades. It’s the root of my digestive issues. The prescription is warm, moist, and soft foods: cooked before reaching my internal oven. My medicine is heat. September means I have to work harder to feel it and to keep it. I have to do more to find it. Gone are the blissful days of lying in the sun with its fierce rays penetrating my skin and warming my bones. Nothing about September is passive to me. September means work.
As if on cue, the temperature outside has fallen. Inside my home, I had to turn on the heat. The puppies were shivering. I needed to find my long-sleeved shirts and heavier jeans. I reluctantly pulled out the boxes of winter clothes. Once emptied, the boxes needed filling. It was time to put away my summer things. And that, my friends, made me sad. I packed away the sundresses and skirts and bathing suits that I had no chance to wear this year or didn’t wear enough. It was a somber affair.
Two weeks into September and I can no longer ignore the inevitable. Winter is coming. Autumn. Snow. Cold temperatures. Less light.
Everything takes longer now. Gone are my mornings of dressing in a minute. Pulling on t-shirts and shorts. Slipping on sandals in bare feet. Drying my long hair naturally. And taking showers quick and cool.
Now there is the waiting for the water to warm. The half hour of blow-drying. The five minutes of necessary deep conditioning. The layers and layers of clothing. The accessorizing: which pants, which jeans, which boots, which jacket, which scarf and gloves? The daily hunt for the right weight and height of socks to fit in my chosen shoes. The buttoning and unbuttoning of coats. The buckling of boots. Waiting for the car to warm up. Walking gingerly to not fall on the ice I don’t see.
Summer is easy. Winter is not. And September is the beginning of this struggle for me.
As I was writing this, my moka pot overflowed. I was lost in thought and couldn’t hear it gurgling over the washing machine. Coffee all over the stove. As I was wiping it up it occurred to me, maybe the real theme of September is focus. Deliberate, concentrated focus. The loose, nonchalant, spontaneous and cavalier attitude of summer and spring has come to an end. To get anything done moving forward, I need to concentrate. To start over. Clarify my intentions.
In which case, just like every kid, September means back to school. Again. Relearning to focus. Relearning my practice and disciplines. September, not January, is when the year begins.
Here’s hoping it will be a good one.