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Happy in October

It’s easy to be happy in October. At least it is for me. The sweltering humidity of August is gone. The bitter cold of January is still in the distance. I walk in the forest with a warm or cool breeze at my back. The smell of smoldering fire pits wafts over backyard fences. The colors of the trees gradually and magically transform each day. And I get to watch it all. And I get to smell it all. And I get to feel it all. It’s so easy for me to be happy in October.

In life we all have our own version of October. The times in our lives where happiness is effortless, where we don’t even have to try to experience peace. It just happens. It’s just easy. It’s just perfect. And then the colder winds blow in. We get sick. A relationship ends. We’re laid off. Something or someone hurts us. We make a terrible mistake. An internal conflict erupts. We lose someone we love. Everything we own is swept away in a flood or a tornado or a hurricane. We become overwhelmed with grief, with loss, with loneliness, with exhaustion, with so much to do.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could live forever in October? And yet I have found that October comes and goes. Our lives ebb and flow between ease and struggle, between simplicity and complications, between peace and pain. I used to search for a way to make life one continuous October. I used to believe that if I could think only positive thoughts or just work harder at planning and preparing for the future, I could avoid the bitter air of winter. And yet winter still comes. I used to resist the changing of the seasons, but now I ask myself, “How do I want to experience this new season?” I set an intention. I move forward the best I can.

Now I greet the cold air of winter and the stifling heat of summer differently. I remind myself that life will ebb and flow, that I don’t stay anywhere forever. I pay attention to the beauty of each season, even when it’s harder to see. I learn to appreciate that each season has its lessons and mercies and even joys. I believe that I am capable of handling whatever season I am in. Self-care becomes the warm blanket I wrap myself in during winter and the cool pool of water I dip myself in during summer. I learn to be compassionate with my tiny steps forward one day at time, one step at a time into each new season.

Slowly over time I am learning how to stretch out October just a little further, how to soften the chill of winter instead of resisting it, how to find little pockets of shade in the summer, how to trust that, with some help, I am fully capable of navigating the ebb and flow of my life. I am learning to surrender to the season I am in, to discover what each season has to teach me, to be fully present where I am without wishing I were somewhere else. I am learning the truth of George Santayana’s words when he said, “To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.” Or in my case October.

Today it is October. I know it won’t last forever, but I don’t want to miss it by worrying about what’s to come. I want to soak in every drop of nectar October has to offer and carry that sweetness into the darker times with me. I want to be awake as the leaves change. I want to be comforted by the cool air. I want to be strengthened by the glow of a backyard fire. And so I promise myself to be fully present here in October, knowing it will leave me soon, knowing it will always return.

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