This is a big fall. Our youngest child starts first grade. Since I stay home with the kids, this promises to be a huge change not only for her, but also for me.
In the past, I didn’t have a huge problem with change. Big changes are challenging for anyone, but changes in schedule or routine have never bothered me since I lean more comfortably towards spontenaity. Too much set-in-stone and I get claustrophobic-y. To me, it’s fun to have a few things scheduled (a certain amount of pre-planned fun ensures I’ll see certain people, invest in certain relationships or parts of myself) and plenty of room for last minute appointments, being able to help in a classroom, or other unscheduled things that come up throughout the year.
This year is different. This year the lack of schedule feels empty. The prospect of quiet sounds like a terrible idea. Instead of feeling freed by the idea of time alone, it feels ominous, as if the time alone could hold something that’s been kept at the edges of my awareness, and my sense is that whatever that thing is, it’s not pleasant.
A great deal of this has to do with my attitude about it (and what doesn’t? — our attitudes are so important to our experiences.). By allowing dread to settle down and make a home inside my chest, I’m forced to keep myself constantly occupied so I can ignore or be too busy to deal with it’s source. To be honest, that works for me for longer than I’d like to admit. Sometimes it’s because of circumstances but sometimes, I’m learning, it’s because of my own personal tendencies. I mean, who wants to feel sadness or pain? Not me, man.
At this time of year, I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling a sense of wanting to freeze time or keep things the way they are. Rejecting change is not really an option. I know there are other people out there who feel sentimental with the start of the school year, many who feel sad about the passing of time. Sure, for many people there is a sense of jubilation about kids going back to school, but those same people also will admit they hug those kids a little longer when they return in the afternoon.
Change is difficult, even change that is good can still be hard. However, instead of being intimidated by change or loss, or having an attitude of fear, let’s try this experiment together:
- Take slow, calming breaths.
- Don’t overschedule or overcommit just to fill the empty space. Be willing to say no.
- Allow yourself to do a couple projects you’ve been meaning to get to, but don’t invest all your time in those tasks.
- Take yourself somewhere you’ve wanted to go, do something you’ve wanted to do. Think of it as an investment in your overall health. You don’t need a reason or special occasion to do this — you are worth investing in.
- When things seem too quiet or being alone feels scary, put on some up-tempo music and move your body. Walk, jog, bike, dance, yoga — whatever is appealing.
- If you are avoiding something in your thoughts or your emotions, be brave. Turn and face into the thing you’re avoiding. You don’t have to face it all the time, but even chipping away at it in small increments will make it less overwhelming. Plus there will be less to deal with the next time.
Will you try this experiment with me? This fall is filled with many firsts, and not all of them are pleasant. I’m a little bit scared. But if we can allow ourselves to experience it, all of it, and manage our attitude about it, the changes will be less daunting and we might, in fact, come out of it with a richer experience this year.
What things about this fall seem intimidating to you? What changes will you experience in the next four months and how do you feel about those changes? Will you try the six-step experiment in relation to change? C’mon — things are more fun with other friends alongside!