Thursday, August 20, 2020

Vintage Post: When Autumn Arrives

There was a lot going on inside me when I wrote this post in September 2017. I've written more than one piece over the years where I try to describe what the fall season means to me, but this might have been the most pointed and genuine because I needed it to arrive that year in a way that was spiritually deeper and more desperate than other years. Thankfully, I am not feeling the deep longing for the upcoming months that I did then, but in our current state of things where we are grasping for anything that feels familiar and stabilizing, I'll surely welcome them as part of my own need.

Summer was long.

From a strict passage of time sort of perspective, it was just as long as it always is. There are only a certain amount of minutes, hours, and days in the months of June through August, and nobody has found a way to add more.

But still, summer was long. As in, it felt long, and for more than one reason.

June was fine. I enjoyed my first vacation since December and after I got back turned right around and headed to Baltimore for the UCC's General Synod. That month was relaxing and rejuvenating and it was everything that I needed it to be as my first real break in six months.

But July and August were long. Again, no longer than usual measurement-wise, but existentially, it could not have been any longer. I usually have a lot more free time during this season of the year, and when I'm not keeping my mind occupied with the needs and tasks of ministry, my thoughts veer into everything I'm doing wrong, have done wrong, will probably do wrong in the future. And for various reasons largely inappropriate for this medium, my mind decided that it was going to work all manner of day and night and early morning to sort through these issues again and again and again.

String enough of those days and sleepless hours together, and your spirit doesn't have much left by the end.

Sometime in August, I realized how desperate I was for fall. I always hit a moment like that as the summer months wind down, but this was an inner plea stronger than I've experienced in a while. The thought of fall's arrival, of the days ticking down toward September, the mere thought that the calendar will soon change like it always does, helped move my soul from Level Just Give Up to Keep Calm And Watch For Pumpkins.

I get how arbitrary this sounds, like the passage of time doesn't really affect people in this way, does it? Given how Seasonal Affective Disorder and its summer opposite are real, quantifiable, observable things, I think I have at least some ground to stand on here. I wouldn't presume to self-diagnose, but something was happening to me in July and August that was causing me spiritual and emotional anguish.

The moment I noticed something was changing came while I read MGoBlog's massive preview of Michigan's upcoming football season, as quintessential a fall feature if ever there was one. As I read through Brian Cook's detailed description of the program's quarterback situation, a pleasantly intrusive thought came to the forefront:

"You know, things are going to be okay."

This time of year does that. For me, the mere anticipation of fall's approach causes muscles to relax, energy to tick upward, mood to improve, outlook to brighten. It's how others experience summer or Christmas, where the intangibles of the season work their magic and provide reassurance that, in the midst of self-doubt and spiritual desolation, at least there's still this.

And no matter what else is happening, this will always arrive and make the rest of it more bearable.