Each October hits me with the surprise and delight of a new crush: golden and perfect and positively teeming with promise. It’s strange, I know—a time of year that signifies the slow wilting and quieting of nature is the very time of year I find most invigorating and new.
Because, somehow, annually, with the beginning of October, change starts scattering about my feet like the leaves skittering down the streets of this old town. I feel it rustling about in my bones—that inevitable and exciting tilt of life.
It comes in jobs, friends, babies, exercise, interests, relationships, expectations, and hopes, and heartaches. It comes in e-mails and phone calls, and sometimes, it comes in the lack of communication, in the silence. It comes with the sudden and raw chill of the darkening mornings. You realize change is at work.
This year, I am so ready for it.
I recently experienced what’s turned out to be a more-than-usual eye-opening yoga class that got me thinking about all this impending change even before October hit. I was mindfully moving my sore, tired body through a rigorous and sticky class, and as we shifted into triangle, my teacher came up alongside me, placed her hands on my hips, and gently pushed me deeper into the pose.
“First, you need stability,” she began, talking out over my bent form to the class.
“And from stability,” she continued, her hands moving to the flat span of back between my shoulder blades, pressing them apart, “comes flexibility.” My muscles shook, and my bones pressed tightly against my skin, and yet my teacher’s hands somehow stretched me further.
She then moved to stand in front of me as we flowed through high and low plank and upward dog, landing in downward facing dog. I was turning her words over in my head when she placed her two palms to my lower back, sending my hips high and my heels down and my heart deep into my chest, and announced, loudly, clearly, “And from flexibility, comes the strength to change.”
In the weeks since that class, I have shared this idea with everyone from coworkers to dear friends: First, you need stability; then, you can explore flexibility; and then, when you’re stable and agile, you’re brave and confident enough in your grounding, your strength, to make your own change.
My conversations have really just been efforts to test and validate this theory. Because I think it’s a theory that’s a perfect frame to my life’s picture these days.
I come from a family that thrives on stability. In our formative years, me and my sister’s lives played out smoothly and predictably thanks to well-worn routines, structure, traditions, rules, and schedules. Everything then was a known and trusted certainty. In many ways, many things still are when I step foot into that same house my parents bought nearly 40 years ago. It’s no wonder that I feared and avoided and struggled through change for most of my young adulthood. Ironically, stability did not teach me flexibility then. I was petrified of what I couldn’t predict, what I couldn’t fully understand.
The changes I did embrace, where I flexed a bit of my self, were all changes I actively chose: a new job, a new city, a new friend or two, a new yoga studio. Change you can predict is easy. You can prepare and map out back-up plans. You can choose that precise moment when you go from stable to volatile, and you’ve already charted your course for how and when you’ll regain equilibrium.
I liked that kind of change. That kind of change was fun. And then life basically imploded on me back in 2011, and I spent years learning, for the first time in adulthood, how to stand still. I learned stability is not something you are given: it is something you build for yourself, slowly, thoughtfully, with purpose and determination.
This October, I know I’m there. Feet firmly planted. Eyes level. Breath steady. Heart strong and sure and full—I am bankrupt no more. I am home here in my seaside town. I like where I work and what I do. I am practicing my yoga. I am loving those I want to love; I have said the good-byes I long needed to say. I am giving, and I am doing a better job of taking. I am reading provocative and engrossing books. I am writing, steadily, even if I no longer always share it. I am riding horses again. I am helping to nurture and cherish children whose lives I am so proud to be a part of.
Life has measured itself generously into my palm, and I am cupping it gently, carefully. I do not want to spill a drop.
And yet, this period of stability I’m now in is jarring.
After roughly four years of crushing change, upheaval, and disorder, I find I’m wrestling a bit with the calm reflection in my hand. I’m find I’m very, very conscientious about and consumed with maintaining that delicate balance between restlessness and contentment, between staying on course and leaping off the edge, between satisfaction and want.
Because I can’t help but think: so what now? Where do I explore my flexibility further? Where do I begin to stretch deeper and push a little bit harder? How do I reach so that I ready myself for that next great change?
When I asked this of a dear friend of mine recently, she smiled at me lovingly. She told me I have always been her 110% friend. And she told me that maybe now is my time not to try so hard, so much, so all the time. Maybe now is the time to just be, to relax, to revel in simply being here, in this space of life.
She’s right, you know.
When I was a freshman in college, I experienced my first New England fall and promptly fell in love. I was a bit in love with a boy back then, too, and I wrote him a poem that I sent across the 1,000 miles between us, a poem that isn’t all that good or grand. But, I treasure it, even now—because I wrote it for that boy, and for the girl I was then, and for that first New England October. It’s called October Comes.
I was listening to a lot of Counting Crows back then, too, and their new album is fantastic, particularly this gem (which, admittedly, inspired the “And I tried all my days” title).