Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The best of both seasons

The kids went back to school today, making it official: summer's over.

Time to show the sunny months -- with their adventure, freedom and weekends that start Friday at 3 -- the door. And as they walk out, you stand up a little straighter, pat your hair into place and look the back-to-business months of fall square in the eye. Sigh good-naturedly. Invite them in to set up shop in your favorite chair. Ask what they need, and then go get it. You know it's time.

In reflecting on this changing of the seasonal guard today -- as I catalogued our summer activities, wondered where two-plus months went, and felt a little shell-shocked by how dramatically one day can change the communal zeitgeist -- I wondered how the two sides of us - Summer Us and Fall Us - might mix. The best parts of both, working together to make us adventurous, free of spirit AND productive. As we move into the comforting routines of September, whether it be at work, in school, or at home, how do we hang on to the special joy of summer, with dinners on the patio and kids playing until after dark, while also enjoying the autumnal satisfaction of a misty day spent ticking off boxes on the meaty to-do list we neglected for three months?

I for one will try, as an experiment. How? Perhaps by injecting a little more spontaneity into the predictable structures that school-time brings our family. Maybe skip a school event and head to the beach for some storm-watching and indoor s'mores making. Maybe it's a November trip to a yurt. Or splurging on fresh berries in October. Or maybe it's just an attitude, reflected in subtle ways: A bright color worn on a dark day. A dinner revolving around fresh herbs and good tomatoes for as long as one can get them. A willingness to let the kids stay up late one night, even though we'll all be wrecks the next day.

The point isn't to deny the seasonal rhythms our ancestral beings need. Nor is it to eschew the renewed focus on the practical, the predictable, the work of life that we all seem to aspire to in fall. It's about acknowledging that, like old friends, maybe you don't need to shut one out in order to enjoy the other. And in mixing them, you may find some pleasant surprises.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Country Song for Spring

Country music always reminds me of being on the road. I found this song I wrote in my early 30s (which, was, um, not too long ago). I always like country music in the spring, and maybe this song will make a few of you smile. I find the message to take charge of what you want is always a good, fun reminder for me. And if you have any Dixie Chicks connections please pass it along.

I’m Writing Your Love Song to Me
Copyright 2000 by Sarah Pagliasotti

You say that you love me but you can’t let it out,
You just can’t express how you feel,
Well, I need to hear something -
I need some connection,
To believe that your place here is real.

So since you’ve become so dang speechless
But for me words are flowing out free,
I’ve decided to do us a favor
And I’m writing your love song to me.

You’ve been tongue-tied too long, and it’s getting me down
so let me just write you some verse.
It may seem like bad news
to do it this way,
But believe me, hon, no news is worse.

And since you’ve forgotten your romance
But I need some sweet poetry,
I’ve decided to do us a favor
And I’m writing your love song to me.

You’ll pick your guitar and sing to my soul
The moon will be your spotlight
You’ll speak of the beach
and dancing together
And how our love makes the world right.

You’ll sing of the lilacs and beauty and how you
Feel like the birds understood,
And bird by bird
your song will say
What, word by word, you never could.

It may need some practice, a read-through or two
To feel comfortable with these strange words
But do practice, my sweet,
Cause the perfect it makes
Is the loving that we both deserve.

Well, since you’ve been so strong and silent
And I want to be weak in the knees,
I’m courting myself in your honor
And I’m writing your love song to me.

Yes since you’ve become so dang speechless
But for me words are flowing out free,
I’m doing us both a big favor
And I’m writing your love song to me.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Feeling Bullish in Bear Times

This time, the New Year didn't seem quite as shiny and promising as it has in years past. Partly because every day the radio alarm spouts still more economic bad news. Also because of a particularly rough patch in my girls' sisterly relations that caused multiple family members to give me more than the usual "input" about how best to parent.

There were a few weeks, from December into early January, when it all peaked. It started with a snowstorm that trapped me in the house for nine days with two wild-eyed, manic preschoolers. Then there was the drop-off in work projected for '09 by a number of my belt-tightening clients. And it didn't help that, during my first official commune with nature of 2009, my purse was stolen out of my car.

It was enough to make a normally optimistic gal a bit snarly and defeated.

I was ready for the clean slate and the return to normalcy that the New Year usually promises. But this time, it took a good ten days into '09 before the psychic clouds broke and a little sun got through. Looking back, when I see how I narrowly skirted a permanent malaise about the world and my own piece of it, I get a hindsight shudder like that of a plane-crash survivor realizing how close he came to eating his cabin-mates.

What saved me? Certainly the crucial support of my husband and other family and friends. But from inside, it was also a strong desire to feel good again: a forced optimism that became a true optimism. At my lowest points, I just cried and yelled at my family (and then cried about yelling). But somewhere in there, knowing I didn't like that version of me, I began a conscious decision to find, sometimes moment by moment, something to be happy about.

Gradually, I found little joys in a time that, personally and globally, seemed determined to obscure them. One example: After lamenting my stolen purse and the $300-plus dollars of gift cards I had lost, it occurred to me, as I looked at my new, empty wallet, how this one area of my life had been instantly simplified - a goal I've had for more than a year. In some weird way, it was comforting. I didn't need any of the stuff those gift cards would have bought - it would have just meant more shopping, and more things in my life to wash, dust, or arrange. Now I could turn my energies to other things, like the baby books I've been meaning to finish. The new business I'm launching. And most of all, like the effort to relish my children's childhood while we're all still in it.

Yes, it's that same old adage: your attitude determines your altitude and all that. I've long been a believer, but really came close to going to the dark side this time. In the end, it was so heartening to discover that this old approach still works. I hope it does for others, too, as we all muddle through job losses, daily parenting challenges, and the work it always takes to be human and humane.

Four tips to keep you bullish:
1. Hang on to whatever shred of perspective you can muster: The health, safety and love of family and friends are the markers around which everything else revolves. If you have at least some of those, you're way ahead of the game.
2. Get back to work: When your spirit's drained it's hard to muster energy to do what needs doing. That's got downward spiral written all over it. Starting just one thing on your growing to-do list can rejuvenate your will and your attitude.
3. Be honest: Share your fears - people will offer surprising amounts of support.
4. Take care - When you're overwhelmed it's tempting to neglect yourself. But self-care can be a crucial subconscious lifeline. Keep eating foods that make your body happy, keep exercising or spending time in fresh air, and keep doing the little things that add up to daily care of you.