Tuesday, September 28, 2021

A September Re-set: The Rhythms of My Life

"I'm such an autumn person.
Give me a quiet cozy spot 
with a view of the changing trees 
on a crisp, late September day, 
a warm drink and a good book 
and I will be in glory."

I posted this late last week on my profile on FB because it so perfectly depicts how I feel about this lovely season! Autumn and winter are equally my favorites, both for their varying beauty, but also because the first leads up to the holiday season (which I LOVE!), and the latter falls into this lovely, quiet season of rest. But another thing happens in autumn that I love equally as much, my thoughts return to home! Not that home is not always forefront on my mind, but for me, September has always signaled a time for new beginnings, and probably for you as well! You can't start school every year for twelve+ years of your childhood and not be left with that sense of nostalgia! Blank notebooks, newly sharpened pencils! It's probably why I restock my office supplies around this time every year!  

But for me September is also a return to rhythm and ritual. After the long, hot days of summer when I'm more inclined to relax and simply let each day unfold (its own beauty!), it is time for a bit of order and semblance. A time to reflect upon what is working and what needs tweaking as we finish up the end of the year. Some like to do this towards the end of December, and I do that, as well. But as I've grown older I've discovered that things run a little more smoothly if I take time to review and reset every quarter.

With that I thought I'd share a little about how I plan out (or at least create the illusion of a plan) my days, weeks and months. I'll be sharing more specifically on this topic in upcoming days, but for today I just thought I would paint a broad picture of how I begin my planning, which is grounded in rhythm and the natural flow of life. Keep in mind that I am a nearing 60 year old wife, mother and grandmother, currently living with my youngest adult daughter while my husband is traveling the country. So not quite an empty nester (although I moved in with her this time!), and in a bit of a transition stage. All that to say, that my stage of life is definitely different than others, but what I want to share with you today is foundational and adaptable, regardless of where life finds you. So let's begin.

Rhythm Of the Day
In a perfect world, and I do occasionally have perfect days, there are strong markers that signal both day and night, with anchors throughout the day that keep me grounded and centered. This means I wake up at the same time, and that I have a morning routine to begin each day. Typically I eat my meals around the same time, at 10, 2 and 6. I realize that 10 may seem a little late for breakfast, but that's when I get hungry so I've just adapted to it. Lunch is usually more of a light snack, if at all and I very often skip it all together. But there is just something about dinner at 6 that sets my world aright. If the rest of the day falls apart at the seams, if I have dinner at 6 it's like a reset and I can finish the day in peace. I also have set times for when I do daily tasks, with my "work day", so to speak, ending around 4. If I haven't already done so I'll prep for dinner and take some time to read or maybe listen to a podcast. I like a LOT of margin in my life because it allows me to be flexible. After dinner, I'll shower, change into something comfy and then the rest of the evening is open and free for enjoying my favorite things, like watching old movies, cross stitching, or crocheting. Usually, some time around 9:00 or 10:00 my head will being to nod and that's my signal it is time for my evening routine and bed. Every now and then I'll actually believe I might get on my computer for a bit or even watch another movie, but realistically that never happens.

Rhythm Of the Week
Much like my daily rhythm, my weeks don't always go as planned, and that's ok! Remember, I said I like a LOT of margin! But when things run smoothly every day has its task. I have assigned rooms for cleaning each day, and then on Friday's I'll give it all a quick touch up to carry us through the weekend. I'm a homebody and I don't like to get out much, but my daughter is a social butterfly and gets antsy sitting at home, so we try to find the balance. But left to my own, I would get out once, **maybe** twice a week, typically Wednesday and Friday I like running errands in the middle of the week and then once again before the weekend because I prefer not to get out at all on Saturday and Sunday, unless there's a special event going on. Weekends are just too busy and I hate traffic. For many years Sunday was my sabbath, but recently I switched that to Saturday. In all honesty they probably both count, because observing the sabbath for me is primarily only doing things that bring me joy. That means that I might still cook a meal (though usually in the crock pot), or bake, or go to a coffee shop. It's different every weekend and I'm not rigid about it, which for me is the whole point. 

Rhythm of the Month
If you've been around here for very long you know that I love living seasonally and any reason to celebrate, even small, silly, things. Realistically that usually means that once or twice a month I'll bake something special, watch a movie that we only always watch in (insert month here), or something along those lines. I usually sit down at the end of each month and look ahead to the next and plan out a few fun things to do. Sometimes they happen, sometimes they don't.  This month we celebrated the Autumn Equinox with our traditional serving of Frito Pie. In years past we've watched October Sky, but this year I'm bumping that to October 4 which is the day that Sputnik was launched, a key element in the story. It was also my paternal grandmother's birthday, so that makes it equally special. This year we didn't watch a movie, my daughter is currently re-watching a series from her childhood so I joined her for a couple of episodes. But the Frito Pie remained stable and grounded us in tradition, and that was enough.

Rhythm of the Year
The rhythm of the year are for those special occasions that happen annually, like birthdays, anniversaries,  and of course the holidays. In our home we also celebrate the solstices in summer and winter and the equinox in spring and autumn. For me personally, that also means  observing The Year of the Lord, including Advent in late November leading up to Christmas, and Lent in late winter leading up to Easter.  There are other feast days spread throughout the year as well, such as Saint Nicholas Day in early December, and one of my favorites, which is actually tomorrow, Michaelmas, or The Feast of the Archangels. As with everything, I often have grand ambitions for observing more of these holy days, but the reality is that most of the time they get overlooked. I used to beat myself up over it, but these days I consider it a celebration if I acknowledge it before it slips by. This is an area I'd like to improve in over the coming year, so we'll see how it goes.

Rhythm of the Seasons
And then of course, there is the natural flow of the seasons and all the wonderful reasons to love and to celebrate each one. Autumn and winter are my favorite seasons! I look forward every year to when the markets will put out their grand displays of mums and pumpkins. I start looking early for just the right one, preferably with a long stem! We bought our pumpkins for the season last weekend, and then I'll probably pick up a few more closer to the end of October to keep through Thanksgiving.  I love winter for the cozy setting in ushers in, and the instinctive desire to hibernate! My late autumn and winter wardrobe is my favorite, all my sweaters, and socks and my boots! Typically in Virginia we will see snow a couple of times during the season, sometimes just flurries and sometimes 16", you never know.  I've lived here long enough now to know that if the storm comes up from south and we're lucky, it just might stretch far enough into Virginia to pack a punch. It's one of the reasons I'd love to live a little closer to the Tennessee border, which sees a lot more snow.

Another way I celebrate the seasons is with the observance of Ember Days. Ember Days are part of the observance of The Year of the Lord, though for whatever reason I don't hear many people speak of them. I first learned about them about ten years ago and something about it just resonated with me. The Ember days are observed for three days, four times a year and is a time to focus on God through His marvelous creation. My observance typically includes a time of prayer and fasting, spending time in nature, and concludes on the last day, which is always Saturday, with a special meal.  We just concluded the autumn ember days, and while my observance this year was little low key, it was beautiful just the same.  The winter rotation, or Advent Embertide, is coming up on December 15, 17 and 18 and is actually considered the first rotation in the Year of the Lord which begins on the first day of Advent. I've never shared about how I observe these days here in this space, partly because it includes fasting and that is something that I like to keep private. But it isn't a sin to encourage others to consider this spiritual practice, so I think I will. If you're not familiar with the Ember Days and that sounds intriguing, then be on the lookout for future posts.

So there you have it. and before this post turns into a short story, I'll wrap this up here. Rhythm is the melody that carries the song of life, but it requires stillness and quiet to hear it. But like any sweet melody, once you have heard it, you never want it to end. It is a challenge for sure, especially in this day and age, with all-the-noise that fills our days. I encourage you to set aside some time to find it. Your rhythm will obviously look different than mine, but the song will be just as sweet! Rhythm grounds me. It brings order in the midst of chaos, it calms and stills me. It is an anchor in the swelling sea of life. It was founded by God from the beginning of time, and it exists for those who seek it.

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