Since ancient times, September has marked the beginning of the real new year, a time for reflection, reconnection, and resolution. When the trees start to don a rustic palette of russets and golds, it’s time to turn over a personal new leaf and begin again, and most importantly, breathe easy.
“What we need in autumn is…an emotional or spiritual shot in the arm,” Katharine Elizabeth Fite wrote in Good Housekeeping in 1949, urging our mothers to dream up positive resolutions. “Why don’t we make the effort that would provide something new in our lives?”
Rediscovering what you love–your authentic passions–always boosts the spirits. I have a friend who has decided to make good on an old promise to herself–she’s signed up for a course in botanical illustration. Another friend is joining a book club. What about you? Would you like to master Thai cooking, or learn how to raise orchids? Speak Italian, or understand the stock market? Throw pots? Study how to date, restore, and conserve Oriental rugs? There’s got to be something new you’d love to do if only you could find the time.
For years, I’ve kept a folder called SOME DAY. It’s filled with ads, brochures, notes to myself, and newspaper clippings, most of them yellowed with age. Reminders of books I want to read, plays I want to see, concerts I want to attend. A script-writing course. A tour to see the pyramids. About once a year I peruse this file, usually in the autumn. I’m continually fascinated by the woman who keeps it. She’s got an insatiable curiosity and myriad interests. So why does she miss opportunities to enjoy herself in the pursuit of a new pleasure or renewal of an old passion? It’s not as if she doesn’t know what she’d do if she ever had the time.
It’s because her life appears to be unmanageable. She cannot call even a few hours a week her own, and she can’t understand why.
If this woman is you, too, don’t despair and don’t put yourself down for discounting your own needs and wants; every woman I know does. Instead, use your newfound awareness to ransom back a small portion of your own life for your soul’s sake.
As women, we don’t put our own needs on our to-do lists. We feel guilty when we divert our attention, time, and presence from those we love. One way to wean yourself from self-neglect is to glance at your calendar while holding a yellow highlighter in your hand. Now block out a two-hour segment each week in the next month. But don’t write down your name. If you do, the moment anyone in your family asks you to do something, your manicure or lunchtime visit to an art exhibit will be out the window. Surrendering our personal time-outs is the path of least resistance. No one makes a fuss when we forego our own plans in order to keep the peace.
The concept of self-nurture is heady stuff–at first, you’ll feel as if you’re engaging in some forbidden pleasure (you are!). So easy does it. I advise this because women are sophisticated self-saboteurs. We do ourselves in–whether it’s with a new diet, exercise strategy, or plan to get organized–because we attempt too much, too soon.
Use some of your highlighted time to be with friends. That is, if you still have any: After six months of not hearing from you, they may think you’ve moved away. So why not organize a potluck supper for next Saturday night or an afternoon of tag-sale browsing?
I believe with all my heart that the desire for more fun and pleasure in our lives is soul-directed. Did you know that there are numerous references in thc Bible instructing us to be joyful? And that other sacred texts tell us that we will be held accountable not for our sins, but for every earthly pleasure we were offered and denied ourselves? I don’t know about you, but I shudder even to think about that reckoning.
It seems to me that January resolutions are all about will: reversing or overcoming the negative. September resolutions are focused on authentic wants, and are as uplifting as taking a late-afternoon walk in the dazzling sunshine. What do you want more of or less of in your life, so that you can love the life you’re leading?
The beauty of autumnal resolutions is that no one knows you’re making them except you. And no one else knows if you’re keeping them either.