The end of summer and the arrival of autumn brings up a mix of emotions in both parents and their children. Back to school is exciting, a new start. But it also means the end of summer and the beginning of the flurry of activity – schedules, calendars, multitasking. This month, Colorado FACES coordinator and parent Ivy Scherbarth and PPMD President Pat Furlong take on the change of seasons in different ways, but come to the same overall conclusion... Fall is about beginnings and savoring moments.
What does Autumn mean to you and your family? Please share!
For some strange reason, even to this day, I think of the lazy days of summer, the days of rest, the days when life is different somehow: when fresh tomatoes mixed with fresh basil and ice tea make sense, seem appropriate, almost necessary. I think back on the days of summer, the days I spent – a little girl then – in Michigan riding horses, swimming in the lake, staying up to all hours talking and giggling with friends. I think of summers when Jenny, Michelle, Chris, and Patrick were home. The days we played as if we didn’t have a care in the world. Lazy days of staying up late and morning arriving around 10am. The days of friends coming in and going out, as if our front door was revolving. Those lovely, wonderful days that seem so long ago.
But I may have missed something in between. What happened? The thought that summer is slow, the days, the hours of long days and endless daylight, with no schedules and maybe fewer house rules. No ‘be in at this time’, ‘finish your homework’, ‘study for your Latin test’, ‘no TV after 9’. Somewhere in that past life, summer lasted three months. Three full months: Memorial Day through Labor Day.
But, summer does not seem quite the hazy, lazy days painted on the walls of my memory. Summer is short, too short in my book. School continues in some places late into June. Kids return to school in August, before summer has had time to wind down, to appropriately shorten the long daylight hours, seemingly before we are all ready to dive back in. And dive we do.
And it’s not just school, it’s all the rest that accompanies it.
Fall. I think Judaism has it right. I think Fall should actually be considered the New Year. School begins. Congress returns. Daylight hours change. And something happens to all of us. We are motivated perhaps, focused definitely, our list of ‘to dos’ in hand, our lives now ruled by times and calendars. We have less time at home and more time in the car. We have less time with our children and more time to think, to worry, to manage the schedule.
As the flowers begin to fade and the trees prepare to sleep, we change our shoes, from flip-flops to sneakers to proper shoes and the year begins. And life seems to start all over again.
Happy New Year.
Pat Furlong is the Founder and President of Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy. Follow Pat at her blog.
It is the time of year in my house when we feel like we are going insane. I worry about having a heart attack. I sort of fantasize about lying in my hospital bed, post heart attack, because that is when I will actually get a chance to rest. It's back-to-school time. This is the time of year when we give up our own rhythms, established over a lovely, quiet summer full of unstructured time for dreaming and play. Over the summer, with school out of session and many of our usual therapies in abeyance for the season, we have the time to enjoy the luxury-necessity of rest. This, however, the end of the summer, is the time of year when we submit body and soul to The Schedule.
In my soul I know that living my life in a breathless sprint like this is wrong. I know that, for me, it is not sane. It is not healthy or sustainable. And yet I feel compelled.
I feel compelled to send my kids to school. I feel compelled to participate. I feel compelled to be on time. I feel compelled to hurry. I feel compelled to stuff my feelings deep down inside because I don't have time for feeling things right now. I feel compelled to pretend to be ok with the idea of pretending to be an extrovert for the next ten months straight. I feel compelled to sleep less even though I know I need more. I feel compelled to stay indoors and get stuff done even though I know how brief these warm days really are. I feel compelled to work harder. I feel compelled to pretend that it isn't my dearest wish to sprout wings and fly off into the south with the wild geese that call to me each morning at dawn as they fly low over my life, taunting me with their joyful voices full of freedom.
I feel compelled to "not notice" when people are staring at my son. I feel compelled to pretend to him that I really think they are staring at his wheelchair enviously, that they are really thinking to themselves "What a sweet ride. Wish I had one like that." I feel compelled to dress well since I know that they'll be staring. I feel compelled to affirm to myself that I am actually the coolest person around, which is the real reason why they are staring at me. I feel compelled to make up unflattering stories about them in my head. I feel compelled to remind myself that they'll stop staring once they get used to seeing us every day, once their schedules have ground them down. Once their kids are sick and the bills and due and they're late for school and they forgot to do their homework and they didn't pack a good lunch today, then they won't be staring at us anymore. They'll be staring at the ground, trying to get back inside before they have too much snow in their hair, trying to keep up with their own insanity.
Why? My inner self wails. (Sometimes my inner self gets kinda whiny.) Why do we live this way when we know the deeper truth? We know that, in the end, no one lies on their deathbed and says to beloved friends and family members, "I am so glad that I spent all that time driving between appointments. Those appointments, that traffic, being on time and all that-- that gave real meaning to my life. Thank goodness I didn't waste any of my time in play, in rest or contemplation. Thank goodness I didn't have to pay any attention to the zen beauty and awe of nature or human love."
This is when some sensible people talk about balance. We should be taking little breaks from the craziness each day: five minutes for myself in the morning, five minutes to kiss my kids goodnight, five minutes to do some yoga or take a walk. I want to scream that that isn't good enough! It should be the other way around! Maybe we could afford to take five minutes of Schedule in the midst of a life of total immersion in love, beauty, and peace. But actually, when I put it that way, even five minutes given over to something that isn't beauty or peace or love seems like an unacceptable amount of time.
This is when some romantic people talk about doing all the stuff you have to do in a spirit of peace, beauty, and love. Drive across town in peace/beauty/love. Sit serenely through your dentist appointment in perfect love/beauty/peace. Go to Walmart totally enveloped and radiating beauty/love/peace to all beings.
Perhaps I have missed something here.
Instead of a straightforward practice of deeply incorporating and appreciating and soaking into our truest truths despite the chaos, I wonder if we could get there from the other direction. Instead of solving the problem of too much too muchness, I wonder what would happen if I stopped fighting the insanity and just went all the way insane. What if instead of trying to be Zen-romantic or Zen-sensible, we were to go Viking-crazy? You know, the kind of joyful insanity that shouts, "Eat, Drink, and Be Merry for Tomorrow We Die!" I suppose that we could ride the tide, rather than be the ocean, and still reach our ultimate shore with the sense of a well-lived life. I guess I could laugh my way to school, to that appointment, to the quick lunch on the fly, to the piano lesson, to the errands, to PT, to dance class, to the dinner that I had better have made this morning in the crock pot, to the bath, to bed, to the dishes, to collapse, to doing it all again tomorrow. Maybe it's worth a try. Bring on the insanity! A toast to Ragnarok! Why the h--- not? After all, like the geese, like summer, like life itself, this insanity too shall pass. Ha! Ha, HA! And Ha again!
Ivy Scherbarth is a Colorado/Wyoming FACES Coordinator for PPMD. Follow Ivy at her blog, Living Duchenne.
Pat Furlong, Founding President, CEO
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