How to be in season

On one of our daily walks last week, I realized suddenly that the wildly-colored trees Dana was pointing out weren’t flukes.

In other words, it wasn’t that a few outlier trees had begun to change and I happened to be catching the beginning of something special.

It’s actually everywhere.

Autumn (in the Northern Hemisphere) is a thing that’s happening now.

It’s well underway.

I’m trying to notice more, not because I’m not naturally observant (I am), but because I have a tendency to really sink into a season just as it’s being traded in for the next one. This is a desperately nostalgic way to live—and nostalgia is fine, good even, in the right places and doses; but when it comes to living my life, I want to be all in, right now. Full-on presence is my ultimate objective.

Anyway, herewith are a few tips I’ve noodled on to help myself realize the right-now-time of my existence. Take any that resonate and apply liberally.

Make a list of fall flavors. I’m not talking pumpkin spice, unless it’s your thing. (It’s not my thing.) What I’m thinking about are those more timeless, pre-Starbucks flavors. The fall flavors of my childhood and young adulthood. The flavors that have specific memories linked to them.

I’m making my list, then I’m scheming up ways to get a taste of each one between now and December 1st (when I might allow holiday flavors to take over).

  • Apple cider—pick up a hot cup roadside while driving up to Door County on a Saturday.

  • Apple cinnamon—try my hand at these baked apples.

  • Cranberry—American Thanksgiving is right around the corner and that’s when I get my fill of cranberries for the year.

  • Pecan—again, Thanksgiving’s got me covered here.

  • Maple—pick up some local syrup and add it to my morning oatmeal…maybe with some sliced apples and cinnamon, too.

  • Pear—I’m not a big fan of salads in winter, but I can absolutely get on board with a fall salad like this one; I’ll get it on the meal plan for next week.

  • Brown butter—I’ll ask my mom for her recipe for ravioli with brown butter—and sage!—and kill two birds with one stone; after a cold week, it’ll be the perfect Friday night dinner.

  • Sage

  • Cloves—maybe it’s time for another batch of homemade Masala chai?

  • Butternut squash—an easy soup to make and pair with crusty bread for lunch this week.

Bring out favorite fall accessories and hang them where they’re accessible. I’m a scarf person. Well, I used to be a scarf person. Back before we lived in the motorhome, when I had my own little apartment and a way of storing and displaying my accessories that made me more inclined to pick them up and wear them—rather than look at them longingly through a clear plastic tote.

This month, I’m picking out the scarves and handbags that scream “Fall!” and hanging them up on the pegs behind my closet door—so that when I’m getting dressed, I can pull from the colors and textures of the season. Plum-colored messenger bag? Check. Jewel-toned hand-knitted infinity scarf? Check. Olive green jacket with military detailing? Check.

Collect fallen leaves and make a temporary garland. I did this last year with just a single pass through City Park, a few blocks away. In ten minutes, I collected enough bright red leaves to make a garland for the double windows in the dining room and for the little window-paneled door in my office. And all I needed were about two pockets’ worth of leaves and a couple lengths of baker’s twine. Once hung, it was especially curious to watch the leaves go from hanging straight and curled and crunchy, all in the span of a few weeks. Because I attached them to the twine by their stems, the leaves actually retained their brilliant colors through the early winter, when I finally took them down and replaced them with snowflake-themed banners and bottle-brush trees.

Anyway, I’m making a new leaf garland this year, to hang from a light fixture (in a golden palette—should look great with all that light hitting it), and this week’s my week! Leaves are falling like crazy.

And if you’re going to look ahead... It’s tempting for me to look ahead, to plan and plot and figure out what’s next and what it’ll look like and how to prepare for it. But then I lose sight of the only thing I actually have, the only time I’m actually assured of: right now. In the coming weeks, I’ll be using some of what I’ve written above to remind me of this moment, to bring me back to it, and to settle the part of me that’s trying to live out tomorrow or that’s clawing ahead to next year.

The other thing I’ll be using is a little strategy I’ve cooked up just recently: When I want to think future, I’m allowed to think future—but only if I’m willing to start those plans now. For example, what fall traditions do I want to create for myself and my family? Do I want next fall to feel differently, or to have some added element? Great! I’ll begin incorporating it into my life now. This now-ness eliminates the tendency to put off what I want or dream about until some future, not-promised-to-me date. Oddly, it also keeps me focused on what’s right in front of me, even as it allows me to envision the future.

All right, friends: Tell me below if you, too, struggle to realize the right-now time of your existence. Does it affect your appreciation of the calendar year, of the seasons? Have you found any helpful methods for grounding yourself in the month at hand? Share in the comments.

What you don't know is waiting for you

Have you given any thought lately to how far you’ve come?

I’ve found that this can be a difficult exercise without photographic proof—so you might want to scroll through your camera roll or wherever you keep your pictures to see what was actually happening this time last year...or the year before...or even five years ago. Pictures tend to really jog our memories in ways that not much else (except maybe for music and smells?) can.

Sure, time goes by fast. There’s no doubt about it. Whether you’re having fun or not, the years that make up adulthood are smaller fractions of your whole existence, so they appear to pass with increasing speed. (Remember how summer stretched out like a lazy cat when you were eight years old?)

But, though it goes fast, so much more happens—we, and our life situations, change in such significant ways—from one year to the next.

So, if you feel stuck right now, if you fear that nothing much changes, or at least not with any real speed, rest assured: In 365 days, you might remember feeling this way (especially if you document it in some way today)...but the feeling itself will be mostly unfamiliar, very likely replaced by a new set of circumstances, challenges, excitements, accomplishments.

And you’ll have done it. You’ll have made that future life for yourself. Crafted it day by day, not knowing exactly how it would unfold, but taking each step forward anyway.

(#tbt to April 22, 2016, moments after we sold our motorhome and before we knew what was next for us. My husband had to help me stuff myself into the passenger seat of our Corolla, and then he drove us east. We had no idea that just two years later, we’d own a sweet little house in Wisconsin, both of us completely self-employed. Big stuff can happen over not big periods of time. Wherever you are in your journey, keep going.)

Psst! What's a Big, "Impossible" Thing, anyway?

Wondering what the heck I mean when I refer to your Big, “Impossible” Thing? Before you go thinking you don’t have one (and you might not—no shame!—but there’s a chance you don’t even realize you have one), let me break it down a little.

What I mean by ‘big’ is this: It’s big to you. Perhaps no one in your life understands it or cares about it or even knows it’s something you dream about doing, having, or being. It’s not BIG because it’s flashy or because it’ll bring about world peace; it’s BIG because it feels like a crucial part of you and your life experience.

Examples: creating sustainable self-employment, writing a book, building an app, producing a show for Netflix, running a marathon, renovating a condo, raising a million dollars for your charity, becoming a school board member, buying an Airstream and traveling full-time, growing a vegetable garden in your backyard, locating your birth parents, planning a solo trip through Europe, setting up a stall at your local antique mall, coming off of hormonal birth control in advance of trying to start a family, asking for a promotion at work, etc.

What I mean by ‘impossible’ is this: You don’t yet have a clue as to how you’ll make it happen. It’s entirely uncharted territory for you. You know people do this thing—it’s not truly impossible in the sense that it absolutely cannot be done—but you can’t quite wrap your head around how it is you'll do it.

Some of the folks I work with don’t have a Big, “Impossible” Thing; instead, they have a series of Small, “Impossible” Things. A handful of smaller-scale pursuits that are unfamiliar and challenging in their own right. They might fall along a singular trajectory, or they might be scattered. (Some folks call this their ‘Bucket List,’ but that’s a little too end-of-life focused for me!)

Does this resonate? Are you realizing, maybe for the first time, that you’ve got a Big, “Impossible” Thing of your own—one that could use some defining and mapping out? Or perhaps your Bucket List continues to grow while few items are getting crossed off. I can help. Comment below, and we’ll work together to give you clarity and strategy.

You're attacking the WHAT when you need to be looking at the WHY

Though I write quite a bit about time—how we value it, relate to it, spend it, and manage it—the coaching work I do one-on-one with clients is much less about WHAT they’re doing with their time, and much more about WHY they’re having trouble with their time.

Probably sounds like I’m splitting hairs, but it’s an important distinction. Let me explain.

Folks who want to achieve something and are struggling to achieve it are typically focused on WHAT’s filling their schedules, WHAT’s standing in the way of their realizing long-held dreams, WHAT time management systems they’ve tried, WHAT time management systems they might still need, etc. They come to me wanting a planner and an enforcer, someone who will tell them WHAT to do, and when; someone who will help them get WHAT they want by helping them to change WHAT they do.

In my experience, the WHAT is a red herring when a client puts it first. Clients see the WHAT as a fixable problem, so they attack it first (with new day planners, new apps, new systems)—because they believe that if they can just make the necessary tweaks in the WHAT realm, everything else will fall into place. My methodology isn’t centered around the WHAT. I mean, sure—that’s definitely part of it, but it’s never the backbone; it’s never the linchpin of our coaching work together.

In my experience, excavating the WHY is the only thing that gets a client closer to what she wants. Even as early as our first conversation together, I help folks to retrain their focus on the WHY: WHY they want to achieve the thing in the first place, WHY they haven’t yet achieved it, WHY they’re choosing other things first, WHY they’re creating a struggle that only looks like a time management issue (but isn’t really one after all).

In every single instance, the WHY goes deeper than the WHAT. And once we understand the root, the core, the heart of the time issue (WHY it’s an issue in the first place), we can examine the WHAT in a more thoughtful and informed way.

If you’re ready to take your eyes off the WHAT for a minute, and to dig into the WHY like never before, email me. You’ll be floored by what we can accomplish together in 90 minutes.

Is your time scarcity actually existential anxiety?

At the core of time scarcity (“There isn’t enough time for me to do everything I need to do!”) is, I suspect, full-on existential anxiety (“Why am I even here? What’s the point of life?”).

If we truly believed that, mysterious as it might be, we‘re ultimately purpose-full just as we are, we‘d realize that we have all the time that we need to do all that we’re meant to do in our lifetime.

Do you believe that, just by existing, you’re purpose-full? Why or why not? Comment below; I’m really curious to know your thoughts.

Three ways to ensure you're living your best life

1. Inquire within as to what the trendy directive “live your best life” even means. And more specifically, what it means to YOU. No sense keeping it a mystery to yourself; vagueness helps no one here.

2. Whenever you start the day uncertain—or, perhaps, despairing—about living this elusive best life, try asking yourself, “What feels like a good, conscious way for me to use my time TODAY?” Ground into the present (which is all that exists; that future best life you’re seeking doesn’t even exist—it’s just an image in your mind, a product of your imagination) and then slow the hell down. Which brings us to...

3. Try TAKING your time instead of MANAGING it. Once you’ve grounded yourself in the present and slowed the hell down, milk this moment on this day for all it’s worth. If you won’t get another today (and I promise you, you won’t—once today’s over and done with, it’s...well, over and done with), how do you need to operate within the sixteen or so waking hours you have? And I’m not talking about maximizing your productivity. I’m talking about answering for yourself questions such as: What matters most right now? Who matters most right now? How can I use my right-now moment within this one today to give and receive the maximum love, satisfaction, healing, creativity, comfort, change, etc.?

Does this resonate with you? If so, I’d love to hear what thoughts it stirs up. Comment below, and let’s jam.

How do YOU value the time you have here?

I often think about time and how we choose to use ours.

I love to read interviews with and profiles on people who are particularly candid about how they establish their priorities in work and in life, and then how they structure their days accordingly. It’s something we all have to do, and yet, it’s not something we’re taught in school (at least, I wasn’t), nor is it something very many folks talk about outside of philosophical discussions and professional development seminars.

So, today I’m wondering: How do you make sure you’re valuing the time you have here?

Do you live by a motto of some sort?

Do you keep a bucket list, or write and revise five- and ten-year plans?

Or, do you pretty much roll with the punches and course-correct where necessary?

I’d love to know, so leave me a comment below.