Falling into Routine—a Meditation on Oncoming Autumn

Fall is arriving (don’t let the 96 degree days fool you). And with back to school—both as a parent and teacher—the long languid days of summer are being asked to wake up, get out of bed, put on real clothes and even (sigh) shoes, and step into the new routines. It’s been a tough transition for me, smoother for my son (always an up-with-the-sun Leo at heart)—but it’s also been nice in a way, in the way that shifting seasons are.

Excitement with the new. New smells and sensations in the air, new habits and expectations, new classes and students, new weather patterns and shades of light; the golden light of fall and the crisp air are slowly, slowly sidling in. (Although I think I’d be in a much more fall-ready mood if these damn 95-degree days would sidle on out already. I don’t have AC; it shows.)

Today Virgo season begins—time to get organized, to start the harvest, to separate the wheat from the chaff. But to be perfectly honest: I’m not there yet. I am very slowly rolling from summer into fall, dragging my feet—doing (just) what needs to be done, sometimes just barely. And, as I write this, I’m deciding, I’m making the choice, to be okay with that.

In general, regardless of the time of year, it takes me a long time to fall asleep at night and a long time to wake up in the morning. I need time to transition. So it is with seasons, it seems.

So, here is the routine I’ve half fallen into, half deliberately chosen:

I wake up with my child (re: am woken up by my child, after he’s already had breakfast and gotten himself dressed). I have a cup of coffee as I help him finish getting ready, then outside with him, watching him ride off to school alone on his bike (fight back the tears at how grown and independent he is; it’s getting easier). I sit or lie down for awhile to read, finish my coffee. Sometimes (often), I fall back asleep. (I am working on allowing this, doing it without guilt or shame. My body is tired.) I wake up, have another coffee or tea. I give an offering on my altar. Light a candle.

Then, I dance. One to two songs. I don’t try to look good. I dance as movement, as a dog shaking its sleepy muscles, as a conversation with my body. I move in any ways that feel good, that feel right. That often look ugly but feel like a stretch of my hip, a waking of my spine, a shaking off of stress and sleepiness and languid summer.

Some days at this point I go to teach. If not, I write. I work on my novel. Or I work on this blog. Or I journal. I am trying to separate the wheat from the chaff. Figuring out what, beyond my paying work, I want to put my time and energy, myself, into. Not everything can be done. Not right now. Not in this lifetime.

The novel I am sure of. I will write it. I will bring it into the world. It is a slow and sometimes arduous process. It is never going as fast as I wish it would. Still, I write.

There is a pull, still, toward building a group, a class, a circle, for womxn and femmes on creativity—creativity and our erotic power—something like this. I dredge down deep in myself for it. I am deeply afraid of teaching it. All the voices of doubt and shame come up when I think about teaching it. That probably means I need to teach it. That is probably exactly why I need to teach it. I am working towards it still. I am building my courage.

Other things have fallen away. I turned down some teaching opportunities because they underpaid. It would have been nice to have more income. But it felt important to say no, thank you. Because I deserve more. A lot of voices came up with that too. It was (is) hard, and scary. And again, that is perhaps why it felt so right.

I write for at least one 25-minute session. Sometimes two. That mostly depends on my teaching schedule. In the spring, in one to two sessions (with some puttering and thinking between, before, and after) would usually get me to my word count. It’s been falling a little short recently. I’m rebuilding my stamina and back up to my word count. I like to use both timed sessions and word counts as motivators. Then I can usually give myself credit for one or the other at least.

So, after I write or journal or work on my courage to do the things I want to do and say no to the things I don’t, well, I eat lunch. This is important. There were times I forgot about my body. I was too busy, or too depressed, or too anxious to eat, to eat well. Now I eat. I eat real meals. My conversation with my body is a priority.

Often in the afternoons I have classes to teach, or clients to see, meetings to attend. I have class prep, emails, administrative tasks for the business to catch up on. My mornings are for me. My afternoons for giving. I need that balance of introversion and extroversion. It has taken me many years to learn this—and to give it its credit. (And to be able to build my work and schedule around it.)

I am not really exercising. I’d like to add that to my intentions, at least walking. In the summer I was swimming laps. I never liked swimming much; I came to like it a lot. Maybe I can work in swimming again. Always building and rebuilding routines.

My son comes home from school. We hang out. He plays video games for a bit. This is the first year he’s had screentime on school days. His school days are long now, and so he has no homework. He plays sports after school and gets home in the early evening. Still, sometimes I feel guilty for letting him play, and then I see how it relaxes him, makes him happy. He gets 30 minutes. Then he reads, then we play. The routine settles us both. There is predictability, consistency. For my child, at least, this is the surest way for him to feel calm and happy, and to do what he needs to do. It took me many years to learn this too. Often I forget.

I am making dinner again, sometimes he helps. I stop making dinner often in the summer. It is so hot. And my son is usually with his father. It is strange and lonely sometimes to cook for one. But mostly it is hot. I eat cold food. Salads. Cheese and meats and bread and olives. But cooking again in the fall, for my family, feels good. I forget how grounding it is to work with food, to prepare and chop and mix and smell, to stir a pot. It is very, very good for me.

I think this is how gardening would feel if I could ever get into the habit. Next year, always next year.

We eat together. He is always done before me, but for a few minutes I can tie him to one place, we can talk. (If I let him drive the conversation. Otherwise I mostly talk to his one-word answers. Every year, every day is a new learning how to be a parent to a new, older child.)

My son goes to bed. I try to avoid screens. It was throwing off my sleep. This is usually when I clean. Cleaning is sometimes a pain the ass but also something I’ve found very meditative the past few years. I stretch, roll out my back, massage my feet on a golf ball (it’s amazing; I sleep so much better when I do). Try to get back in touch with my body before bed.

Sometimes I write by hand. I read, again. Often too late. Then I fall asleep. (Tomorrow, I will probably fall asleep during my morning read. This may not be the best way to sleep, but for now, it is working. It feels like a mix, between summer and fall, a compromise.)

And that is where I feel I live right now. A compromise, between the wild ripeness and freedom of summer, the heat and viscous days—and the arriving crisp and decay, the sorting and sifting and organizing of my minutes and my plans, into something to be baked or jarred, something to sustain me through winter.

Thus, a season folds and unfolds into new. Welcome, fall.

Note: After writing this I had some doubtful thoughts about it. Like, is this useful to anyone? Does anyone care about my day-to-day, especially all this stuff with my son. And then I had some more thoughts about it. And I think one of the things my writing is always trying to do on some level, is engage and perhaps legitimize the “domestic” and/or “feminine” space and experience. A place for women. a place for people of color, who’ve been asked/expected/forced to do the labor of this field (mostly without pay and always without value) for millennia. This experience I’ve always been told was not capital L Literary. Was not capital L Labor. Was not worth being paid for, was not worth talking about. So yes, this post is a bit of a languishing ramble and ode to the dog days, and also an important chronicling and describing of an experience that is valid and valuable, to me, and also that I want to be recognized and valued in the greater world.

Photo by Leon Seierlein on Unsplash