(This is a Coaching Moments post from a few autumns ago. It’s still very timely; my son started high school a few weeks ago and my dad celebrates his 85th birthday this month. He had a heart attack a year after I wrote the post, and we’re both still doing the ‘life laundry’ every autumn.)
Pegging out laundry
Damp and fragrant in the sun
She lifts up her face
Listens to the sheets flapping
In the breeze, surrendering
Ready to set sail ~ Janice Hunter
What’s September like where you are? Is it spring? Or has the frazzling heat of August started to fade, leaving you fresher and less floppy? Do you take on new clients, begin new ventures?
September feels like the start of a new year for me, with its promise of exciting new beginnings, classes and semesters. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent most of my life as a student or a teacher or because my birthday falls at the end of August and both my children were born in the autumn. Whatever the reason, this is a time for freshly sharpened pencils, for blank pages and tempting piles of books, something to look forward to on darkening days as the nip of autumn turns into the unexpected bite of winter.
I have a cupboard in the dining room where I store all the Christmas candles, scented oils and festive season bargains bought in the January sales. Wedged at the back are some wooden Shaker hearts, hand-painted a warm, folk art red. They were a free gift with a magazine and I always planned to do something creative with them. Waiting in there, patiently for years, they’ve soaked up the fragrance of cinnamon, apple and spice. If I’m ever saddened by the fading brightness of autumn, or tempted to see it as a season of loss rather than a time of fruitful abundance, I furtively open those doors and inhale the excitement of another season nestled within, like Russian dolls.
As evolving souls in human bodies, we’re meant to grow, to feel the seasons, to surrender to the beauty of each one – but like many people, I’m not very good at letting go. My daughter started high school a few weeks ago and I spent an anxious, distressed day pacing like a caged animal, unable to relax until she burst through the door beaming. My dad is eighty three this month and has started to prepare for a different kind of letting go, sorting through his treasures, putting his life and house in order.
One thing that calms me when the months and years seem to be spinning out of control is to anchor myself in the everyday details of creating a life I love. I try to cultivate gratitude and focus on the people I love, on the things that inspire me and on the thoughts, emotions and details that are within my power to change; then I just do my best to trust the rest to the universe.
Every autumn, I get a craving, an almost visceral nesting instinct to clear out all the debris of an old year. Out go old passions and paradigms, making room for abundance, new experiences, new people and new lessons to flow into my life. Clutter clearing – my own and other people’s – brings me so much pleasure, it should be X-rated. Deciding what to do with every sheet of paper, every object, every garment or piece of fabric is a living, breathing meditation, a tangible way to strengthen my choice muscles and ask some important questions:
- If I had ten minutes to rescue my belongings, would I take this?
- Do I really, really love and need this or am I keeping it ‘just in case it comes in useful’?
- Could someone else get more benefit from this or love it more?
- Am I keeping this just to please someone else? Or because it came from someone I care about ?
- Is this anchoring me in the past when I need to be moving on?
- Is this heartstoppingly beautiful?
- Will the kids be glad I saved this in the attic for them or roll their eyes in years to come and wonder what on earth I was thinking about?
- Does this object exude positive, empowering energy?
- What does it say about me? And do I like what it says about me?
- Does it symbolise a value, something good, something precious?
- Do I spend more time dusting souvenirs than I do making memories?
Every time I shred paper and clear out my clutter, my coaching and poetry get better, the house becomes more spacious and easier to clean, we all have more energy… and I lose weight! As well as space and energy, a cathartic clean-out also frees up time and money. A few weeks ago, we had a family holiday in a small, white cottage by a sea loch; it was funded entirely by what we’d earned from family car-boot sales and by what we’d saved by recycling and re-organising.
What could you let go of this autumn to prepare the ground for the seeds of a new season?