i was reading recently about how fall is a natural time of reflection because of the nature of the season: autumn marks the end of summer and the period of winding down before winter. days grow shorter and cooler but it’s not winter yet, it’s a transitional period between hot and cold. it was a simple notion but it stuck with me. every fall i tend to write something about just how “in it” i am, and by “it” i mean my head. the months gone by always creep up on me when fall hits and i never escape the need to look back at months and years gone by.
so here it is october and again i am feeling very in it. it’s been almost a year since i had a baby, exactly one year to the day since my last day of work, and i have been tripping over that a lot lately. i went on maternity leave expecting a few weeks or short months off and suddenly a year is gone. today was the first really rainy, cooler day of the season. things feel slow, and i definitely have a feeling of “now what?”
mercury is currently retrograde, which gets a really bad rap in a pop-culture sort of blame-everything-on-mercury-retrograde sort of way. but it’s interesting to me when mercury goes retrograde in the fall or winter, because i always feel a particular kind of “in it”ness when this occurs. mercury retrograde is typically a pretty slow period. the phone doesn’t ring as much, and yes, electronics can go wacky and freeze up. things just don’t really gel or stick during this time. mis-communication happens in literal and metaphoric ways. it’s always a time for reflection, in part because you can’t really get a hold of or get your point across to anyone. but that paired with the shifting of the season, the winding down of the year, it hits pretty hard.
i’ve been thinking a lot about failures lately. there seems to be a running movie of all of my life’s failures playing in my head these days. it has a lot to do with leaving my job and not really being able to get another one, at least not with the company that i worked for for 12 years prior to having a baby. i’ve also run into a lot of frustrating challenges with my son that make me feel like a less than stellar mother. i’ve been pretty steeped in regret and shame over my life.
i’ve always been a person that spends a fair amount of time mulling over the past. whether it be my childhood or last month, i’m not a person that moves on and forgets easily. people and places make indelible impressions on me. i tend to recall more good than bad, because that’s kind of how the whole nostalgia thing works. but lately, it’s the bad that haunts me. all of the mistakes and missteps. i wonder lately if i made the wrong choices. doors that were once wide open seem to be permanently shut. there is a groundless feeling that i can’t seem to shake lately.
i’ve been thinking about 5 years ago, in the fall and early winter when i lived outside of santa fe new mexico. it was another time in my life where i felt groundless, directionless, unsure of where to go. i read a book there called the tibetan art of positive thinking by christopher hansard. it made a pretty big impression on me. the book is filled with a lot of meditations, but there is one in particular that i’ve been thinking about lately. the instruction is to meditate on all of the failures of your life. go through them all, anything that comes to you. and then give thanks for them. i remember this was pretty difficult to do. sitting with all of that was not easy. it’s the western way to shut out whatever is painful or to look away from whatever is hard to see. it took me a while to be able to do it, fully. but i remember how sort of freeing it was when it was over. facing down all of it and letting it be there, all of the failures of my life and all of the negative feelings that came with those failures. this is an example of how meditation is a practice, for life. to learn to sit with the failure and not look away. to learn to not leave.
i can’t say that i’ve been able to sit with these old failures lately. i think probably that they are creeping into my mind because there is something to look at there that i don’t really want to see. but i’m not blind to synchronicity. you see, the other day i happened upon this great piece by martha beck about failure, and she happened to quote one of my favorite poems by one of my favorite poets, antonio machado:
“Last night as I was sleeping
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures”
i think perhaps this mercury retrograde autumnal shift is precisely the sort of forced reflection that i need. doors may be closed, and this may be the time to honor them all and let them all go. so here is to sitting with the slow season, until the next one comes around.