from 10.3.22 newsletter
Welcome to October - I hope these first few days have been kind to you.
I considered putting this out over the weekend since the first of the month was Saturday, but weekend work rarely feels gratifying for me. I also considered talking at length about Samhain, Halloween, and Día de los Muertos, but as some of you know, my father died on Halloween in 2014 and this year I have decided to acknowledge that as a separate, extra newsletter at the end of this month. I will chat at length about mourning, death positivity, and the significance of celebrating and honoring our dead around this time of year. (Don’t worry y’all, you will still get all that witchy death-centric stuff you’ve come to expect from me over the years)
I should also offer this caveat for the body of this newsletter: I live in Ohio, in the US, in the northern hemisphere. I am told we experience all four seasons here (though it sure feels like more than that), which means that I am currently sitting in a lovely autumn leaf-scape in my little sub-rural town. This might not be the case for those of you in other countries or even other states. I believe you will still find merit in my fall-musings, but if you’re interested in following your local seasonal shifts, look into the seasons in your own geographic location.
In September, I spoke about late summer and transition, but now we find ourselves fully in the crisp fallen leaves and cool air of autumn. This is a time to begin the turn inward for reflection and to reach outward for connection. A time for getting to the deep work and the final harvests, much like a squirrel or bear gathering food for their long hibernation.
I find myself energized by the thought of wrapping up loose ends on projects I started this spring and beginning work on projects that are a little more closed off to others. I will still be working on things like Tales From Niveen and my blog/social media creative writing, but it naturally feels like the time has come to work on something quietly, secretly, and solo. Something I’d like to hold close during the cold months and bring forward for others in the spring or later. Maybe you can relate or maybe you haven’t considered that option for yourself yet.
Whether it has been the absolute never-ending grind, the nonstop roadblocks and barriers to work over the last six months, and/or the natural shifting of the seasons: I. Am. Tired.
I am burnt out.
I am creatively dry.
And I keep convincing myself that it’s not okay to take time. That it’s not okay to miss or shift self-imposed deadlines or to just stop and rest completely.
While it can be incredibly beneficial and rewarding to persist and power through a rough spell in our “work” I don’t believe now is the time. We have collectively been through two years of pandemic-related trauma and countless years of political turmoil that often feels as though it has reached its boiling point and spilled over. Our bodies are tired. Our minds are tired. Our communities are tired. It’s time to wrap up work on some things, even if they aren’t near completion, and REST. It’s the season for it.
Yet, that is completely the opposite of how we have structured our work schedules. Students and teachers are preparing for the long stretch of holiday-disrupted fall semesters that require stamina beyond belief. Many of us are preparing for family gatherings for the holiday season, which would be fine if those preparations didn’t hinge on a ridiculous amount of hard work, overspending/reckless and unsustainable consumerism, and inflexible social expectations.
Many of us do find ways to go inward in the fall and winter even in the midst of constant demands, but so much of the deep, internal work and time for rest and creativity gets stifled by the buzzing grind of it all.
We can’t all stop working (we can, but we won’t), so how do we observe the necessary boundaries to ensure we are able to close out what we need to before the sun reaches its farthest point away from us and blankets us in the dark months of snow and chill?
I think the answer lies in perspective and communication. I believe myself to be entering a period of rest, so I am communicating that to the people around me. I am inviting them to participate in this time of deep work with me, so we can all reach a moment of rest as the days grow shortest.
I am scheduling longer work days, but maintaining a firmer boundary when the clock hits 7pm to ensure a proper cut off. If you spend extra time at work or on your projects outside of your scheduled times, stop. This is a time to make that boundary clearer than ever.
I am also shifting to incorporate more low-effort social activities into my schedule. It makes sense when we examine why fall kicks off the holiday season (a time well-known for big family gatherings and social events) - when it’s cold and weather becomes less comfortable, we move indoors and closer to each other. Warmth comes from the meals we share, the blankets we sit under while we binge (or solo-binge) all the movies, and the people we can count on to hold us during the darkness. We can hold space for individual reflection and community connection simultaneously, but we can only hold that space when we put a boundary on the hard work that has carried us from the end of winter to the end of summer. This makes possible that the chilly months are reserved for restfulness.
Our capitalist focus on increased productivity through the winter months does real damage to many people. Unfortunately, the fall and winter months are also a time of seasonal depression, increased financial stress, demanding school and work obligations, uncomfortable and obligatory interactions with families that may be abusive or harmful. All the more reason to find ways to ask less of yourself and others during this time.
I have several teachers who read this newsletter: how can you reduce homework assignments or build in optional work for your students, so they have more time for the inflexible parts of their lives? If you rely on regular homework to make sure your students “get it” or to measure their grade, what’s missing from the course or class itself to make homework so mandatory? (Also check out gradeless classes, where students and teachers prioritize feedback over grades in class. It can be incredibly potent for increasing students’ learning and engagement and also helps transform the authoritative and controlling environment of many classrooms into something more collaborative. You can also utilize reciprocal feedback with each student to help determine the “on paper” grade that you will likely be obligated to report to your school or institution. There are a wealth of resources out there, just google “gradeless class”)
Freelancers/Project-based self-employers: What projects can you pause or reject? If you don’t have the space or luxury to say no to income, are you able to set firm boundaries around your work hours, the urgency of your responses (maybe set an email signature that explains you may take longer to respond to inquiries right now), or the scope of the tasks you are expected to complete?
Parents: What a great time to enroll the kids in all the sports and activities, yeah? Well… not if your kid doesn’t want to. Let things be optional, especially if you have teenagers. They need to sleep, y’all. Like…a LOT. Science says so. They also need afternoons and evenings where they can choose to do something or nothing at all. Let them be. Let them choose. You’ll also likely have more time now that you aren’t carting the kids off to 20,000 things every day. (Let the teens ride the dang bus or drive themselves! I promise it’s going to be okay.)
ARTISTS/WRITERS: You need time to do absolutely nothing. Nothing nothing nothing. Where do you think the art comes from, burning yourself out? No! You need to ramble through the woods, sit by a pond, and let the muses wack you in the head with a tree branch of inspiration when they’re ready. (This is my advice to you 365 days a year, but if you don’t already do this, now is a great time to start)
Now is the time for deep work. Now is the time for increased boundaries around work. Now is the time to start moving inward for reflection and outward for low-effort connection with your loved ones.
Take several breaths. Imagine what your life would look like if you wrap up the projects, set more time aside, and actually enjoy your rest. Feel free to tell me all about it (new subscribers, did you know you can reply to these emails?)
Happy Autumn. Happy October.
See you on Halloween and then in November for a couple back-to-back newsletters.
xoxo (gossip girl),