Holy crapsticks. I don’t know about where you are, but here in London it has suddenly turned to autumn like somebody’s just turned out the lights. It is hella cold, and I am woefully unprepared, having realised that I no longer own any tights or suitable shoes.
As a result, I’m wearing trainers and a trench coat everywhere I go. This is not a good look, but I’m styling it out. Promise.
Anyway, fashion disasters aside, I’m consistently thrown at this time of year. I have a real love/hate relationship with autumn. It’s beautiful, and I don’t think there’s anything more holy-hell-I-love-my-life-refreshing than a strong breeze on a sunny day. That stuff is what life’s about, for me.
But it also makes me kinda inclined to look back. The thing about having those life-affirming moments when the weather’s a certain way means you’re reminded of them every single time that kind of weather reappears. And for me, personally, there are a few big ol’ memories that pop up on these gorgeous autumn days.
One of them is four years ago, when I’d just finished my degree and was at the start of my masters’. I was attached, sharing a lil’ student house with a group of great guys, my then-boyfriend, and apparently around 60% of Birmingham’s slug population. Gotta love student housing. I’d been on crutches for two and a half years at that point, and I’d gained a lot of weight, not helped by the fact that we’d chow down on a Pizza Hut (here’s to 50% off coupons) a couple of times a week.
But for all that, I was doing OK. I was giving my MPhil my best shot, sticking my immobiliser braces on both knees each day, necking enough painkillers to knock out a Shetland pony, and hobbling down to the library. It was a ten minute walk away, but on crutches, it’d take around thirty – and if I had any books to carry, I’d get the bus. But I was “doing OK.”
At the end of the month, I needed to top up my prescription, so I headed on over to my GP’s office, and mentioned a pain I’d been having in my foot while I was there. Being new and (rightly) overzealous, she wouldn’t prescribe me as many pills as the previous doc without a referral – so I had to go back to my surgeon to get another scan.
The scan showed I’d managed to break my heel bone without realising. The weight I was carrying, combined with the way I was walking, had caused a series of stress fractures so sharp, I’d have to stay indoors for the next six weeks. I remember my doc telling me this, and trying to give me a wake-up call that I needed to do something about it – but I wasn’t really listening, because I was so relieved that I’d definitely get another prescription.
Yuh-huh. I didn’t get it.
So I stayed home, rested, and gave myself a codeine-headache and have to be sick every morning – because when you’re overusing painkillers, that happens. It ain’t good. And as my relationship started to fall apart, slowly and painfully, I had probably the most depressing autumn of my life.
That’s one of the memories that pops up on breezy autumn days.
Head forward a year, and I’d been clean for three and a half months. I’d been at the gym for about three weeks, and I’d started to notice something resembling a change.
Two years, and I’d moved in with one of the most amazing friends I’ve ever had, in a little house with no central heating but plenty of tea, red wine and knitwear to keep us warm. We’d get up in the morning, and sing along to cheesy music in her Figaro on the way to work, and it was amazing.
Three years, and I’d started this blog. I’d lost a hundred pounds, and I’d just appeared in the Huffington Post. I’d get up in the morning, do yoga, go to work, get home, hit the gym, write, and go to bed – and I was blissfully, embarrassingly happy. This time last year was one of the high points of being me.
And now, it’s autumn again. But the thing is, every year I have to remind myself that things can be good – because my tendency to get all reflective at this time of year can lead me down the path to cake and Radiohead. Both good things, but not all that conducive to my emotional wellbeing when I’m feeling a little chilly and getting rained on in my inappropriate-and-now-slightly-see-through floral dress.
Because that’s the thing about this time of year. It’s a time of transitions, of big ol’ changes – which can be difficult to deal with if you’re not in the right headspace for it. But if I’ve learned anything, it’s that autumn is an amazing time of year to make changes happen.
Those cool breezes are a chance to blow away the cobwebs, and live wholeheartedly in the moment. They’re also a great reason to treat yourself to a nice pair of gloves and a hot cup of coffee, which to my mind is an excellent reason to celebrate.
But it’s a matter of changing your thinking. I spied this, by the amazing Tom Dyer, on Facebook the other day, and I think it really rings true at this time of year:
“If you think you can or think you can’t you’re right either way.” Think about your thoughts and beliefs. Do they match your goals and direction in life that you want to take?
You won’t get what you want or need, you’ll get what you spend the majority of your time thinking about.
Thinking you’re always going to be overweight, then guess what… You’re going to find shifting that weight so much harder.
Thinking that you are going to get stronger, faster, leaner, happier then you’ve set yourself up for success.
Thinking about not being good enough for that work project, then you’ll undersell yourself.
Think you can make a difference in the lives of many and be happy as a result? If that’s what you spend the majority of your time thinking then see what happens.
Once again “If you THINK you CAN or think you can’t you are right either way!”
I’ve said before that you can, and you will, do anything you set out to do. And the whole 30 Days of Good Stuff project was an exercise in just that – proving that you’re probably capable of adjusting your thought process towards happiness, if that’s what you want to do. And that’s what I love about autumn now.
When I look back over the last four years, I’m amazed at what’s changed, and how different every year has been. I do find myself getting a little sad, a little inclined to think back to the old days when I thought I was doing OK, and frankly, a little miserable that it’s no longer picnic season – but it’s a reassuring thought that just because this time of year has been hard before, doesn’t mean it always has to be that way.
It’s a time to change, and a time to appreciate how amazing life can be when you’re really living it.
And with that… I’m off to put the kettle on and enjoy myself a hot cup of tea.