There is something about the transition from summer to winter that I find crazy beautiful, and the fact that it is temporary and transient forces me to stop and crunch some leaves under my feet.
It’s almost a reminder to slow down and be present.
Summer and winter last a few months, depending on where you’re located, and we can usually count on several weekends of that season’s particular weather and enjoyment of seasonal recreation…. But not fall.
Fall only lasts a few weeks.
At least the fun part only lasts a few weeks. The time when the leaves haven’t yet drifted to the ground, and change color almost overnight. Those colors on the tree outside my window won’t stay that way forever, and they never change the same twice.
I write this with a bit of bitterness-- and of note, a PSL in my hand, AC at 65 and a scarf around my neck-- because we currently live in a desert and are soon moving to a tropical island. My favorite season is nearly non-existent where we are going. I’m soaking in what few autumn sentiments I can while here in the high desert. And last year I drove through aspen country more weekends than not while we still lived in Colorado.
How in the world can I enjoy living in a place too close to the equator for my favorite season to visit?
The irony of my story: in my appreciation of the adaptation and transformation autumn represents, I’ve bitterly defied the very attitude I love so much about this season: I’m not adapting.
I’m not transforming..
I’m not adjusting to my soon-to-be environment.
In fact I’m fighting it!
We take biology in our major…. What happens when a natural being doesn’t adapt to its changing environment? They win a Darwin award and they’re kicked off the genetic island.
As humans we don’t have to think about adapting to our environment, not really. We pretty much have control of our environment to our liking. We can artificially inject our preferences into anything and when anywhere. Thanks to social media we can take our friends with us regardless of geographic location. With AC and heat we can defy the natural environment and control our temperature to our liking. With satellite radio and music apps we can ignore local tradition in sound and talk radio and choose our favorite music, or even listen to our favorite radio station from 3000 miles away!
Not home for your favorite show? No problem, it can record itself.
We kind of miss out on our natural ability to adapt easily, which makes the larger changes much harder to adapt in our lack of regular practice with the skill. Despite our customizable lives we still need to learn the art of adapt and overcome.
I recently took a stroll with this very concept and shunned Facebook for 5 days. (GASP!)
It took me almost back to the 90s—almost because I still had my Instagram and Pinterest accounts up and running.
What happened was actually pretty amazing.
Without Facebook to waste time on for lazy scroll and read, I adapted and actually read a book.
Instead of instant messaging a friend I telephoned her! And we had a way better conversation than over the internet.
Instead of getting lost on many blogs and sites offering to help me write my book, I actually sat down and overcame writers block.
Instead of stopping my husband with an “oh yeah I read that/ saw that too” ( in reference to some article or meme), we actually had a conversation because we hadn’t been exposed to exactly the same environment through our little phone screens.
Though an inconvenience… some wonderful things happened.
Switching over from summer to winter is a type of inconvenience for mother nature as well. I’m sure plants would love for the summer sun and monsoons to continue for eternity. Imagine how much they would thrive! But creatures that have everything they need aren’t so tough are they?
Think of a domestic dog vs a wolf. A domestic dog is given everything it needs. A wolf has to work for or else starve to death. Inconvenience and adversity are not things to shy away from. I type this not only as a hope to motivate you into accepting and overcoming adversity as something to be proud of, but also as a reminder to myself. I’m going to a place where plants thrive on sunshine and light rain year round. Where the weather is always nice and toes don’t freeze off.
Technically, as far as human nature goes, I should be feeling relieved! But as someone who is accustomed to both the challenges and the beauty of harsh weather, I find that I fondly recall overcoming the challenges, and feel nostalgic for the beauty that was always my reward. If you don’t know what I mean here are some examples I can pull from my own life:
- Running in the winter time through snow and ice, just to hear how quiet everything is when no one is out on the road and the snow covered hills absorb every sound. The view from my running route and the feeling of accomplishment still warm my heart.
- The pride I feel after patiently waiting for my husband through two deployments to Afghanistan. It was difficult emotionally, but through the frustration we found a deeper connection with each other, and a new appreciation. I found my independence and a new kind of confidence after being on my own for the first time ever. Despite how hard it was I wouldn’t trade the things I learned.
- Overcoming the emotional devastation of having some awful rumors spread about me regarding a sexual harassment incident back in middle school. This was possible the most influential time of my life. It was embarrassing, it was devastating, and it still hurts. But I learned to stand up for myself, I learned to value myself, and I learned humility. This incident taught me compassion and empathy. I remember how badly I just wanted a peer to tell me they didn’t believe the rumors and ask for my side of the story. I remember how alone I felt, and he awful names I was called. And I remember those things anytime I look at someone who perhaps isn’t accepted for some reason, or who is made fun of or ostracized. I remember feeling like I had to defend myself when all I wanted was to feel accepted. I also remember being angry, and how I refused to switch schools because to me that was letting my wrongdoers win. I still channel that energy to drive myself towards a goal, I also use it to stand up for others or find my resolve when I’m feeling insecure.
Adapt and overcome.
If we can control our environments so much, why then is it necessary to learn this skill? Because you can’t control everything, especially other people, we live intertwined in this world, whether we like it or not. We do effect each other because we must work together. And as each of us has our own liberty to make choices through this life, our choices end up creating situations and consequences—whether by pure luck, chaos, or a by choice – and sometimes those situations aren’t ideal. What is impressive in a person is how they navigate a less than ideal situation. Any person can do well when handed all the right cards. But the person who can turn lemons into lemonade is truly talented and worthy of reward and recognition, whatever that may mean to you.
Life rarely hands us all the right cards, no matter how we try to stack them.
What are some ways you can practice this in every day life? Create an inconvenience for yourself, or accept an inconvenience in order to do something for someone else. I find that our technology and way of life has removed most inconveniences turning us into a society of instant gratification. These technological circumstances create many options that can be removed in order to create a situation that requires some creative thinking and adaptation. Change your attitude from “what have I lost?” to “what can I gain?”.
- Technology Detox
- Walk instead of drive
- Go to the library to borrow a book rather than download it on a device.
- Do a favor for a friend
- Take the long way home
- Cook a meal you may normally get at a restaurant
- Take on that project you feel is slightly out of reach
- Train for a 10k
- Read an actual newspaper rather than getting your news from Twitter or a website.
- Wash dishes by hand
- Cook from scratch rather than from a box or buying premade
- Leave your phone at home for a day
- Read a map rather than using GPS
- Buy a coloring book rather than using a coloring app
- Play a REAL game rather than on your phone
- Call to make airline reservations rather than on the internet
- Commute by bike rather than by car if possible
- Fix your clothes instead of buying new ones
- Pick a weakness and work on it
- Go for a hike without technology
- Decide to fix something on your own rather than replacing it
- Make something rather than buying it
- Write in a journal rather than a blog, and talk to family and friends about those thoughts.
- Decide to schedule time to watch a TV show when it is on rather than on demand
- Turn off the internet for a full 24 hours
- Rather than post to all of your social media outlets, tell just one friend your news.
- Send an email rather than text!
- Write snail mail to a penpal or friend- they may be pretty excited to get it! Back in the day my friends iin different states and I didn’t have email or cell phones… we wrote letters!
- Go to a store to buy something rather than shopping over the internet.
- Donate your time to a stranger- help carry their groceries, listen to their story, take the time to make a recommendation or pay a compliment.
- Learn something new or take up a new hobby- archery, knitting, leather working, beer brewing, training your dog, gardening. Anything, as long as it is not related to modern day technology with a screen!
- Rent a movie from an actual movie rental store rather than downloading it