Ahhh Autumn...the most beautiful season of the year....the crisp weather, the lovely colors, soups and stews, Halloween, extra blankets on the beds, weather that alternates between glorious sunshine and quiet rain, back to school, apple season, big mugs of hot tea, watching my husband and kids go a bit nuts, Thanksgiving, layers, that fine place between air conditioning and the heater....so many things to love!
I would go so far as to say that fall is THE perfect season!
Autumn doesn't love me.
Sigh. That's not a fair way to put it.
The fact of the matter is that for this complicated, allergy-prone body, fall is THE peak allergy season, and so everything is just tougher for me from mid-August until the we've had a couple of hard frosts. My heart, mind and soul love this season...but there is a major disconnect with my body.
Why is autumn so tough? Well...although it is true that spring is a big, bad for allergy sufferers (pollen, pollen everywhere!!!), there are a couple of factors that make the fall more difficult for some of us. Those include some nasty plants (hello ragweed!!!) that wreak havoc at this time of year, lots of mold created by fall rains, the dust thrown into the air by the harvest, and the decay of leaves on the ground.
Allergies are a load issue. The more you are dealing with, the worse it is. You can improve things by taking steps to lower the amount of allergens you are exposed to. Primarily, this is accomplished by: - eliminating offensive foods from your diet - using immunotherapy drops - keeping your environment clean - keeping the windows shut during peak seasons - avoiding, when at possible, your allergens - make sure to understand what foods are cross-reactive, so that you can avoid them during peak allergy times - using a saline wash to clean out your nose
The problem is that in the case of inhalant allergies, there's no way to completely protect yourself, and when Mother Nature is providing a veritable smorgasbord of allergens which assault you on a near daily basis...well, that's when life gets tough.
Which would explain why: - it's more difficult for me to resist toxic foods at certain times of the year - I have trouble in the fall with some emotional stuff - my introverted nature really asserts itself in the fall - I tend to be cranky a lot at this time of year - even on my drops I still need to use some OTC meds to control symptoms - I'm blasted tired all of the time
So, things tend to go sideways for me in the fall, which totally stinks because I would really love to be able to enjoy it to the fullest.
The good news is that despite my fall challenges I'm in a much better place this year than I've been in the past, thanks in large part to the work I've put into improving my health over the last four-five months. Yes, it's been frustrating because just about the time I would have expected to start seeing major results from all of my efforts I instead find myself struggling to get through each day. Forward movement has ground to a halt, and things that I thought I had moved past - such as food cravings - have come roaring back with a force.
Yep, frustrating is a good word to describe where I've been for the past couple of months.
And yet...I would be remiss if I didn't point out the good. Fatigue and a low emotional state are tough, but they are miles better than the month plus of severe bronchitis I used to fight (pre allergy drops) at this point every year. I may not have been able to maintain a perfect diet through this (and my allergist assures me this isn't all my fault) but my cheats have been mostly contained to just a few things which are lower on the impact scale for me. None of them have lead to the sort of massive nosedive off of the cliff they once would have led to, and as a result my weight has remained stable. I've kept on running, and I am able to enjoy tap class. I've mostly been able to protect the quality of my sleep. I've been faithful to the few supplements that I KNOW help me out.
Mostly, I'm being kind to myself. I don't expect perfection because I know it's just not possible right now, and I don't beat myself up for doing what I have to do to get through the day...even if what I have to do is to eat some chocolate.
I did have an appointment with my allergist a few weeks ago, and she was VERY pleased with how well I've been doing lately. In fact, despite my current challenges it was the best allergy appointment that I've had in years. Things are starting to come together, and that needs to be celebrated.
At the same time, I do need to learn to honor and accept the cycles that my body will follow each and every year for the rest of my life. Fall will always be both the best of the year and the worst of the year. I'm working to accept that..and maybe, just maybe, this year that's getting a little bit easier.
I started this post three weeks ago, and it's taken me this long to work up the guts to share it with you. Funny...I'm ordinarily an open book. Some things are just really that big of a deal.
I stunk up the dance floor in my tap class last night.
My feet were sluggish during the warm-up routine, and I struggled to shift my weight and keep my balance during each component.
I totally forgot the break during the paradiddles, and I'm pretty sure I wasn't quite on the beat anyway.
I could not get off of the ground for the Irishes or the Buffaloes.
There are at least two of our regular time steps that I haven't quite mastered yet, and I lost ground on both last night.
Let's not even get started on the last dance sequence. Our teacher gave very brief instructions that everyone else seemed to understand, but which to me were gibberish. As we were doing these two at a time back and forth across the floor it was VERY obvious that I didn't know what I was doing. Even after four passes across the floor I still had only figured out the first half.
On the way home, as I mentally reviewed the evening, I found myself welling up. The tears broke free with a sob or two, and I had to take a little moment to pull myself together when I got home.
Believe it or not, this was a good thing.
You see, I wasn't crying because I had failed or because everyone else was so much better than me or because I was frustrated or angry or any other such thing.
I was crying because realized that I had given myself permission to fail....that it was ok - for the first time in my life - for me to not be perfect...that even if I wasn't the best of the best I could still love it and enjoy it with every beat of my heart.
My friends, for me this was profound.
I was very, very young when I figured out that I had to be perfect. I want to be perfectly clear that this was really no one's fault. My parents aren't mean, I'm not crazy, and there was never some traumatic event that would have triggered a negative emotional spiral. Rather, it was caused by the perfect storm of my own idiosyncratic personality traits combined with normal familial expectations. (OK, maybe slightly higher than normal family expectations...I do, after all, come from a long line of ministers.) What my parents SAID was, "We expect you to do your best." What I HEARD was, "You absolutely must make straight A's, take all of the most difficult classes, win in every extracurricular you do, and hold yourself to a moral standard that would make most grown adults weep."
You see the problem?
It shouldn't surprised anyone that the perfectionism I developed at such a young age has crippled me, and I don't use that word lightly. I don't really want to go into great detail (Goodness, no one wants to read that.), but for the sake of this post I think you should know about the two big issues that perfectionism has created. First, I live in fear. I'm terrified of failing, and so I'd rather not try. Second, I'm really, really mean to myself. My self-critic is the size of Everest, and she's nasty. Like I said...crippling.
Which leads me back to that drive home, and my realization that I had given myself permission to fail. Can you see now what a huge, amazing gift that was? It's something that I've needed for more than 20 years....and now that it's arrived it's potentially a life-changer.
As this is such a big deal for me, I've given some thought to the curious question of why it's ok for me to not be perfect in tap class. What about this particular experience makes it ok for the first time?
I have a few ideas which might explain it.
1. During the second class I was able to look around and realize that others are having as much trouble as I am...at least one person even more. There are ladies in this group who've been in the class for a while, and who performed beautifully during the recital last spring. They are all perfectly human, though, and have good and bad days and different levels of accomplishment. There's not a single soul in that classroom who gets everything right.
2. It's a no judgement space. The teacher has said it, the other students have said it, and I feel it. Perhaps that's enabling me to let go of the judgement of myself.
3. Ditto that it's a no competition space.
4. It's also a happy spot. Everyone wants to be there...including me. I've NEVER felt this way in an exercise class before, even though they've all been voluntary classes.
5. Just as importantly, it's a welcoming spot. Those are some really, really nice women. They immediately threw their arms open and welcomed me in...many of them making sure to take the time to either help me or share their own experiences when they joined the class. (And there is a comforting uniformity to those stories!)
6. I know I'll get better. The fact of the matter is that it's been 20 YEARS since I had a tap class, and while the body retains memory - enabling me to jump into this more advanced class instead of starting over with a beginner class - it does take time to fully pull those skills back out again.
7. Along with that, I know exactly what I need to work on, and that helps.
8. This class is allowing me to reconnect to a part of myself that I thought was lost years and years ago...and that part of myself lives in an entirely positive heartspace.
Then again, maybe there isn't a reason at all. Maybe it was just time. Maybe I was just finally ready and open enough for the lesson to come into my life. Maybe I just needed to loosen the heck up. Who knows!
The only thing I can say for sure is that my future now feels open in an entirely new way.
Possibility, my friends.
Possibility is what happens when you learn that it's ok to fail.
Modifications: Dropped edging and did crochet chain bind-off
Finished size: 64 inch diameter
The fact that this took over a year to finish is indicative of the fact that it was yet another troubled project. I had trouble figuring out what I really wanted to do with each section, and dithered way more than I thought I would. I spilled coffee on it. I grew bored with the yarn. (Face it, Zephyr is an awesome workhorse of a lace yarn, but it's nothing special.) The edging became a serious issue. Despite my protestations a couple of days ago that the crochet bind off was the right choice because I needed to get it done, I was honestly concerned that aesthetically I'd just made a drastic mistake. The fact that my knee - which had been perfectly fine - went out while I was blocking it didn't exactly endear me to anything either.
As with the Spider Queen, all was forgiven when I took it off of the floor this morning. Now that I look at it, the patterns flow into each other with more harmony than I had thought. (Good job designer!) Zephyr is lovely when blocked, as it becomes both softer and crisper. It's also much lighter and more airy than the other zephyr shawl I have in my collection. I'm glad I didn't do an edging because without it the entire piece actually looks more like a true mandala.
Modifications: border done in the round to eliminate seams, number of repeats in edging increased, and edging knit on.
I believe I've already done a fairly thorough job of documenting the trials and tribulations of this project, so for now I will let the pictures speak for themselves and I'll simply say....
All is forgiven, I'm in love.
*Many of the eliments found in this piece are drawn from the story that accompanies the pattern. Carter does not say if it's an original story or if it's of Shetland origin. As it's uncredited, I am uncomfortable sharing it with you here. However, in the closeup photos you will see spiders, webs, necklaces, crowns and trios of flowers that are all important parts of that story!
Having at long last finished the Spider Queen, I turned my attention this morning to the also long-neglected Mandala.
Truthfully, this has been a weird project from day one. The current incarnation is actually my third attempt at this pattern - the first two having both wound up in the frog pond. I had intended to use it as a way to loosen me up a bit....by choosing each element I included from the limited options preselected by the designer, I felt it would be a very gentle way to ease me into designing my own projects. Sadly, I think it had the exact opposite effect.
Ah well...it was still beautiful.
Unfortunately, it fell apart when I hit the outside edging. I hated the edging included in the pattern (and how weird is it that this is a choose-your-own-adventure pattern, with four options for every section...but a single, fixed pattern for the edging?!), and so took it upon myself to find a replacement. After a few repeats, and with the assistance of my handy digital postal scale, I did some math and realized I didn't have enough yarn to complete the edging that I had chosen. Back into the WIP basket it went while I contemplated what to do about that. (Go buy more yarn? pick a different pattern?)
It's been sitting for months and months and months.
This morning I stuffed it into my knitting bag on a whim before I headed out to Starbucks. Once I was settled with my tea I rather ruthlessly ripped out the edging I had already completed, and began the quick process of a crochet chain bind off. I didn't give myself time to think or to second guess or to try to figure out another solution. It's not the fanciest of edgings, and it may not be entirely the right match for this project....but I can finish it today and then move on to other projects without this particular albatross continuing to weigh me down.