Mid-Autumn. It’s getting darker. Leaves are changing. Concord grapes are being replaced by squash. CVS stores are fully stocked with Halloween candy. If you’re wearing a good Halloween costume, you’ve probably already figured out what it’ll be. Your summer clothes have been completely put away and you’re revisiting your jackets and blazers (or visiting J Crew to start stocking up on sweaters).
Fall is a season of transitions, an in-between time: in-between vacations (Labor Day and Thanksgiving), in-between the extremes of summer and winter. The excitement of back to school has faded and it’s too early to look forward to snow or Christmas shopping. You can only Instagram so many pictures of autumn leaves.
So what do we do with these bright, short days? They’re not particularly remarkable. But neither is much of our day-to-day lives. Think about it: we wake up, go to the gym, go to work, have drinks with colleagues, have dinner with friends. Maybe there’s a play or a birthday party or a big football game to watch. The majority of our time is spent on the routine; it’s where life is lived.
I read Gretchen Rubin’s blog fairly regularly (she’s the author of The Happiness Project), and she had a great post the other day on the value of everyday habits. She quoted Andy Warhol: “Either once only, or every day. If you do something once it’s exciting, and if you do it every day it’s exciting. But if you do it, say, twice or just almost every day, it’s not good any more.”
We celebrate the “once only” activities: weddings, parties, holidays. We don’t typically celebrate routines. Why should we? I’m not really looking for the Halloween party or Thanksgiving equivalent of making coffee every morning or commuting to the office. But when I think about some of the times I’ve been happiest with my life, I think about those little daily habits. Those three months when I woke up early every day and journaled with coffee and oatmeal. My daily walks to and from work. That spring I took long walks through the park every weekend. The summer I ate my lunch and read at Chrystie Street Courts every day. There are few particular events that stick out; it’s more memories of life at a particular rhythm over a period of time.
The church I’ve attended for five years is branching off to a new service and location next week. It’s an exciting move for the congregation, a great opportunity to serve a different neighborhood and a new way to build community. I’m thrilled to participate! But before I went to the Upper East Side location for the last time this past weekend, I strolled over to Central Park and back again with mixed feelings. Five years of Sunday afternoons in the park, reading, walking, killing 30 minutes before service started. Ducking into the Met if it started to rain or snow; walking into the familiar church auditorium to the sounds of the prelude. Those afternoons that felt like wasted time really weren’t. They’re where I lived my life.
It’s easy to focus on the challenges and opportunities ahead, the big events, career changes, landmark beginnings. But it’s also important to remember and reflect on the good little things that have come before, whether they’re afternoons in the park or the boring daily grind.
Maybe it’s this rainy autumn night that is causing a bit of nostalgia (as rainy autumn nights are wont to do). But in this mid-October stretch in-between, I’m thinking of ways I can build these habits and rhythms that make up my days. Is it waking up early, cooking Sunday suppers with friends, taking a mid-afternoon walk around the block, Saturday morning yoga? I don’t think it really matters. But I think it’s worth a new rhythm of reflection and remembrance, a new little moment in-between to mark the times spent in-between.