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"To Please the Moon": Fall-ing into a Healthy Routine

The magic of autumn has seized the countryside; now that the sun isn't ripening anything it shines for the sake of the golden age; for the sake of Eden; to please the moon for all I know.
― Elizabeth Coatsworth, Personal Geography: Almost an Autobiography

Oh, is it still August? Well, I can't help myself. Autumn is my favorite season. This isn't just because I have a hard time with summer. This year, I'm feeling extra relieved and hopeful about the transition to fall, for two reasons.

One is that children from families who struggle to provide safe care during school breaks, and families coping with domestic violence, have a much harder time in the summer. School provides safe space for much of the day and connects the children with counseling and intervention professionals. So I breathe a huge sigh of relief when school begins, not just for the usual reasons that all parents do (I feel you, Mom who has booked a spa day on the first day of school!), but because I have witnessed for the past couple of years the ways in which for some families, the hardships of summer are more serious.

Another reason I'm feeling extra stoked about the change of seasons is that this summer has been particularly difficult due to a temporary change in my health. While I always feel better when summer ends, this summer has been extra hard for reasons having to do with my personal health and life stage.

Every person has their "best" times--of day, of the week, month, and year--and mine are contrarily out of sync with most other people's.

My anxiety is related to monthly hormonal changes, with episodes striking around ovulation and becoming more acute with the longer hours of daylight in the summer. My problems are backwards and inside-out compared to most women's; estrogen makes me feel worse, summer makes me feel worse, and my worst "time of the month" is opposite most women's. And unlike most humans, I feel best when I start the day by waking before sunrise.

Yeah moon! Block that sun!
Now that I have figured out some of how that works, I am hopeful that the coming season of regular schedules and mellower light will allow me to become happier, clearer-minded, and more productive.

My Plan to Please the Moon

My mental health, physical health, and creative writing practice are deeply interconnected, so I have written up a plan to take advantage of the school year schedule and seasonal change to enhance all three areas of my life together.

  1. Wake up early to write almost every day. Early mornings tend to be my most productive as a writer, but in the summer, I am constantly frustrated in my attempts to plan a regular writing time. I have no designated alone time between work at the office and caring for my daughter at home, and in the summer, my daughter apparently needs no more sleep than her parents and gets that sleep on a timetable of utter chaos. No matter how hard we try to keep her bedtime regular, we can't fully control her sleep/wake cycles. Some nights she's bouncing around the room with manic energy until 10:00 p.m. because "the sun is still up" and then "FIREFLIES!" You can't argue with that. Other nights she passes out at 8:00. Her wake times are even more off the rails, bouncing randomly between 5:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. These wake times are unpredictable and do not seem to be related to what time she went to sleep the night before. This smooths out in the fall, possibly thanks to evenings that darken sooner. I am one of those people who welcomes the end of Daylight Saving Time with rejoicing. It means I can reasonably expect a couple hours of solitude in which to write. And that makes a huge difference in how I feel for the rest of the day.
  2. Calendar my crazy time. Now that I am aware of how my hormonal triggers have shifted, I can pencil a note into my calendar reminding me when I might start to feel irrational panic. This alone helps reduce the severity of an episode. When I have one, I can't think clearly, and my mind spirals into a doom spiral of trying to figure out what is terribly wrong with myself, the world, and everything. When I know that my thoughts and feelings are due to a hormonal change, it strips down a whole layer of anxiety and brings me down to the level of being able to talk myself down from a panic attack. Getting ahead of my symptoms is always helpful.
  3. Replace clicking and scrolling with people and paper. When I'm frustrated and stressed, I'm more afflicted by common writers' distractions like scrolling through nonsense on social media and getting lost in clickholes of "internet research." It's time to forgive myself for the sloppiness of summer and move on. I know that real-life conversations and reading real books from the library make me happier and wiser and more productive, so I am limiting time spent online and refocusing my energies.
  4. Walk outside every day. I plan on walking my daughter to and from school, five days a week, for the next four years. This will add a significant amount of exercise and communion with nature to our daily routine. While we do spend long days playing at parks during the summer, we also have long days stuck in a hot house (or seated behind my desk at work, in my case) that are mega sedentary. It's a boom and bust cycle that doesn't feel as good as more regular physical activity.
  5. Bake apple pies. And cookies. And bread. And casseroles. God, I love baking. And apples, which are about to be ripe! 

A few days ago, my mother and daughter and I viewed the solar eclipse from the parking lot of the rather conservative organization where my mom works. When we tried to share the glasses with several grumpy old passersby, they called us "hippies" (though we were able to force a few of those folks to look, and I know we made their day). Now that I think on it and look at the picture above, in which my family members are leaning against our vehicles (my mom's Subaru with the "Make America Green Again" bumper sticker and my electric car), it's no wonder. But I don't really care. If all this talk of moon cycles and libraries and nature communion makes me a hippie, so be it. I end this post with a moony, cheesy quote by a woman named Rainbow:

October, baptize me with leaves! Swaddle me in corduroy and nurse me with split pea soup. October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins. O autumn! O teakettle! O grace!
― author Rainbow Rowell


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