Ushering in a Season of Personal Austerity

September has always been a time of reflection for me. It is my new year. It is my birth month. It is the time to add a blanket on the bed after a summer of sweaty nights. It is the month of reacquaintance with favorite handknit sweaters, even if only in the evenings as the sun sets earlier and earlier. It is the start of a new school year, a new semester (and while I am no longer a student in a formal capacity, but with 10 years of post-secondary behind me, let’s just say I’ve had a LOT of back-to-school Septembers). I still have a ritual of going to the drugstore right around Labour Day to buy myself some new pens (Sharpie fine point pens are my fave) and the September issues of Vogue and InStyle. Because fall fashion is visual comfort food for me. Rich colours. Wool coats. Knee-high boots. Cozy sweaters.

Last September was a time of almost overwhelming optimism. I’d just come back from my first Burning Man, which left me not only with a renewed sense of hope for humanity, but also an amazing group of mostly new friends that I now consider to be among my closest. I’d spent the summer accumulating a variety of new experiences. Expanding my boundaries (while learning that some borders were just as rigid as I’d always thought). Letting go of notions that no longer served me.

This September has blown in on a different wind though. The end of August brought a visit from some familiar but unwelcome dark storms, and it’s really only been in the past week or so that my disposition has returned to its more usual blue-skied self. And instead of a renewed desire to explore, to experience, to float on the whims of the universe*, I feel a need to contract, to tighten, to slow down, to nourish, to turn inwards.

It feels like a spell of personal austerity is in order. A time to repay the self, if you will. In several senses.

1. Financial austerity: I recently cancelled a planned trip to Cuba as I need to finish paying off the excesses of summer (hello Visa balance? You are about to be history.) Time to start actually saving for things before I buy them. Like I used to. I know, crazy concept.

2. Dietary austerity – long afternoons of cocktails and bacon-laden burgers,  late-night snacks of, well, more bacon, plus much birthday cake** have left me dreading putting on my jeans in the morning. My favorite pair still fits. But barely. And right out of the dryer? It’s a struggle. Involving some strange yoga. I refuse to buy another pair in a larger size (see point 1 – I’d rather spend my money diversifying my wardrobe rather than replacing it). It’s less about vanity and more about just wanting to (literally) feel comfortable in the clothes that I already own.  I owe my body a break from the too-regular indulgences of late. And I owe it a bit more exercise. I’m never going to be one of those gym-every-day, super fitness-y people (props to those people though… I respect the dedication), but a bit more cycling, more swimming, and more yoga are definitely in order. And less bacon. But not NO bacon. Come on now.

3. Temporal austerity – Firstly, I need to start getting more sleep. Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older, but ya. Sleep. Good. I have two jobs. I have a lot of interests. I need time for creative endeavours. I am blessed with a (seemingly ever-growing) number of amazing friends who I do like to spend face-to-face time with, because text messages aren’t enough.  I’m still trying to figure out how best to balance all of the various ways I could choose to spend the hours of each of my days. Sometimes it feels like a big game of Tetris… 8 hour sleep block… 3 hour friend hang-out block… 1 hour cooking block… 2 hour knitting/TV block… I need more lazy blocks. This whole weekend was pretty much one of those. And lo’ and behold, I woke up EARLY on Monday. Well-rested.  And had a productive day. FANCY THAT!

4. Mental austerity – I have a whole stack of books, some half-read, some not yet started, that I intend to get to. Like soon. Mostly non-fiction books about topics that I care about and would like to delve into in a deeper way. Education, sociology (I’m particularly interested in motivation and choice), pedagogy, sexuality… so many fascinating ideas to meld with my own opinions and notions about how the world works,  how brains work, and how I work. (And really, finding out how *I* work has really been the most fascinating part of the last few years.) So it’s time to focus on some of these intellectual pursuits. And maybe even take some time to write about them.

Yes, I realize that points 3) and 4) are going to be in conflict. I never said this was going to be easy. It is necessary though.

Will there be a cost to these austerity measures? Sure. I’ll miss out on events that I’m sure I’d really enjoy because I’m staying home to read. I’ll put myself to bed early, even if it means that Breaking Bad will have to wait. To my friends who will surely order a bacon cheeseburger in my presence, only to have me steal a bite before returning to whatever I ordered, I apologize in advance. (Although I already just help myself to everybody’s food. I’ll just have less decadent things to offer in return LOL.)

But when I emerge from my season of parsimony, I’m sure I’ll be renewed, nourished, energized, and ready to explore and expand again…

* I don’t mean universe as a euphemism for anything spiritual. I mean the set of experiences that go on around me through no agency of my own.

** NOT a complaint. I will never complain about birthday cake. Especially the amazingly decadent chocolate creation that my friends bought me. But there’s a reason cake is a sometimes food.

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