I am talking about autumn for those reading from the future. This isn’t, I imagine, one of my more popular opinions, however I do not see the appeal at all. Yes, I agree the colours of the leaves changing on the trees can be quite breath-taking. But to be honest, I think you can only really appreciate all the beautiful golds, reds, and oranges when they are properly illuminated by the increasingly elusive shining sun. I’m not too crazy about pumpkin spice or Halloween either. I feel I should add that my distaste for Halloween is not in any way for religious reasons; I just think that as I got older it seemed a little childish and way more effort than it was worth. But if you love it then by all means have at it.
Ultimately, autumn is about decay for me. The days get shorter, the weather worsens, and I find that this time of year often ushers in some kind of awful life changing emotional turmoil; the kind that weighs on your heart constantly without any respite and becomes all you can think about. Yeah, the autumn is the time of year when I get dumped (or occasionally have to do the dumping myself). I don’t know whether this is coincidence or by design but it does seem to be the case - for me at least. Perhaps relationships that are failing have enough momentum to get through the summer, but as the cold, dark, English winter appears on the horizon they can go no further. So, I find myself kicking through the damp dead leaves on the rainy grey streets of Birmingham with my mood perfectly reflected in the dying world around me. Most people feel this way about winter (with Christmas being the exception to the rule of course). But by the time winter rolls around, I have usually gotten used to my life without the person who seemed to make it all worthwhile. That is not to say that I am over it, nor have I lost hope of reconciliation; that takes a good deal longer. I just get used to the loneliness, the regret, the guilt, and the anger. The emotions live in me and swirl around the empty place where she used to live inside my head. I occasionally open the door and let the emotions wash over me but this is usually too painful so I do what every good Englishman does and I try to ignore them and get on.
I read an article once about how men and women experience breakups differently. It said that although women will often have a more severe reaction to the end of a relationship in the beginning, they will later go on to make a full mental recovery. The article continued to explain that while men appear to have more mild symptoms of heartbreak in the beginning, they never fully recover and therefore carry a piece of the pain with them for the rest of their lives; even after they have met someone new and moved on. From my past experience I tend to agree with these findings. However, I really would not describe what I have experienced in the past (and now as I am writing this) as “mild”.
I don’t want to give you the impression that I started this blog as a means of just venting my sadness (although there is an element of that). It is not my intention to try and make you as sad and as unhappy as me; quite the opposite in fact. I intend this to be a cathartic healing experience for myself, and I hope that it helps others as well through reading. I have found that although I rarely do any writing besides short emails to work colleagues, when I do I am able to be far more articulate and emotional than when I’m speaking to someone face to face - even someone I really trust and feel comfortable around (although I try my best to keep my emotions out of work emails!). So, in an effort to encourage this more expressive side of myself, and dig out some truth from my messed up head, I decided this would be a good and healthy exercise.
One of my all-time favourite writers, and a man I am very much attempting to channel as I write these words, is Donald Miller - or Don to his friends (which I very much hope to be some day). I heard him on a podcast recently say that it is not possible for you to change yourself while you are happy. He says that joy precludes the option for true introspection and personal growth and that only sadness and conflict can help you to become a better, more rounded human being. This seemed a very strange idea to me, as when I am this sad, if I can make the change from lying in bed to being dressed and out the house I consider myself to be coping brilliantly ("who needs her anyway!"). How could I possibly deal with any of my deep set emotional problems at a time when I can’t even remember to eat? But as Don is a man I greatly admire and respect I decided to try and follow his advice and make the most of this time of great pain; I decided try to get something positive from it. As I thought on his words, and with the help from additional reading, I realised he was absolutely right and it was in fact my severe aversion to conflict that was partly responsible for the breakup of my relationship in the first place. This nugget of wisdom was enough to spur me on further, and so I discovered reading.
Now obviously I could already read, as I imagine so can most of you. I have even managed to finish the odd book from time to time (although it takes me most of the year to do so). However, the vast majority of books I start reading, I never end up finishing. So, although I did read sometimes, I hadn’t truly enjoyed the process since I was a kid, when I could happily devour a "Goosebumps" book in a single evening. I recently realised it had gotten so bad, that I had not even attempted to read anything longer than a listicle for over a year! This aversion to reading was partly down to my dyslexia, but mostly due to my ever-shortening attention span. I couldn’t even go down the road to the shop without taking a pair of headphones with me to deafen the terrible silence. I needed to be distracted and occupied at all times to be sure that no stray original thoughts would cross my mind! However, reading books could never sufficiently distract me. Every time I tried, I would get a few pages in, and then find reasons to stop and check my phone or go to the kitchen to eat something - anything to get away from this ancient archaic medium. I even made it into part of my persona, and would routinely tease people who love books (particularly my sister who works in publishing). I would say things like, “Have they made that into a film?” “No, I don’t think so.” they would often reply. “Can’t be that good then can it?” I would gleefully say back to them. I especially enjoyed doing this if people were reading something that couldn’t possibly be turned into a film, like a cookbook or a history of the Nazi space programme. Actually, you could totally turn that last one into a film and I would watch the shit out of it. You know, for the space stuff not the Nazis.
Just after she left, I was clearing up some of her stuff from the living room at home, because I couldn’t bear to look at it anymore. This activity really didn’t help, because basically every single thing in my house still reminds me of her in some way anyway. But I felt like I needed to do something proactive. As I was looking at the books on the shelf, one in particular jumped out at me and stuck in my mind. It was Love Does by Bob Goff, which I didn’t know much about but I think I had heard good things. I figured I would later add it to the growing collection of books that I had read two or three chapters of and then forgotten about. A couple of days later, I was back at work trying to find the will to be productive but I couldn’t stop thinking about that book! I felt like God was telling me I needed to read it and it couldn’t wait another minute. So, I made my excuses and went home early. I got home and grabbed the book off the shelf and began reading and reading. I took a few short breaks, but I finished the whole thing that day. I hadn’t read a whole book in a day since I was ten years old. I was really proud of myself that I had managed to stick with it the whole time.
I found the book really inspiring and I was amazed at how much it had affected my attitude and mood. I am finding that reading, as well as being a great source of information that I can use to re-orientate my life, it also seems to dull the heartache; it’s kind of like pouring cold water on a burn. Every second with my head in a book is sweet relief, but as soon as I stop and put it down, the pain fades slowly back in. It’s clearly not a long-term solution, but a little break from the pain is quite nice.
In short, reading is good and I am determined to make it a permanent part of my life from now on. I even considered cancelling my Netflix subscription but decided that might be going too far. Besides, Stranger Things season 2 comes out this week!
I asked a good friend of mine recently if he thought that Americans call autumn, 'The fall' because it was a reference to the fall of man. He said, "It's because the leaves fall from the trees, you idiot!" "Oh yeah" I said. I guess my negative opinions on autumn were just reaching out for some kind of religious symbolism to justify my opinions. Maybe I will try and think of autumn differently from now on. Maybe I will see it like the necessary death before rebirth. In the spring I expect to emerge from a chrysalis completely healed of all my shit!
I asked a good friend of mine recently if he thought that the Americans call autumn 'The fall' because it was a reference to the fall of man. He said, "it's because the leaves fall from the trees, you idiot!" "Oh yeah," I said. I guess my negative opinions on autumn were just reaching out for some kind of religious symbolism to justify my feelings. Maybe I will try and think of autumn differently from now on. Maybe I will try and see it like the necessary death before rebirth. Besides, it's not like the trees have actually died... They have just shed the parts they have no use for right now. I think I will try and consider myself more as a creature of this Earth that also has seasons of death and growth, cold and warm. So in the spring I shall expect to emerge from a chrysalis completely healed of all my shit!