I’ve always loved Autumn. Actually, that’s a lie, I didn’t always love it. As someone who doesn’t like to be cold (and is always cold), Autumn used to mean the end of the hot, sticky weather which I loved. It meant the end of fun outside activities. When I was a kid, it meant the end of summer and sleeping in and playing with friends. Autumn was sad. Cold. Gloomy.
But there were good parts.
Autumn meant Halloween and dressing up and eating candy. It meant my birthday was coming soon. It meant Christmas, my favourite time of year, was just over the horizon. Autumn meant cozy pajamas and piles of blankets and windows closed, all of which ensured a better nights sleep. As a kid, the last three things didn’t mean much, but as an adult, I now understand their importance.
I didn’t realize it then, but the small comforts that came with the seasonal change were early indicators of placating my anxiety. Now that I understand it more, and I’m learning how to manage it, I’ve figured out that one of the things that makes me anxious is being exposed. Not, like, in a way that I fear all of my secret sordid affairs will be leaked to the press, more in a physical sense. There’s an obvious relief when I leave a crowded space, and a more subtle one when I close a window, put on comfy clothes, or crawl under a blanket.
I now recognize the correlation between this relief and why I was such a freak show about sleepovers when I was a kid. I loved the IDEA of sleepovers–hanging out with my friends, playing games and watching movies–but when bedtime came around, a wave of what I thought was overwhelming homesickness would wash over me, and I would immediately want to go home. Sometimes I would go home. I learned early on though that I didn’t want to be the little weirdo who couldn’t stay at a sleepover, so I would usually just tough it out: laying awake all night, waiting for it to be over, knowing I would be too tired to do anything fun the next day.
Then one night I slept over at a friend’s place and we had to sleep in the basement for some reason. And it was freezing. So, we loaded up the bed with blankets and comforters to stay warm; I think we counted about 15 or 20. And, guess what? I slept like a baby. Except not really like a baby because babies are terrible sleepers. I really don’t understand where that phrase comes from. In any case, I slept well. No “homesickness.” I was warm and cozy and safe.
It took me years to realize that what I was feeling at the sleepovers wasn’t homesickness, it was anxiety. And the reason why I felt so safe under all those blankets was the same reason why weighted blankets work for some people who are anxious. It’s the same reason why I sleep much better under cozy comforters today. I’m not exposed. I’m warm and cozy and safe.
Now I look forward to the cooler weather. I look forward to flannel pajamas and burrowing under blankets. I look forward to closing windows and shutting out the noise. I look forward to bundling up, going outside, and enjoying the silence after the newly fallen snow has covered the drum of summer.
Of course, it’s not always a delight. I do still have a tendency to lean towards a bit of Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder from time to time. I still hate the cold. I often long for summer and for the colours that it brings. I forget the security and crave a chance to shed my layers and feel the sun on my face and let it soak into my skin.
I’m never really quite content with any season if I’m being honest.
But, at least now I don’t dread any of them. I can enjoy walking through colorful Autumn leaves without cursing their existence, grumbling that it’s their fault my summer fun is over. I can feel the crispness in the air without being angry that SUMMER WAS ONLY THREE MONTHS FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. I can easily convince myself a snow day is warranted while I burrow under my blankets and binge-watch Netflix. It’s too cold to go outside anyway, right? It’s not like I’m wasting a beautiful, summer day.
Hand over the snacks. Bring on the comfort stews and yummy soups and slow-cooker meals. Pop up some popcorn. Gimme my fat pants; I’m settling in.
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