1. Go Anyway. Your mama group meets this week at a church, and you will not feel like going at all this time around. But do it anyway. Shove everyone in the car and grab that plate of cookies that you baked yesterday, and drive the 10 miles north into small-town Minnesota.
There will be all these baked goods on the table and someone will bring chips and salsa, even though it’s 9 in the morning. And the sweet pastor of that teeny tiny church will brew a pot of coffee and leave his office door wide open while he works, even though it is chaos, chaos, chaos with all of those kids and all of those tired mamas, all of you shoved together in that small place.
I know how you are: you get sad, and you want to crawl inside yourself and stay there. But go, and just sit there, because there is something powerful about the voices of women, loud and soft and distinct and beautiful.
2. Roll Down Your Windows. Turn the music up loud and sing those words that you don’t feel. The wind will rush in with a little bite on it as you drive, but it’s the last warm day, and some truth requires air.
If you need to cry while you sing, do it. Don’t worry about the kids. They’re so busy with the wind and the music that they probably won’t even notice, and if they do, then they do. It’s okay, I think, for kids to know that their parents cry.
3. Go Outside. At the apple orchard, there is still all this color. The apples are red and yellow and green or some mix of all three, and the pumpkins are their own special kind of orange, and the whole place glows in the late afternoon sun.
Walk aimless and slow. Hold hands with your people. Feel the soft ground beneath your boots and the kind sun on your face. Pull those late-season apples off the trees and see if you can taste the subtle differences in Goodness.
Sit for a long time by the goats, who are unbelievably fat, overfed all season by little hands. A big, white sign says, “Our vet says we’re full!” but the goats wobble up expectantly anyway.
Before you can stop him, your youngest son takes the pacifier out of his mouth, gives the goat a taste of it, and then – while you yell no! no! no! – sticks it straight back in his mouth. And how can you help but double-over, belly laugh at the whole crazy, beautiful, sun-tinged thing?
4. Play. The slide is long and metal and goes all the way down the hill, and when it’s your turn, do it. Climb up all those stairs and hold onto your baby and go all the way down.
Remember what it feels when your stomach drops a little and you’re going so fast that your hair flies behind you. Remember the simplicity of happiness, how sometimes it’s just a matter of climbing up those steps again and again to slide, slide, slide until the sun goes down.
5. Work. Do the things that you’ve been putting off. The bathrooms, the floors, the coat closet. There is something to this scrubbing. All it takes to get rid of the dirt, the grime, the dried toothpaste on the bathroom sink is a little spritz of cleaner and some water and a rag torn from an old towel.
Clean out the fridge and the freezer. Throw away that which is no longer good for you; feature the things that are.
Go through the hall closet and find your hats and your pretty scarves and your cute fall jacket and feel, for a moment, a little burst of expectation for another new season.
6. Read. There are all of these voices, books and blogs and poems and stories, and they’re saying the things that you can’t say. They’re putting words to the indescribable feelings in your heart. Find them. Breathe them in.
If you can, read the Bible, but don’t feel like you have to take down great gulps of it (unless you really want to). Instead, read slow and notice what stands out: A word. A phrase. A picture slowly coming into focus in your imagination. Read a little bit. Then read that little bit over again. Then read it again, just one more time, a wash-rinse-repeat cycle for your tired soul.
7. Notice. The light is muted, sure, and I know how you are. It does something to you when the light gets weaker and the days get shorter. But notice anyway. Notice the way the sun rises pink this morning over the pond. Stand there at the sliding glass door with all of its smudgy fingerprints and watch it until the pink disappears and the day is started.
Notice how the baby’s freshly washed hair smells when you bury your nose into it. How he absently grabs for your hand as you sit together on the couch. Notice the new words, the new phrases, thought sparking into sentence into conversation. Sometimes, you can’t see it change, but sometimes, if you’re looking, you’ll notice that change is everywhere, striking and beautiful.
The Minnesota lakes are growing quieter and colder; in a few months they will be solid ice, and when you walk on them, it will sound like drums beneath your feet.
Sit out on the last warm day and notice all that is good and all that is beautiful, and feel your heart rise just a little. Just enough.