I sensed it even before I opened my eyes.
Somewhere between the way the cool air nibbled at my toes, and the way the crisp aerosols enlivened my lungs, I knew: fall was upon us.
My body couldn’t decide if it was thrilled, terrified, or nostalgic. Fall was the mistress of change. How do we all feel about change? She seemed to ask all the versions of myself. As I scanned my interior, the responses were many and varied.
Adventurous Me was the first to chime in. “We are thrilled!” she exclaimed with a flourish of enthusiasm. I could see scenes flashing behind her eyes, lush landscapes and bronzed colors and friends’ laughter. “Change is what the world needs right now.”
“What’s to come? What incredible people lie in wait on the path ahead? Think of all the things we could do if your health continues to improve! We’ll clamber along every creek, hike every meandering trail, and meet new people in this land we now call home.”
I could feel anticipation coursing through my veins. “The plans! The podcast! The people who hunger for more! All lie in wait. And your mistress, Autumn, is here to announce their immanent arrival.”
Adventurous Me, ever the idealist, squeezed my hand with a meaningful look in her eyes. But Scared Me sat beside her, sullen. She looked at us with white eyes, waiting for her presence to fully saturate my nervous system before speaking. Her silence sucked the energy from the room.
“But what if,” she began as she always does, “What if your health collapses again? Your body is not reliable. You won’t be able to fulfill your commitments. All this work you’ve done will go to waste. People will be disappointed. Nothing will come of your dreams.”
“And,” she added another layer, as she always does, “what if you’ve overcommitted yourself? What if doing all the things you love actually leads you to collapse? What if your desire is too big, and chasing after it leads to your world falling apart again? You don’t want that to happen, do you?”
She was sounding way too convincing. What if she was right? I struggled to get some distance from that part of me. She had a point.
In the corner, Nostalgic Me was looking wistful.
“But guys... think of what this time means. It’s the time when you should be sitting in a sunny backyard, cool drink in your hand, while kids run amok catching toads. It’s the time when you lie in the grass at your childhood home, a spoil of freshly picked apples within reach, and you let the contrast of the warm sun and crisp air penetrate your pores until you are no more. The sky so blue it breaks your heart. The loam of the nearby forest wafting and teasing. Every deep breath brings All of That further into you, and you further into it.”
“But—“ she continued, with a glisten in her eye, “why are you here instead of there? That’s what fall is supposed to look like. Yet here you are in a new place, and everything is different. No one here has known you for more than a year. They don’t know what Mom and Dad’s apples smell like. They don’t have the color of the sky dyed onto their insides. Let’s go back to what once was, when life was simple and good. You didn’t worry about finances or where you were going to live. Sure, you were a bit out of place, but you had close friends who saw you and had thirty years of shenanigans on you. Those were your people.”
I sighed. She was not wrong. There was something wonderfully comforting about old friends and the way things used to be. But that life was no more.
“But—“ she continued, with a glisten in her eye, “why are you here instead of there? Here you are in a new place, and everything is different. No one here has known you for more than a year. They don’t know what Mom and Dad’s apples smell like. They don’t have the color of the sky dyed onto their insides."
I looked around at Adventurous, Scared, and Nostalgic Me. Each Part (as they are called in Internal Family Systems) was trying to look out for me, in the best way they knew how. My Adventurous Part drew me forward, enticing me with novelty and meaning. My Scared Part was trying to look out for me, doing damage control with hefty amounts of caution. My Nostalgic Part—what was her goal? Perhaps to make me grateful? To consider the good that I once had?
I suppose, if I followed her thought process to the end, it was to make me grateful for what I have now. For one day I will pine for this moment, too: Sitting on my back patio, heat of the sun darkening my freckles, pattering away on a keyboard. I can hear my roommate’s music wafting out the window, the timbre hollow and tinny from the distance. Life is simple, for this moment. The grass is crunchy as it awaits the fall drizzle, and the towering cedar next to me leaks sap in crystalline, metallic, gold. Birds are singing a few blocks over—and none of those obnoxious crows that squawked at 5am for all of July.
Yes, one day I will pine for this moment too. But hopefully then, as now, I will be able to listen to all my Parts chiming in with their concerns and hopes, and understand what it is they are trying to tell me. With a bow of reverence to each, I thank them for their contributions. And then I settle into this moment, into my deepest Self, that is always ripe with change.
Kelly Deutsch is a personal growth coach, international speaker, and bestselling author of the book, Spiritual Wanderlust: The Field Guide to Deep Desire. When she isn’t exploring the interior life, you might find her wandering under Oregonian skies or devouring red curry.