October: The Perfect Time to Turn Over a New Leaf

By Gwenn Voelckers

Fall is my favorite time of year. For me, it means all good things: relaxing in front of a cozy fire, making soup on Sunday afternoons, donning my well-worn leather jacket for long walks and turning my attention to all those inside projects I neglected over the summer.

The brilliant colors, autumn aromas and industriousness that arrive with the falling leaves really appeal to me. But this hasn’t always been the case.

After my divorce, the month of October left me feeling rather melancholy. I missed sharing the beauty of the season with a special someone. And I missed the sunshine as the daylight waned.

Nostalgia and wistfulness would creep in, and I just wanted to retreat into myself. For those who live alone, the month of October has its unique challenges.

Not one to wallow in a “poor is me” state of mind, I began to develop and employ some strategies to rekindle my love of the fall season. It can be a great time to mix it up, get busy and expand your horizons.

Below are elements of my annual fall “game plan.” Take a look and see if one or more of these suggestions might not add a little color to your life pallet this fall:

Tackle indoor projects. Fall is a great time to accomplish all those nagging indoor projects on your to-do list. I have a long list and I keep it right in front of me — a daily reminder that I have plenty of fun and interesting projects to tackle.

Too much idle time is not a friend at any time of year, but it can become downright unfriendly when the weather turns cold. Now is the time to get busy: organize your storage space, do some touch-up painting, update your wardrobe or clean the garage. There’s nothing like being productive to beat the October blahs.

Don’t I know it? I just finished coating my flat-roof porch with a sticky tar sealant. Confession: it was messier than it was fun. But, still . . . I’m proud of my accomplishment.      

Get up and get going. Staying active when there’s a chill in the air can be difficult. I can remember many a cold morning when all I wanted to do was hit the snooze button, pull up the covers and stay in bed. As nice as sleeping in can be from time to time, I don’t recommend it as a steady diet.

In my experience, there’s no better way to start your day than to wake early and start your day. In the early morning peace and quiet, there is glorious time to reflect and feel gratitude. I use this important “me time” to read, write, and plan my day.

As the morning brightens, my energy grows, as does my appreciation for the precious day ahead me.

Enjoy the great outdoors. Fresh air and sunlight are invigorating if you’ve been cooped up all day. I’m grateful every day for Scout, my adorable springer spaniel, who needs to be walked twice a day. Do I feel like walking her all the time? No. Do I feel better after taking her out? Yes, without fail.

Whether you have a dog to walk or not, make an effort to leave your house and enjoy the great outdoors. It can help relieve feelings of loneliness and the lure of isolation as the days grow short and get colder.

Learn something new. Going back to school and fall go hand-in-hand. Who among us isn’t reminded of the nervous excitement associated with returning to school in the fall? It’s a great time to expand your intellectual horizons.

Each fall I identify a new skill or subject to learn. Last year, I researched how to divide and relocate perennials (my irises and peonies); this year, I’m learning about and practicing meditation.

Continuing education opportunities are abundant in this community. Check out colleges and universities, community centers, arts and cultural institutions, your local library, and workshop listings online and in the newspaper for class and workshop offerings.

Invite people in. Over the years, I’ve discovered a few simple and manageable ways to bring people into my world and into my home. One way is to organize a gathering around a TV show or series — yes, around the TV, as odd as that might sound.

For years, I invited my single friends over to watch “Downton Abbey” with me on Sunday nights. I provided the soup and salad; they provided the good company, laughs, and kick-start to my week. And theirs.

So, what’s your pleasure? Whether it’s football, a favorite weekly sitcom, or “Dancing With the Stars” — all of these and other TV shows can become reasons to bring friends and family together. The benefits? You’ll hone your cooking skills (boy, do I now have some great soup recipes!) and you’ll connect with people you care about.

What better way to enjoy a nice fall evening.

There are so many wonderful and meaningful strategies to enjoy the fall season and to ward off the blues that can sometimes emerge during this changing time of year. But these strategies require effort — conscious, creative effort.

If you are feeling sluggish, lonely or isolated, try a few of the strategies above. They have stood me in good stead and have reinvigorated my love for the fall season. If you, too, are ready to turn over a new leaf, October is the perfect time!

Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of “Alone & Content” empowerment boot camps for women held throughout the year in Mendon. She is the author of “Alone and Content: Inspiring, empowering essays to help divorced and widowed women feel whole and complete on their own.” For information about her boot camp, to purchase her book, or invite her to speak call 585-624-7887, email gvoelckers@rochester.rr.com, or visit www.aloneandcontent.com