“Look! It looks like late Fall now.”
“What does that mean?”
I explained, all the while realizing that the distinction really didn’t matter much to her. For kids, Fall is all leaves, pumpkins, costumes, apples and those things last the whole season through, straight through to fir trees and glitter and snow. I suppose the distinction doesn’t really matter much to most people. I’ve never really paid attention to it much before now. But yesterday with its golden yellow leaves against grey skies, branches that glowed just days ago now stark and bare, even though it was a bit unseasonably warm, I could feel it. Fall is closing.
I experienced, and quite strongly, the fear of missing out long before it became an acronym. Or a hashtag. In college, I used to leave my dorm room door wide open, not wanting to miss the action in the hallway. I used to settle myself in the student center or on the quad to do my work, anxious to be part of whatever was happening out there. In my twenties, I could never settle down. I accepted every party invitation, every offer to hang out, every possible opportunity, just so that I wouldn’t miss out on whatever it was life was sending my way.
Marriage settled me. Motherhood even more. Finally, I didn’t feel called to go everywhere, see everyone, do everything. I had my hands full, yes, but it was more than that. I had my heart full, maybe? I became clearer, I thought anyway, on what missing out really meant. There was a peace in my heart. I’d decline invitations and opportunities and feel completely at peace. The decisions weren’t hard. I knew which one to make every time and I never regretted a single night spent at home, cuddled on the couch. I stopped fearing what I was missing. I stopped feeling like I was missing anything at all.
About a month ago, I saw a blog post that was positively all pumpkin. My instagram feed was a collage of golds and yellows and reds. Beautiful amber sunsets, sweaters and tights amidst leaves and apples. And I began to panic. I’d been busy. Focused on other things. And there I was, I was missing it.
Missing Fall. All the autumn glory. I had not yet bought a can of pumpkin, not yet made a single Fall thing. No crafts, no desserts. We hadn’t been to the pumpkin patch or found a place to go apple picking.
Fall, I was convinced, was passing me right by. Again. Just like it does most years. Distracted by the glow of births and then birthdays, swimming through daily commutes and deadlines and doctors appointments and meetings and all the rest, I’d often end up feeling like I’d slept through Fall, despite how much I wanted to enjoy it. Savor it. And there I was again, mid-September and feeling like it was already over.
I blinked and she started Kindergarten. She was fully into it before I began to really grasp the bigness of the moment. How it was affecting her. And me. I rushed us on through. Other things to do, other places to be, just do this, get dressed, hurry up and into the car, we’ve got to go. But then suddenly, she can touch my shoulder. And she’s writing words, sentences, all on her own, not asking for the spellings. She’s reading and singing and adding and dancing.
The world has begun to expect more of her and she’s keeping up. And when I finally do sit down to watch, it is so beautiful. When I sit to watch her face, her lips moving ever so slightly as she forms letters into words, sorting through the sounds she thinks should be there and stretching them across the page. I’m biased but it is magical. It is magic happening right there in front of me. Except that most days, I miss it.
Of course, my fear of missing out never faded. It’s still here, just as strong as it always was. It’s just shifted. Found new objects of obsession. I don’t fear missing out on the parties or the get togethers or the opportunities. I fear missing out on the seasons. The cycles. The moments. I fear that the entirety of autumn will pass and I won’t have sat with a friend, sipping warm pumpkin spice as the sun sets. I fear that Christmas trees will replace the pumpkins at the farms and we still won’t have picked one. I fear that by the time I finally look up, every last leaf will have fallen and I’ll be missing them so badly until Spring.
And I fear that by the time I finally look up, she’ll be asking for the keys to the car so that she can spend her Friday evenings with friends, rather than begging me for dessert and cuddles on the couch with a movie.
So I’ve started to notice. I’ve keyed into Fall this year. I’ve watched every tree that makes up the view of the world I see every day and I’ve noticed just about every phase. The early pops of color. The slow creeping of reds and yellows and oranges. The full blown glory of nature. And, now, the falling. The increasing bareness. The starkness that tells me we are officially in late Fall. It’s closing. I’ve noticed it all and felt it all. And I’ve caught most of her new bigs. Her increasing understanding of numbers, the way she can now count to ten in French. Her burgeoning decision making process that so closely mirrors mine. The way she thinks of her friends and, also, fears missing out. That he is bigger than he was yesterday. I’m actually seeing his growth now, without the aid of old photos to make it so obvious. He asked for more cereal today, using words and not grunts and I’m not missing any of his baby steps and leaps forward in speech.
My fear of missing out has not subsided. Not at all. I’m just now putting it to good use.