A few Sundays ago, my friend asked me to run errands with her. I had nothing better to do, so I agreed to go.
My one stipulation was that I was hungry, so we had to get lunch. So we did. We went to a German restaurant I had never been to before and ordered sandwiches and beers and sat outside and talked until our food came, and then we ate. And by the time we finished eating, my friend had gotten emails back from the bike ads she had responded to and it was time for us to go look at bikes. So then we looked at only one bike and it was a great fit so she handed over the cash, and then we drove back to her house.
This may not seem like an exciting day at all, but as recent graduates of UNC Chapel Hill, we thought it was incredible – we spent a Sunday doing what we wanted, when we wanted.
We had lived together in college along with six other girls, and Sundays consisted of running around all day long and when we weren’t running from activity to activity, we crammed in as much school work as we could. And then we stayed up late trying to get it all done and then woke up Monday morning already exhausted, beginning what promised to be a busy week.
As my friend and I talked that day we ran errands and ate lunch together, we both agreed that this new pace of life was nice. If Sundays are supposed to be a day of rest, we were doing much better than we had the past four years. And it felt great.
Then last Sunday we biked to downtown Durham from my new apartment, a round trip of 15 miles. We sat on the grass in a park and then found a little café and ate muffins and drank sodas before we turned around. And we decided to name this little tradition of doing fun things on Sundays ‘Taking Back Sunday,’ because that’s what it felt like we were doing and because it had absolutely nothing to do with one of my favorite middle school bands.
Now Sunday after Sunday stretches in front of us, and we can do whatever we want on those Sundays.
Sometime last weekend, before the bike ride, a more sudden revelation hit me. I realized that it was October.
I had known that – I have a calendar chock-full of appointments and memorized several important dates this month. I knew it was October. But not once did I appreciate that it was October.
Pop culture might be screaming at me that loving October is basic, but I love October. It’s my favorite month. I grew up in Florida, where there’s no such thing as temperature change, let alone the explosion of color that happens around this time of year when you get further away from the Equator. I moved up to North Carolina for college in 2010, so this is only the fifth October I’ve gotten to experience in a place where that means something different than June, July or August.
I love the crisp air, I love the pumpkin patches and haunted houses, I love the color change maybe most of all. I have favorite trees and I distinctly remember how happy walking home along my gold-and-red-tinted street made me feel this time last year. I don’t love pumpkin spice lattes, but I do love pumpkin pie and candy corn and chili and more of an excuse to brew a hot cup of coffee for no reason.
And I love how people seem to be a little bit happier and more excited. They do things together like go to the fair or organize outings to a haunted something-or-other and they plan what costumes to wear to at least three different events. October just seems to be a little bit contagious.
But with November right around the corner, it hit me all of a sudden that this year, I had forgotten to love my fifth-ever October. Somehow, the end of the month was sneaking up on me and all of my favorite things will soon change as time rolls right along.
I had forgotten to love October because I was too busy remembering to worry about things that were either beyond my control or I couldn’t handle with faith. And so by focusing on everything I was discontent with and everything I wanted to happen in the future, I had failed to be present in everything good that was waiting for me to enjoy it.
It feels like I have an infinite number of Sundays left to take back. But I only have a few days left of October, and then it’s gone.
Of course, it’s ridiculous to assume life is at its peak a certain month. November will hold just as many occasions for me to look at my glass as half empty or half full. And hopefully I will do a better job seeing it as half full.
But this Sundays-versus-October thing highlights an important distinction between ways we can approach life: we can either see it as an ongoing event, opening the possibility of taking any given moment for granted, or we can see it as something finite, with value laced in between each and every second.
It would be very easy for me to view several time periods of my life as wasted – periods of emptiness in between seasons of life with significance, or that I just liked better.
And maybe that’s fine – if life is infinite or if I live to be 100 years old, what is a couple weeks or a few months in the grand scheme of all of that?
But what if a couple weeks turns into three or four months, or what if I am still discontent in certain areas when my season of life does change, or what if I actually don’t live to be 100 years old? Then what?
I recently joined a small group and my first time attending, we talked about what salvation is. We used a lot of different metaphors, but one that stuck out to me is that of an appetizer versus the main course. The speaker using the metaphor told a story of a time he skipped an appetizer to save room for the main course, only to find out shortly thereafter that what he thought had been the appetizer was the main course.
So is this not the challenge of life? To see all of the ups and downs – especially the downs – as still being the main course?
I think to do that, you have to have faith that it all means something other than the day-to-day, that there is an underlying story that is overflowing with purpose behind the mundaneness of our everyday lives.
You have to believe that it is all going to be okay despite the ups and downs and that everything will work out in the end. And that it will more than work out – it will be good.
As someone who struggles with finding personal significance outside of achievement, I am working on seeing life as a continual main course. But the beautiful thing is, if it’s continual, I get to wake up tomorrow with a second chance.
Luckily, tomorrow is still October. And even when tomorrow isn’t October, it is still a day full of potential to love and be loved; to give and to receive, to create and to refine. Our lives mean so much more than society tends to tell us they do. And they mean so much more than we let ourselves believe that they do.
So I will go to bed tonight with the goal of taking back tomorrow – and Sunday, and October – and with the goal of seeing life as the best carb-and-lobster-loaded pasta dinner, regardless of circumstance.