The Fourth Quarter: Week One – Look for Signs

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It was a gloriously warm September afternoon.  I almost regretted wearing my new wool jacket
as I stood guzzling a bottle of pop whilst enjoying the sun on my back.  But when I got back to my car, there it
was.  Irrefutable evidence.  A crisp golden leaf lying on the roof: a definitive
sign that summer is done.  Autumn time is
here.

The leaves turning and falling may be a sure sign that the
seasons have turned but it isn’t the only one.
In the last week I’ve noticed the early morning nip in the air and
received carrier bags full of apples passed along to prevent the garden’s glut
going to waste.  

Autumnal cues aren’t restricted to the natural world.  We can see them everywhere, in towns and
cities as much as villages and country lanes.
Again in the last week, I’ve delighted in seeing small children wearing
big uniforms and spotting the first crushed conker shells on the pavement.  

Not all the signs are welcome, of course.  Some relish the darker nights and colder days
but not everyone shares this enthusiasm for ‘seasons of mist and mellow
fruitfulness’.  Knowing that soon one
will have to get up in the dark and come home from work in the dark is a common
complaint.  For others, losing the long
languid days of summer triggers a more serious response, and they enter a
period as dark and cold as the world outside their door.

Whichever your stance, I welcome you to join in with The Fourth Quarter.  

If you love this time of year then The Fourth Quarter offers reflections to enhance your appreciation
and opportunities to celebrate what you treasure.  

If the prospect of some nice new knitwear doesn’t spark joy
in your heart, then there’s something here for you too.  I hope that within the weekly reflections you’ll
find a snippet that resonates, a spark that excites or a morsel of comfort – even
just one thing to embrace as we move towards the end of the year.

All you have to do is read and reflect.  Read these weekly commentaries then reflect
upon them as you go about your days.  Nothing
more demanding than that.  If you’d like
to share thoughts or pictures then that’s great; simply use the hashtag
#fourthquarter2015 on social media or pop a comment on A Life Of One’s Own Facebook page.

I’ll be doing likewise with additional bits and pieces
between the reflections as this is as much a journey for me as well.  The autumn months pull at my heart strings
like no others.  I feel like they offer
something integral to my A Life Of One’s
Own
vision but I’ve only a hazy sense of why.  I want to learn more, grow more and share
more as we go along.  

So let us begin this movement through the fourth and final
quarter of the year together!  

The reflection for this first week is this introduction
itself.  

The calendar on the wall (or just as likely on our phones)
tells us that it is September, with October almost in view.  Yet how do we know that it is autumn?  

The leaf on the roof of my car signalled the change of
seasons to me, but there are many other indications too.  Let’s spend the week gathering the
signs.  Let’s look around us, in our
homes and outside of them; in the built environment and the natural
environment; in the familiar and the unfamiliar.  How do you know that autumn is here?

Perhaps keep a written record of all the signs you
spot.  Or maybe a mini photography
challenge appeals, capturing the clues in a visual record.  

I like the idea of making it into a game, a bit like ‘I Spy’
only I guess all the answers kind of begin with the same letter – A for autumn!  (You could throw in F for fall, for
variety!).  In my fantasy world where I
am the world’s most amazing junior school teacher, I would play this game with
my class of nine year olds whilst going for nature walks (I have several
different alternate universes within my head; being a junior school teacher is
one of them).

Or maybe craft a poem from the season’s signs.  Acrostics are simple and amusing: make each
line begin with a particular letter, say A-U-T-U-M-N.  

Look for the signs, those you cherish and otherwise.  Don’t feel you have to filter to create a
particular vision of the season, just let your eyes take you where they
will.  And of course use your other
senses too; what are the sounds, smells and sensations of autumn?

As you explore and observe, you may also want to look
within.  What are your signs of
autumn?  Are there any internal clues?  Does your heart and soul respond to the
turning of the year in a particular way?
We’ll be thinking more about this internal response and the metaphorical
meaning of the seasons more in forthcoming weeks.

Let us now take our first step in this journey
together.  I’ll meet you back here next
week but in the meantime hope to see you on the Facebook page or via our
#fourthquarter2015 hashtag.

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When wounds heal, they form scars

I’m going
through a phase of journalling a lot.
This happens sometimes; I can go for weeks without opening my Moleskine
then spend a month scribbling furiously.
Right now it’s the latter.  I’ve
written before about the power of journalling, with some tips and ideas (see here and here).  This included posting a picture of a page
from my journal listing ‘Things that make me happy’.  Turns out this is one of my most popular
posts, and it has been reblogged and liked and seen by numerous strangers.  If I think about too much, it is terrifying
to realise that so many people have glimpsed so deeply into my soul – but then
that is the purpose of writing, of blogging, of sharing.  Connection is what really matters in life.

Connection
has been a major theme in my Moleskine musings over the last week or so, thus I’ve
decided to be brave again and share directly from my journal (I’m currently reading
Brené Brown’s latest book, Rising Strong,
so her previous exhortation to ‘dare greatly’ is much on my mind).  The following short passage is something that poured
out from me yesterday, all in a rush, flooding the page with not just words but
difficult memories and strong emotions too.
Yet it was amazingly cathartic to say these things to myself.  As I finished the final sentence, I felt
compelled to share these words.  Today,
that urge remains, although it makes me feel hugely vulnerable.  But perhaps that is a good sign.  If these words helped me, then maybe they can
help others too:  

“I’ve got
scars, like everyone.  I’ve been hurt and
that will always leave its imprint.  But
I’ve worked hard and dug deep to heal those wounds so that now they really are
just scars, markings in the tissue of my being that I can trace and feel but no
longer flinch when they’re touched.  They
are there and they are real but they no longer hurt.”

We all have
wounds that we would like to heal, but even when they do we continue to carry
the scars.  And we can learn to live with
them and grow with them and even thrive with them.  

If this
post helped you in thinking about your wounds, or if you think it would help
someone else, then please do share it.
Connection is what stitches those wounds back together again.

And if you
would like to connect more with me and A
Life Of One’s Own
, there’s Instagram,
Twitter, Pinterest or the A Life Of One’s Own
Facebook page
.  Starting next week, there is also The Fourth Quarter, a gentle and informal group exploration of the treasures and meanings bound up in autumn and early winter.  All the details are here.

The announcement: not the one I was expecting.

I’d excitedly posted on social media the other day about a new group programme announcement coming at the end of the week.  Here it is.  It isn’t the announcement – or the programme – that I was expecting to make…

I had
developed a group programme under the title The
Fourth Quarter: use the time that remains
.
I was excited about, thinking about the different ways it might help
participants.  I put out a few announcements.  I even put all the bits of paper in their own plastic folder, a definite sign that
this was real and happening.

It would
have been a good programme, I’m sure.
But…you knew there was a ‘but’ coming, didn’t you?  But it felt out of sync.  The material was strong but ran contrary to
where I am in my own life.  Right now I’m
all about nestling down, whereas the programme was about gearing up.  After an intense few months of work and
travel, I’m craving quiet nights under a blanket with a good book – a retreat,
not an expedition.  Whilst I knew I could
do a good job, I began to wonder if I’d be at my best if the programme’s
purpose was out-of-step with the ethos I’m channelling at the moment.

The
original plan also felt a little out of sync with what A Life Of One’s Own is all about.
Not contradictory or in opposition, just at a different angle by a few
degrees.  Lots of coaches could deliver
similar material.  Cerebrally I liked it
a lot, but it didn’t resonate deep down in the way 24 Days Before:
an advent journey
(my previous group programme) had.

Seeing
deeply authentic material by some of my favourite fellow-travellers on this
exploring/writing/coaching journey made me pause the preparation process.  A beautiful offering from Sas
Petherick
, a heart-warmingly honest missive from Susannah Conway, a thought-provoking blog post from Courtney Carver,
a blossoming community with Tori’s Tales
#talesofseptember Instagram challenge: these made me stop and think this this is what I want to do, want to offer, want to create – things
that touch people on a deeper level.
This is what A Life Of One’s Own is
about, this is where I want to get back to.

In the
spirit of my latest read, Brené Brown’s new book Rising Strong, I wanted to be open
and honest about this change of heart.
It makes me feel very vulnerable saying ‘I wanted to do this but now I’ve
changed my mind.’  The story I’m telling
myself (to use Brown’s phrase) is that you’ll think I’m at best a dilettante,
playing at self-help and navel-gazing, and at worst incompetent, not having a
clue what I’m doing.

I hope not,
dear readers.  I hope that you recognise
that this kind of work is always in progress, never complete, never
perfect.  I am working to create a product
– and more broadly a practice – that gives voice the deepest parts of my inner
life and in doing so speaks to yours.  My
original design and concept for the group programme was a good idea, but it did not do that.

And now the
instead…Instead I’m putting out there a much softer programme.  The Fourth Quarter
remains as a title, but this comes from a different place.  The Fourth Quarter now
is about scaling back, toning down, sinking deep.  It’s about growing in one another’s company,
hence the new subtitle: let’s
spend it together
.

With three
quarters of the calendar year now almost past, The Fourth
Quarter
is about using the time that remains in 2015 to embrace the
seasons around us.  Let’s show up for
autumn, and then for winter too.  Rather
than simply trudging through the darker nights and trying to ignore the cold, let’s
work with this time of year to make it our own – a period with meaning.  

I was out
of sync and now am getting in line simply with where I am and where the world
around is.  I invite you to join me in
doing the same.

More
information about The Fourth Quarter: let’s
spend it together
is available here.