When It is Fall, and I am trying to Choose Joy

It is October. This always takes me by surprise. In the midwest the changing of the seasons was marked by a crisp note in the air. The shorts were put away, the sweaters were pulled out. Fall did not sneak up on us. Now I live in the south (I mean, I used the word y’all a thousand times in my last post) and the fall sneaks up on me. I am still wearing sundresses, and strip off my cardigan in the school parking because it is too warm to wear it in my car.

But the warmth does not make up for the lack of light these days. I can feel the depression, hazy around the edges of my brain, waiting for the chance to descend. You can track the cycles of my mental health, following the waning sunlight, since late elementary school. October starts to get spotty, November is never good. I begin to recover in March when the sun comes back.

by the amazing Jennifer Upton

by the amazing Jennifer Upton

In my worst October, I turned 17. I wore a soft pink sweater to school and it was just a touch too warm. My mom got a chocolate raspberry tort from our favorite bakery. My boyfriend and a friend from school came over for dinner. My friend gave me a poster that read, CHOOSE JOY. That Friday night I missed yet another football game and my friends from the marching band called from the band room after the game. They called to wish me a happy birthday and I couldn’t stop crying.

My friends mom called mine, and they came to my rescue in a mini-van, took me to a sleepover that had been transformed to an impromptu birthday party. Half way through the midnight movie I went upstairs to pee and started sobbing uncontrollably. When a girl came upstairs after me, found me sobbing at the kitchen sink and asked me what was wrong, I remember gasping for breath, and howling “I DON’T KNOW.” I started medicating my depression (under the careful watch of my mom) that weekend.

It was hard that year, choosing joy. I am grateful my friends saw me struggling. I am grateful for the reminder. I needed it that fall. I need it in the fall. I can feel the depression seeping in. I am trying to choose joy.

I am trying to choose joy in the two herbal supplements I swallow every morning, with them I swallow the prideful idea I should be able to do it on my own. Sometimes God’s grace comes inside the bottles you buy 2 for 1 at the GNC.

I am trying to choose joy in the simple things. It is scarf week! I love scarves, and am sporting one every day in my classroom. This makes me happy, not shallow.

I am trying to choose joy in leaning into this season, pumpkin patches, fires in the evening, salted caramel mochas, Last night I made a grilled cheese sandwich with brie and honey crisp apples. Sometimes fall is subtle, and that is delicious.

I am choosing joy by letting go and laughing. My girls want to wear their Halloween costumes recently acquired on Ebay pretty much daily. Why not? Why not let Priscilla dress up as a cupcake and sing happy birthday to herself for the rest of the month? Why not let Juliet sport her ice-cream head and let her tell me she is delicious? She is delicious, they both are.

I am choosing to see the beauty, in the fall leaves, in myself, in the people who love. Sometimes the imperfections are the exact reason I love them so much.

By the amazing Jennifer Upton

By the amazing Jennifer Upton

This choosing joy thing, it is a fight for me. I think it always will be. So often I hear of joy as something you are surprised by, something soft and warm. In the fall, for me, joy is something I have to fight for, cling to, swallow hard.  But I have read the promises in the word. This is a thing that already belongs to me.

It is the fall, October has come, and I am fighting for my joy.

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18 thoughts on “When It is Fall, and I am trying to Choose Joy

  1. Pingback: Beautiful Words

  2. I don’t know that I have ever chosen joy, but I have certainly had joy in my life. Believe in yourself, embrace your gifts, don’t hide from the seasons or your memories. Joy will be found, I am sure of that

  3. Oh, so beautifully told, Abby. Fight for it – take those supplements (and anything else you need), get a light to sit under. Do what it takes without shame or worry. Because you are far to amazing to live in the shadow of depression, okay?

  4. Abby, I learn so much about you reading AD It makes me s a little sad because I did not always catch that you were in pain when you were growing up but I guess I’ll take your advice and choose joy instead. I recently heard Graham Cook in Defiance (for those not from Ohio that’s a town as well as an attitude I am referring to the town) preach on choosing the fruit of the spirit in every circumstance and situation. His best quote to illustrate, “You had 9 fruit to choose from (to address a situation) and (instead) you chose anger”. I choose Joy. in all circumstances with all people, in all situations I choose the Fruit.
    Gal 5:22-24 ESV
    (22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
    (23) gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
    (24) And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

  5. It was both a hopeful and terrifying realization for me that so much about managing my own depression came down to directing my own perspective- or, as you so beautifully put it- choosing joy. It’s a brave thing you’re doing, and more difficult than it sounds- this, I know. Keep at it!

  6. I am loving your writing and your honesty. I found you when another teacher/co-worker posted something recently. This really touched me. My middle daughter, who is 21, suffers with bi-polar disorder and we do our best to help her choose joy in the low times. Thank you for sharing your heart and your struggles so openly!

  7. I found your blog through a teacher friend who re-posted one of you posts and I loved this post on fighting for joy. I am a second year teacher I recently moved to Mexico to teach in a brand new christian school (I spent my first year of teaching in a public NC school). I’ve never struggled with having to fight for joy until this move and some days it has been harder than ever (I am living on my own and adjusting to the culture/not knowing the language yet has been tough) . I am thankful for your post and the reminder that joy is something we have to fight for…the enemy is waiting to take advantage of us and steal our joy when we are weak. I was encouraged this morning and thought of your post when reading from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young:

    “Remember that joy is not dependent on your circumstances. Some of the world’s most miserable people are those whose circumstances seem the most enviable. People who reach the top of the ladder career-wise are often surprised to find emptiness awaiting them. True joy is a by-product of living in My Presence. Therefore you can experience it in palaces, in prisons…anywhere.
    Do not judge a day as devoid just because it contains difficulties. Instead, concentrate on staying in communication with Me. Many of the problems that clamor for your attention will resolve themselves. Other matters you must deal with, but I will help you with them. If you make problem solving secondary to the goal of living close to Me, you can find joy even in your most difficult days.”

    “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields priduce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoyce in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the nights” Habukkuk 3:17-19

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