Chronic Illness, Uncategorized, Writing

Appreciating Autumn When You’re Physically Limited


I love autumn.

I know it’s been the “it” season for a few years now, and I don’t care. I love it so much that I celebrate its beginning on September 1st, which is the start of meteorological autumn.

I’m no fan of hot weather, and I live in New England where the foliage becomes gloriously neon-colored in October. In November I like to watch all the plants die after a hard, glittering frost. I think leaf-covered cemeteries are gorgeous and I consider Halloween to be the greatest holiday of the year. I enjoy, in a morbid but strangely peaceful way, some time to reflect on death and decay.

Autumn is a welcome a break in the monotony of green, in the 5am sunrise, and the boiling hot interior of my car. Autumn brings milder weather and a more manageable ratio of daylight to darkness – all before the oppressive cold sets in.

Autumn is special, with or without pumpkin spice lattes (which I’ve never actually tried).


Each year, I want to squeeze every last drop out of this season. That’s how I approach (or rather, approached) most things in life. I have my list of things I want to do and enjoy, and I want to do them ALL.

With ME/CFS, though, my “want to do” list doesn’t really match up with my “can do” list. It makes me feel as if, each season, I am missing out on life. I am literally missing whole seasons and years when I could have been doing so many great things and posting so many cheery, heavily-filtered photos on Facebook.

So, what do I think I would be doing if I wasn’t ill?

I’d go for hikes in the woods. So many hikes. I’d drink specially-brewed fall beers and have cider donuts with them. I’d go for early morning walks with the dog and see how the leaves had changed every day. I’d make tons of pies and cookies. I’d go apple-picking and pumpkin-picking and maybe even wander through a corn maze.

book-read-reading-blanket-79697Well, that’s probably not in the cards for me this year.

Each month, I think, “maybe I’ll be better by then and I can do those things!” And each time my symptoms flare up, or I realize it’s been several weeks and I haven’t seen much improvement, I get discouraged.

There’s not much I can do about my limitations, beyond the things I’m already doing – medication, rest, healthy eating, etc.

What I can do is modify the list of things I want to enjoy. I can make it flexible, too, and remain open to whatever happens. There are so many little things we miss because we’re focused on ticking off all the things we have written on our list.

So, in honor of autumn, here’s my more realistic list of  ideas for things to do and appreciate this season. It’s not a “have to do” list – it’s just a list of suggestions for those times when I get glum and start thinking about all the things I can’t do right now. Maybe you can use it, too.

Low-energy autumn activities:

  1. Each day, look out the window and see how the leaves have changed in my backyard.
  2. Work on my crochet projects while watching Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.
  3. On those feeling-sick days, watch my favorite fall movies (Practical Magic forever).
  4. Take the edge off of dreaded chores (health insurance paperwork…ugh) by listening to autumn-inspired music (Sounds of Silence, Autumn)SAMSUNG CSC
  5. Keep a journal and note the changing of the season each day. I already keep a health log, so why not?
  6. Make and drink a spiced herbal tea.
  7. Snip some pretty, long-lasting berry branches for a vase in the kitchen.
  8. Open all the windows when the air is cool and crisp.
  9. Remember to take my allergy medications during the ragweed season.
  10. Ask for help raking leaves in the yard. Give cider to the helpers.
  11. Light a spicy-smelling candle.
  12. Do my morning yoga/stretches outside.
  13. Make a list of holiday gifts to start making or searching for.
  14. Warm up a rice and lavender bag to keep my toesies toasty. (Here’s how to make one from a sock – no sewing and minimal energy required!)
  15. Set priorities for the holiday season so I don’t get overwhelmed in November and December.
  16. Make a list of things I won’t do this fall and winter. It’s freeing when you just decide ahead of time to give up on some of those grand plans, if you know they probably won’t happen, anyways.

Higher-energy autumn activities:

  1. Make big batches of nutritious and tasty butternut squash when I have the energy.
  2. Go for a mellow leaf-peeping drive around the area. Have somebody else drive if I’m tired.
  3. Snap photos of fall scenes and share them with friends – foliage, pumpkin patches, frosty mornings, and dewy spider webs.
  4. Keep the fall decorating simple by picking up a few cute pumpkins for the front step. 8ct3j356mr
  5. Invite friends over for midday tea and crafts.
  6. Invite friends and family to bring seasonal foods to a potluck, so I’m not cooking for everyone.
  7. Visit the farmer’s market and pick up some seasonal produce.
  8. Reuse an old Halloween costume so I don’t have to make a new one.
  9. Make chili.
  10. Make a fall stew.
  11. Roast pumpkin seeds.
  12. Bake a gluten-free pumpkin pie (canned pumpkin! Making it from scratch is exhausting).
  13. Have a fire in the backyard.
  14. Carve a jack-o-lantern.


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