Evanston RoundTable, Sept. 7, 2017
I’m the sort of fellow who, enjoying a bowl of ice cream, begins to regret the last few licks; who sees the beautiful fall season as but a prelude to winter; who frowns at the prospect of a great book coming to a close.
Why is it we often cannot enjoy an enjoyable thing—be it a snack, a season, or a summing up—without anticipating disappointment long before it ends?
Take the wonderful season of fall, only a few weeks off, for many people the best time of the year. There is the golden leafiness of trees tinged in their autumnal glory; the fine sweater weather of crisp days and cool nights; and (for sports fans) the heavenly confluence of the World Series and the start of college and professional basketball, hockey, and football. The Wall Street Journal once headlined an article, “Fifty Reasons Fall is the Best Season.” (Reason #31: “You can bargain-shop for cushy villas and castles.”)
What could be better? And yet, some of us are built to start worrying about the thing that comes next—such as the icy grip of winter! Fall isn’t a season to savor so much as to suffer: the end of summer, the onset of bitterly cold weather, the transition from shorts and sandals to overcoats and boots, from the green lushness of warm weather to the gray half tones of ice, snow, sludge, and overcast skies.
Apparently this regret syndrome is not that uncommon. In his short story “Men Without Women,” the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami writes, “You might meet a new woman, but no matter how wonderful she may be… from the instant you meet, you start thinking about losing her.”
The solution is simple: to admire the here and now and not anticipate the then and gone. Take each day a day at a time, which in this case means to luxuriate in the glorious fall weather. And when, as it must, fall starts to come to a close, with showers of red-orange leaves and the onset of cold, rainy weather, it will still feel good to put on a hooded parka and walk in the tingling, stimulating wet coolness of late autumn.
As for the ice cream and the novel, and everything else good, same thing: be thankful for the discernment to find and enjoy them, and look forward, on the positive side, to many more such opportunities.
And remember, winter is almost never as bad as we fear. There are fine clear days when the sun twinkles on a fresh blanket of snow and the air is bracing and clean. And even on those horrendous stretches of sub-zero cold, or a blizzard that promises hours of shoveling and days of being shut in, or the long hours of winter darkness that cloak the sky, keep in mind, they too shall pass.
After all, what can be better than anticipating spring?