What I learned at a Dolly Parton concert in Autumn

September 17, 2016

Yesterday, as I watched the leaves die their beautiful, colourful death, my heart stirred my mind. Watching this graceful end motivated me to let some things go. As the leaves alter and blow away, I, too, will change and let the dead things drop and the worries blow away. “There is a harmony in autumn” and I seek harmony this season. The lessoning light and warmth is cutting off water and nutrients to the leaves, the chlorophyll is breaking down. In the next couple of weeks I am going to cut off what is no longer serving me and let it all blow away in the wind. There may be moments where my branches lie barren, but this will make room for the new me. When ready, after I nourish my roots for a while and lie dormant in rest, new leaves will bud.

You may be surprised at the list of things I plan to let go of this next little while. Perhaps more surprised, or amused, that most of these ideas came to me at the Dolly Parton concert last night. My husband laughed when I told him being with Dolly is the closest I have felt to God, but her warmth and kindness and faith was inspiring. And I realized that some of the things I am holding on to actually stem from a love of Dolly. So I am giving up the fear of dying, high heels, workaholic tendencies, and big hair. I understand that it is weird to have high heels in the same list as dying, but here goes….

High heels. The old me was a teacher and keyboardist in a band. I loved dresses, smooth shaved legs, and high heels. HIGH, stiletto heals. I wore high heels and skirts to school all the time and during concerts. It looked great. I still love the look. But after being sick for so long I am downright uncomfortable. My feet hurt, I have gained weight, and I need support. The old saying, “Beauty knows no pain” is no longer applicable. The last four years I have mostly worn pajamas so it won’t be totally heartbreaking to give away or sell all my high heels. But when I start to work and go out more it will feel strange to wear pants and flats. I may mourn the old image of myself, but this is one thing I am going to let go….


Big hair. Totally a Dolly Parton thing. Since being little I wanted to be Dolly. My cousin and I shoved inflated balloons down our sparkly dresses and puffed up our hair or wore wigs. After going through surgeries and painful treatments I won’t let anyone near me for breast implants but I do cry over my hair falling out. Treatments are ongoing and harsh. My hair breaks off or falls out in clumps. I put in hair extensions and backcomb and worry and fuss and waste way too much energy and time on this. My hair will never be voluptuous. This week I am going to accept that. I don’t have the time and energy each day to get “big” hair. It never looks good because my hair breaks off and the tapes of the extensions show through anyway. It is a losing battle. I admit defeat! I will cut my hair off, and will learn to love a shaggy short cut.


Workaholic woes. Being a workaholic has been bred into me. Being German and Protestant has caused part of this. I am going to learn how to work smarter not harder. I spent the last few years unable to work or clean my house or do much of anything. I spent the time in deep contemplation. I need to carry what I learned forward and not slip into the old habit of being a people pleaser and workaholic. Returning to my breakneck ways will only cause a relapse.

Thinking of fall, I remembered a teaching year when I missed autumn! Missed it. I used to go to work in the early dark hours and return in the dark. Marking and planning and extracurricular. One Saturday afternoon I was driving to organize my classroom and was shocked that the trees were bare and the leaves had mostly blown away. I had missed my favourite season! Shortly after that, my body collapsed and my disease took over. I CANNOT BECOME THAT PERSON AGAIN.

I do not need to prove my worth, make up for lost time, or regain my identity as a career woman. That person is gone. I may be returning to work parttime but I will never return to the employee I was. It will take lots of pep talks and reminders. I must make a solid effort to identify myself with long lasting, important things in the next few weeks.

Fear of Relapse. I MUST let go of the fear of relapse. I can make choices that prevent this from happening, and can accept what is out of my control. I survived the worst of disease and treatment before, and can do it again if need be. But instead of silently worrying about this and saying these scary things over to myself, I am letting it go.  Instead of worrying about relapse to the point of making myself sick, I will focus on gaining health, making life-giving choices, and strengthening my faith. I will seek out love and beauty so that there is no room for fear. I will drive the fear out by embracing all that is beautiful and joyful and peaceful. Goodbye dis-ease! Goodbye worry! As the leaves die I see how beautiful death can be. We are all going to die someday, somehow. Each day need not be filled with fear of that time. We can have beauty right up until the moment we fly away one bright morning.

It is not strange then, that autumn is so beautiful, while everything is dying. Let whatever is no longer serving you to drop off, blow away. Make room for the new leaves to bud next spring!


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