2016 emotional calendar

We talked, once upon a time, about emotional acres

“Every single one of us at birth is given an emotional acre all our own,” wrote Anne Lamott in her book, Bird by Bird. “You get one, your awful Uncle Phil gets one, I get one, Tricia Nixon gets one, everyone gets one. And as long as you don’t hurt anyone, you really get to do with your acre as you please.”

Photo by Eptalon via Wikipedia

I was reminded of this marvelous metaphor today when I stumbled upon a book called The Emotional Calendar: Understanding Seasonal Influences and Milestones to Become Happier, More Fulfilled, and in Control of Your Life by Harvard psychiatrist Dr. John R. Sharpe.

Are you as intrigued by the title as I was?

As it turns out, we all have an emotional calendar to go with our emotional acre (feeling pretty fancy about now, right?).

Even before clicking the button to order the book, I started thinking—well, scheduling, sort of. I mean, I love “normal” calendars, so this twist piqued my penchant for planning. The blurb I read inspired me to ask myself a pointed question …

What does the coming season hold for me in terms of emotional landmarks?

I found myself ticking off events in my own mental autobiography. Is that why I feel such a deep sense of family connection this time of year?

Dr. Sharp contends, and I agree, that the roadmaps of our lives have profound effects on us, season after season, year after year.

“Take a look at what you are experiencing now, as well as at what’s just ahead. How do you expect your fall to be?” he asks in a recent Psychology Today blog post. “Consider each of the two possibilities—that this season is in fact looking very predictable based on your past experiences, and conversely that this season is looking really quite surprisingly different. Ultimately, you will grant yourself the opportunity to make changes for the better, if you so desire. One big lesson from understanding The Emotional Calendar is that we are in fact able to make strategic changes in our outlook and adjust/regulate our involvement with the seasons in order to lead a happier, more fulfilled, and in control life.”

John Carlin, Schneeszene in Utica via Wikimedia Commons

So, that’s what I’m up to today. As I let my mind drift backward, I’m jotting bits and pieces of winters past, remembering what has happened, how I’ve felt. It looks like I’m beginning to construct my own emotional calendar, and it’s stirring memories.

I hope you’ll carve some quiet time out of your day, today or sometime this week, and try it for yourself.

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    This books sounds intriguing. I am definitely influenced by an emotional calendar, Last night a friend and I were out having coffee and discussing this very same issue as it relates to weather and Christmas. She was in Madison , WI last weekend where it was in the 30s in the day and she and her friend were bundled up and enjoying hikes and long walks in the city. When she returned here on Sunday we were having one of our 80 degree days. Why is it that warm weather dampens the idea of the romance of the Christmas season? It shouldn’t but it definitely does. The cozy factor is not present when everyone is in shorts and the AC is going. We were wondering if what we experienced in our childhood imprints our emotional calendar so strongly that we struggle when those memories are challenged in the present conditions. Maybe? It is not something that is rational at all. The trick seems to be how to capture the romance and reframe it in today’s reality. And for that……I think I need to read this book!!

    • Karlyne says:

      I don’t know, Winnie, because I have an issue with hot weather at all times! I’m never comfortable unless there’s a chill in the air, or at least the promise of it. I’m trying to remember my childhood Christmases, but the only one I actually think I remember is the one where I got my first bike. We were in Sacramento, so the picture shows me (with a big grin), yes, wearing shorts! Strangely enough, Christmas didn’t become important to me until I had kids of my own, but now it’s certainly the best part of my emotional season. We have so much fun with our goofy traditions, and, yes, indeedy! some of it revolves around SNOW!

  2. Karlyne says:

    Such good points! I love the idea of both an emotional acre and an emotional season.

  3. Bonnie ellis says:

    I know that snowy weather definitely affects my Christmas. If we have warmer weather at Christmas I feel something is wrong. Most of my Christmases we snowy. Living in Minnesota definitely influenced the way I think about things. My son lives in Austin, TX. I would have a hard time adjusting to no “wintry” weather at this season. Sounds like I will read this book too.

  4. I have experienced Christmas, for instance ,in all climates- In Panama, Maryland, Virginia, New Hampshire, Greece/Crete ( I actually made a trip to the village of St Nicholas in Crete to celebrate ) India ( I put together a nativity play-easy in a country with lots of camels ) , Sri Lanka, Argentina, the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Vermont, and Pennsylvania.
    Christmas is a spiritual thing, not a climate thing. You make it happen no matter what. So your emotions are based on your personal context, not the temperature. I like this idea, especially the quote at the beginning of this post about ” emotional acres “. Very interesting concept. Thanks, MaryJane for informing us Farmgirls about this book.

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