Autumn has arrived. I can’t think of a better time to put priorities back in order.
You see, a new University of Nebraska-Lincoln study finds that “the current U.S. political climate is literally making Americans physically sick, damaging friendships, and driving many people crazy’.”
Among the findings: About two in five Americans are stressed out by politics, and one in five are losing sleep over it.
Look, politics is important. An informed, engaged public is essential to our country’s continued success at the local, state and federal levels.
But aren’t we taking our politics — and ourselves — a bit too seriously?
To be sure, in the era of social media — and a president who tweets 24/7 — politics is in our faces more than ever. We carry politics around on our smartphones.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make a concerted effort to keep politics in proper perspective.
Consider: We each have little control over who becomes president — just one vote. But we have total control over how we respond to who becomes president.
A president’s policies do affect our day-to-day lives — health insurance policies, taxes and regulations do impact us some. But the truth is that our politicians otherwise have minimal daily impact on our lives.
Life is largely made up of colds, bills, speeding tickets and people who sometimes grate on our nerves.
Between those experiences are mundane tasks and drudgeries.
Interrupting those drudgeries are delicious meals with friends, the occasional hearty laugh, the love of a truly special person who’s supportive in times of need — and autumn, one of the most wonderful times of the year.
Spring is about new life and fresh starts. Summer is about toil, sweat and a one-week break at the beach. Autumn is about harvesting your labor’s hard-earned fruits.
It’s about peacefully accepting that warm weather will be gone soon - and that bitter-cold winds and snow will be back soon.
Among my favorite things to do at this time of year are driving to fall festivals in small country towns, going on hayrides after dark, and drinking hot apple cider — with a dash of Irish whiskey — around a roaring bonfire with my closest friends, while we tell each other ghost stories and tales of haunted houses, ghouls and goblins with Halloween approaching.
Autumn allows us to reflect on what is most valuable in our lives — our loved ones, our extended family. It’s about spending time with each other and talking about everything and nothing at all.
It’s about taking a much-needed respite from politics — about making chili in a cast-iron dutch oven that sits for hours on fireside coals, then feasting on that chili with your parents and siblings while thanking God that all are still healthy and together after no small number of years.
We’re tearing ourselves apart with our politics. Autumn offers a chance to renew friendships and reprioritize our lives.
As the leaves turn bright colors and drop from the trees, drop politics down on your list of priorities — way down to its proper place.
Autumn is too important and too enjoyable to let politics intrude.
Light a bonfire, heat up some apple cider and focus on the most important things in our lives — while taking a much-needed break from our overly heated politics.
Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist. Send comments to Tom at Tom@TomPurcell.com.