Tuesday, seven o’clock. I wake to sunshine flooding the corners of my bedroom, laying stripes of warmth across the bed. What a relief after days of chill rain and gray skies. I’ve slept longer than usual, but I’m not unhappy about it because finally my body feels rested. I extricate myself from the bed, wiggle around two sleeping dogs and a husband just beginning to stir, and stretch my back for a moment before tackling the stairs to the first floor kitchen. While coffee brews, I empty the dishwasher; when it’s done, I carry two cups of steaming coffee upstairs on a small bamboo tray, just as I’ve done everyday for the past four years we’ve lived in this house.
An hour later – with coffee, reading, and journal writing under my belt – I’m ready for the day. During breakfast (vanilla yogurt with sliced banana and coconut granola) I check in on social media, trying to limit my time and avoid getting sucked down the many rabbit holes of posts, links, and comments.
I am only moderately successful.
Finally, tearing myself away from the interesting world of internet life, I get properly dressed and walk the dogs for about 30 minutes. I call it walking, but it’s more of an amble, with ridiculous amounts of time for stopping and sniffing. I’m resigned to this. My dogs are old, and our morning constitutional is the highlight of their day.
This is the way I start every day. It’s not only typical, it’s ritualistic, as necessary for me to complete as a pilot’s checklist in the cockpit before takeoff.
But the hours between 11 and 4 (after the dog walking and before dinner prep) loom large before me. It’s laughable to think that ten years ago a typical day was jam packed with office work, rehearsals, practicing at home, blog writing, book reading and reviewing, plus all the other details involved in homemaking, with scarcely a minute left over to do more than fall into bed exhausted at the end of it all.
During the past decade my daily life has changed drastically, been whittled away by choice and circumstance. Responsibilities have slipped away one by one, almost without my notice. I resigned from the office job I held for 15 years. I have no choral groups to accompany. I don’t sing in the church choir or even attend church at all. When my mother died two months ago my years of eldercare came to an end.
I read, I write, I practice the piano and I play handbells once a week. I walk dogs. I keep house.
Lack of time was a central theme in my writing from 10 years ago. Now, time occasionally weighs heavily on my hands. Do I feel guilty about this? Sometimes. It’s luxurious, my life – plenty of free time and the resources to do whatever I want with it. I’m certainly not bemoaning it – quite the opposite. I want to make sure I’m a good steward of this remarkable gift. So I worry and obsess a little in my morning journal writing about whether I’m doing all that I should be doing. I make mental lists for the day, lofty lists with goals and ambitions.
But most often I don’t complete them. I wander aimlessly around my house a lot. I gaze out the window.I sit on a bench under an umbrella of blossoming pear trees.
For years I was completely preoccupied with the Dailiness of Living. I’d organize my tasks, make to-do lists, formulate and prioritize in day planners and bullet journals. I’d tick off items one by one and move proudly on to the next.
Now, in these hours between 11 and 4, I’m learning to simply BE. It’s a gift – this ability to wake up each morning and pick and choose what I’ll do with the day, like items off the menu in a Chinese restaurant. One day I’ll choose an hour of reading, lunch with a friend, writing time in the afternoon, some work in the garden. Another it might be a bike ride into town, a stop at the library, and some piano practice before dinner.
Tuesday, four o’clock. The dogs wake from their own afternoon napping. We go out, maybe amble around the block again if the weather’s nice. I come inside and put a CD in the player (yes, I still have a CD player) while pulling together the ingredients for dinner. I might sip a glass of wine while it cooks and read my book, or scroll through social media feeds again to find out what everyone’s been up to during their busy day. By 6:00 Jim is home from work. We eat, clean up the kitchen, walk the dogs (again!), and relax with a favorite TV show before I take a hot bath and go to bed with my book. Maybe I’ll get 20 minutes of reading before my eyes close in sleep.
Simple days, with easy responsibilities. When I’m tempted to chide myself for being less productive than I should be, I remember these words from a wise friend: “Be gentle with yourself. Rest. Be. Grieving is work enough.” I’m trusting that what seems like a fallow period is a time of renewal and rejuvenation for whatever comes next.
The great Annie Dillard writes this: “How we live our days is, of course, how we live our lives.” I’m trying to live these days with gratitude and grace, mindful of the nourishment to be found in quiet, everyday moments and activities.
About the Author: Becca Rowan
Becca Rowan lives in Northville, Michigan with her husband and their two dogs. She is the author of Life in General, a book of personal and inspirational essays about the ways women navigate the passage into midlife. She is also a musician, and performs as a pianist and as a member of Classical Bells, a professional handbell ensemble. If she’s not writing or playing music you’ll likely find her out walking with the dogs or curled up on the couch reading with a cup of coffee (or glass of wine) close at hand. She loves to connect with readers at her blog, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.