There's a lot under the surface of life, everyone knows that. A lot of malice and dread and guilt, and so much loneliness, where you wouldn't really expect to find it, either. -Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
I love that it is nearly impossible to tell what a person's life is really like. The mystery of their daily interactions will always be an unsolved one to you. And no one can ever know exactly how this or that conversation went, which you carried with you all the way through dinner, without even knowing it. No one can ever know why the phrase your neighbor said sticks to your throat weeks later, or why you unfairly compare yourself to strangers on the internet. We're all mysteries to each other, and yet all familiar too. It seems primitive somehow, to be knocking about thinking we know the whys and what fors of another person when we hardly know why we're still talking to our ex-boyfriend in our head.
Sometimes I think the minutiae of my mornings are extraordinary, and I know every single American waking up is having the exact same kind of extraordinary occurrence, just by being alive. They may not think it special at all; just routine, normalcy.
"Ellie has to wake me up 2-3 times each morning, make the coffee, then throw it on me in order for me to get up."I read a post, several days ago, by my friend Pulley, which mentioned she and her lady love's morning, pre-yoga, routine. Not only did the above line (and the whole entry) make me laugh, but it stuck to me like some kind of southern humidity. I love Pulley's nearness to joy at the end of the post and felt inspired to again pay attention and let my own heart sing out. I told Hadj about the post, and the coffee, and directly recommended something akin to Ellie's support technique.
Monday was my birthday. We have used it as an excuse to be slightly more "extravagant" than usual, for the last five days, like my Mama taught me to do. On Tuesday we went to half-price day at the thrift store and I hit the mother-load. Among my numerous finds was a totally unworn pair of retro looking raisin-colored Adidas with the word "JOGGING" printed next to the stripes on the left shoe. I've been hording my dollar bills for a new pair of gym shoes and these fit well. We took a five dollar chance that these JOGGING shoes will do what they promise, and I began plotting which pair of leather "booties" I will buy with the money previously marked "practical and un-sexy gym shoes." Hadj began plotting the courses we'll run, now that I no longer have a valid excuse not to do so.
He gets up in the morning like some kind of puppy, excited every day that he's alive and gets to spend all day doing pretty-much exactly what he wants, which is what retiring at forty can do for a person. We have tinkered with different morning routines. I'm not convinced we've found the sweet spot yet, which is where Pulley's morning routine information comes in. See, I like to think that I get up like the morning sun. I am cold for a while, dim, and seemingly slow. Sometimes, all you see is a sliver of orange-yellow light then I'm tucked back into my stony gray clouds again. Generally, I prefer the sky to wake up before I do. So the other night I told Hadj about the coffee persuasion trick and asked he give it a try, since he's so up-and-at 'em in the AM.
Now that I think about it, it seems that insisting on grogginess when the alarm goes off might be another one of those previously programmed behaviors that no longer fit the bill. I remember reading once that the younger you are the more sleep the you need, and that it's really normal for Grandma Bobbie to get about five hours a sleep a night, even though her un-busied days consist largely of crossword puzzles and mahjong with the ladies. Here's why I may be suddenly changing my tune, all too publicly, about my waking behavior. It was a secret...I'm almost afraid to write it out loud because admitting that you might not be doing your best means, usually, that you've become accountable to Do. Your. Best. And it might mean getting up when the alarm goes off.
When Hadj's alarm goes off at 5:59 AM I usually hear it. And sometimes, I'm guessing about 51% of the time, I also wake like that puppy-who's-retired does. I'm alert, alive, enthusiastic, but only for a half-a-second. Then I realize that it's still dark outside, and - raining - of course, and I get over my bright eyes. I close them, or even just close whatever happy-happy-joy-joy hatch automatically opens in my brain, and roll over. I become determined for "five more minutes, Mom." Like I did all through high school.
Damn...I do do that, don't I?
It's possible that my body really meant it in high school. I don't remember having that brief moment of excitement then, no matter how much I deny it happening now. That could be attributable to "never having ANYTHING to WEAR," but I'm not so sure.
OK. So, I denied my sliver-of-a-chance to wake up and jump out of bed like an animated character. I didn't know I was even doing that (if I am, which at this point I'm only
I see now, hours since the morning alarm first went off, and as I review the posts that led me to writing and thinking about mystery in the routine of things, and the possibility of appreciating everyday, and of joy, that I might have missed the point entirely. Or at least forgotten it. Pulley's post was about something that happened inside her as she pushed herself to do things she wasn't necessarily excited to do and how those acts became joyous and enlightening. I latched onto her personal ritual in hopes for finding my way more easily toward the things I'm not keen on, or towards habits I didn't know I had to break.
Hadj did something I've asked him to do today. He ignored my whining. He played the role of boot camp instructor, but was much kinder and more good humored than any I've ever imagined. He informed me of what was expected, pushed me to get going, and ignored my evasion tactics for all he was worth.
"You're not even paying attention..." I began, accusatory as a cranky high school drama queen.
"No, I'm not. It's better if I don't pay attention actually, so get dressed" was his response, the one I asked him to have awhile back. He did eventually make me coffee, while I was busy being overtly crabby at him.
I came to realize that my dramatics were only putting me in a sour mood, that I wasn't going to get anywhere I actually want to be behaving that way. I shut up, helplessly pulled one last face at him, and got dressed.
All those unnecessary responses. All those old programs are being canceled for fresh, new inspirations. Some days I even remember that it's not going to all get done today; that life is always a process and I might as well just enjoy the process of getting there as much as I think I will enjoy reaching my end goal. There is no end goal even! Just tying on my JOGGING shoes, which worked me through my first two miles this morning, and getting out into the fresh Washington morning air with my beloved.
All that being said, I think I began with loving the mystery of people's private lives. There are programs in the world that touch on these unknown intimacies very well. This American Life does a great job of showing individual mysteries one episode at a time, and the book I've recently begun, Gilead, seems to be all about the large-feeling you get inside a family. Even if that family is as small as you, your girlfriend, and the morning routine.