I woke up recently to a new awareness. For the first time that I am consciously aware of, I am reveling in the small, day-to-day details of my life. From the chirping of the birds outside my window starting at 7 every morning to the final ritual of flossing my teeth before bed, my days have become filled with a texture that I find myself looking forward to just as much as the big things in my life – the seeing of friends, work accomplishments, travel to new places and so on. To enjoy the daily rhythm of my days sounds so simple, yet it marks a profound shift from where I was just a few years ago. How did the shift take place? What lessons have I learned from it?
It’s not that I didn’t know how to appreciate small things before. As a child I could get lost in a clover patch, or hunting for moss in the woods. I’ve always appreciated taking walks, listening to birds, the hidden beauty of the patterned shadows of window blinds be-striping a room with afternoon sunlight. But as to the daily rhythms of my life? If I’m honest I think most of my life I’ve found them oppressive. Rushing to school, work or appointments. Hurrying to eat, hurrying to clean up, hurrying to get things done. It was as though life was one big dichotomy – the things that brought “joy” and the chores one had to accomplish to earn that joy. Relaxing, for instance, seemed to require some stressful sort of activity, so that I could “relax”, these were realities for me. No matter how good my life was (and it so often has been), no matter how engaged I might be in my work, the ligaments of my daily activities were often torn and inflamed – the stress of riding the subway from meeting to meeting, the feeling of so many of my daily tasks being chores.
I remember the first time I lived away from home for an extended period. It was the summer between my junior and senior year of high school, and I was accepted into the Indiana University Honor’s Program in Foreign Languages. My host family had a sailboat on the Brittany coast, and we would go sailing every weekend. That sounded romantic to me, but I soon realized that the actual process involved a lot of packing up, driving, unpacking, loading the boat, untying ropes, etc etc, until we could get out on the open water to sail. Because we weren’t allowed to speak in English I had a lot of time to ponder all this, and I noticed a subtle but persistent anxiety in my experience of this – a feeling that we needed to be sailing, rather than an appreciation of the whole experience. It took me a while, but eventually I learned how to savor all these in between moments as part of the process, rather than an annoying but necessary barrier between me and the goal or destination. This was one of the greatest lessons I learned from my time in France.
Appreciating my daily rhythms fills my days with sweetness and lightness, but it is still often one of the first things to go when I feel stressed or under a time crunch. At those times I may have no problem appreciating the chirping of birds or the blossoming of poppies, but I struggle with the time it takes to do basic life maintenance, lament the waiting for the train on the platform, etc. This dance with my own patience and ability to be present in the moment is, I suppose, part of the work of a lifetime.
Post 26/31 in the Moon Cycle blog series.
Today’s moon status: Waning crescent. 25.6% illuminated. Moonrise – 3:42am. Moonset – 2:16pm.