Five Good Days: Routine

There are people who wake up every day feeling grateful and excited, as though every sleep is a reset button, and every morning a new opportunity. There are also people who wake up slow and sadly, rising up on a weary elbow in bed and thinking, “Oh, great. This again.”

Some of us wake up in a kind of gray, the color of snowflakes falling against a cloudy sky. We’re not quite sure what we feel when we open our eyes, or what to expect from another day. Maybe it’s the same as yesterday; maybe it’s completely different. Who knows? Who cares? Let’s just do this thing.

Sometimes I wonder what decides “good” days from “bad.” Is it a mood? Is it an incident or experience, a series of incidents or experiences? How much depends on the people one meets, the sites one sees, the outfit one wears? Sometimes it seems completely up to chance. I guess that’s life.

There’s a line in one of my favorite Paul Simon songs that attempts a definition that may or may not fit—you know, depending. “She said a good day ain’t got no rain. She said, ‘A bad day’s when I lie in bed and think of things that might have been.'” But then, I’ve sat by the window during an afternoon thunderstorm, feeling the electricity crackle and pulse like a living thing, taking deep breaths so full of that intoxicating rain smell that they almost made me dizzy. I have laughed myself hoarse on a misty morning in a forest, damp with fog and drizzle, tramping through a muddy creek, tripping on slippery tree roots. Those were good days.

I’ve also lain in bed long and lazy all day, remembering, longing, imagining how life could have gone, and what I could have done but didn’t. Some of those days weren’t bad, either: There is a deeply moving side to wondering at the difference a single choice might have made. A left or a right turn, the choice to leave a message after the beep or hang up in a quick panic, the buying of black or brown shoes. These are the things that make up our moments—how many of them do we have in the course of 24 hours, or 365 days, or 20 years?

Photo by Flickr user Bethan

My days lately are very routine. It happens to be a routine I like very much, but that, of course, is entirely subjective. I wake up at 5 every morning, and I eat 10 raw almonds and two dried dates. By 5:28 I’m double-knotting my shoelaces, and I’m out the door for a run by 5:33—something between seven and 10 miles, depending. Breakfast is the same (tofu scramble with spinach and toast), and I take the same train (the Manhattan-bound number 5 at 7:28am, third car from the back), and even on the pressed-together-uncomfortably crowded ones I’m always reading a book (though the book is often different one day to the next).

Work being work, those details change—phone calls get made, e-mails get written, coffee gets brewed and drunk and brewed and drunk and brewed and drunk as many times as I can handle, and whatever else needs doing gets done. The variation is slight, but it exists and it’s good.

I eat the same lunch every day for weeks at a time, a lunch I prepare on Sunday afternoons and separate into equal portions in six identical jars. I eat these lunches standing up in front of my computer in the office, reading e-mails. I have an apple with my lunch every day; I pull the core out of the apple because the seeds make my mouth itch. I eat lunch very quickly. I eat everything very quickly.

When I get home, whenever I get home, I have dinner. I make dinner for myself every night; I haven’t ordered takeout in seven months, and I eat in restaurants just as rarely. Most dinners involve sweet potato; all involve avocado. I live alone, I cook alone, I eat alone, I truly love being alone.

Most nights after dinner and dishes, I work on a jigsaw puzzle for about an hour before making tea and watching 45 minutes of something on Netflix. I am in bed by 9:15pm every night, reading. I am asleep by 10. (If you must know, I wake up twice in the middle of the night: once around 1:30am, and once around 3:30am. I pee both times.)

I wake up again at 5, and life begins anew—if not particularly afresh.

This is a good day. This is a great day, actually. This is my ideal day, and it’s the kind of thing that happens on the regular. I’m a simple person; I don’t need to be spirited away to the circus very often in order to be happy. I do need a book, and an apple at lunch, and at least a little quiet aloneness. While it’s not a good-day necessity, the jigsaw puzzle is a definite plus. A great day is when I have a chance to write a letter to an old friend, or when “Martha Stewart Living” comes in the mail. (See? I’m very simple.)

One day, this routine might become a prison, and I’ll want nothing more than to shatter those damned jars, and order delivery three meals square, and call out sick even though I’m feeling fine, and say the hell with running, and lose my taste for coffee, and curse everyone whose e-mail I have to return.

G-d, that sounds terrible. I hope that never happens.

Today, I ate lunch out of a jar. I finished one book and started another one. I’m looking forward to that tea.

Today was a good day.


18 thoughts on “Five Good Days: Routine

  1. mothererased says:

    Very authentic sounding post. It left me wondering what kind of work you do and if it satisfies you, or if there is another kind of work whispering to you. In any case, routines are good. Yours sounds like a decent one.

    • Thank you so much. I’m one of the very rare, very lucky ones for whom work is a passion, a blessing, and a joy every day. Hopefully you’re one of the rare, lucky ones, too!

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