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Rituals of the Day

For some reason, I found myself in three different conversations this week about having to awaken extra early to run in the mornings. In each chat, someone asked me what time I usually get up. When I said 5:30 a.m., they looked shocked. It doesn’t even start to get light these days until more than an hour later, so the obvious question was, “What in the heck are you doing all that time, and why aren’t you just sleeping later?” The fact is, that period of time between rising and running is one of my favorites of the day. It is my own golden hour, the one in which I engage with my partner, my dogs, the actual newspaper, a good cup of coffee and the sun rising above my neighbor’s house across the street.

This daily scene is the purest reminder there is that we are all okay and that we will have the fortitude and grace to enjoy the day.

The slow beginning of the day gives me a chance to get my bearings. It sets the tone for things and grounds me in a way that is now simply part of how I feel okay in the world. If, for some reason, I have to hurry in the morning, I do it, but I don’t like it. I like to have our big yellow lab lean against my legs while I do The New York Times crossword puzzle. I see it as her silent vote of confidence in my ability to master my day. Jodi and I read news stories to each other, unconsciously trying to alternate between grim accounts of narcissistic politicians and hopeful tales of human heroism. In between us, the new puppy chews a bone, dives onto the head of the lab, and stares at our coffee cups as if they hold something magical. This daily scene is the purest reminder there is that we are all okay and that we will have the fortitude and grace to enjoy the day.

We have two other daily rituals in our house and they settle us into different parts of the day in their own ways. In the evening, whether we are just home from work, or back from our spin class at the gym, there are the dogs again, first thing. The lab chases the stick we keep for her in the garage, while the new guy tries his best to keep up. Then, while they are scarfing kibble and Jodi goes through the mail, I put together the meal we planned for this day. The kitchen almost immediately begins to smell like sautéed onions or grilled chicken and the warmth of the oven encompasses us. We eat watching television, but we are still reconnecting—touching base about the day. It’s a soft re-entry for someone like me—an introvert who needs a minute to rest and regroup.

Later, after we’ve taken the dogs out to the front yard to “hurry,” as we call it—and mostly to sniff around on the grass—we get back into our big bed. The dogs find their places and we read or play “Words with Friends,” or answer emails. Then, things get quieter. The lab is back against my leg, the puppy nearly asleep near the foot of the bed or on her. It is such a sweet way to tie it all together. We both seem more ready to reflect, to laugh, to be grateful. We’re going to sleep earlier these days, now that we’ve changed our clocks and our bodies are adjusting to man-made practices. The dogs know when sleep is close and they climb off the bed into their own sleeping areas. One of us almost always turns her bedside light off earlier than the other, and the floating into dreams begins.

The world seems so big sometimes, so much more than I often feel ready for. Our family’s rituals are probably very much like everyone else’s, but they help build a ground and a wall, and a gentle place to rest.

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