Thursday, June 5, 2014

Discovering a Morning Rhythm -- Summer of Simplicity

Schedules make me itchy.  They feel confining and judgmental with their boxes and to-the-minute timetables. 

Having no routine at all sets me adrift, in a “crap, I’m floating with the rip current and have no control” kind of way. 

I need something in between.  In my quest for simplicity and meaning this summer, I’m discovering that I need some sort of rhythm to start my day.  Rhythm, ritual, routine…these words describe what I’m aiming for much better than schedule. 

With caring, creating, and connecting as my guidewords, I’ve discovered a morning rhythm that fits me.  Sometimes my “morning” rhythm isn’t complete until 1pm, sometimes I abandon part of it, and sometimes it all fits within an hour.  It doesn’t matter.  My rhythm is for me, not against me, so I don’t worry if it doesn’t all happen. 

In the morning, caring means feeding hungry children.  I’ve tried to get around this, tried to make breakfast self-serve around here, but it’s only led to frustration and more work overall.  Self-serve breakfasts lead to cereal for one child and an apple for another, which leads to continuing hunger all morning long.  Non-stop children with unbelievably high metabolisms require meals of substance, at least every once in awhile (read: 5 times per day minimum). Feeding my kids a good solid breakfast buys me at least an hour in the eating department, and also leaves space and time for the rest of my morning rhythm. 

On a really good morning when I wake up with my cape on, caring also means doing a few household tasks that set up the rest of my day well.  Putting away clean dishes leaves the dishwasher ready for the dirty ones to come that day, so instead of seeing them accumulate on counters all day, they can get out of sight.  Throwing in a load of laundry in the washer in the morning makes it 68% more likely that it will be dried, folded, and put away by nightfall.  There are no guarantees, people, but I like to stack the odds in my favor. 

In the morning, creating means writing morning pages.  In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron describes morning pages as one of the two basic tools for inspiring creativity.  The irony is, the morning pages themselves are the opposite of creative.  They are the mundane blather that crowds our minds, and the morning pages are an exercise in getting that out of the way to get to the good stuff.  Cameron says, “When people ask, “Why do we write morning pages?” I joke, “To get to the other side.”” 

I’ve never liked keeping a journal, because it all sounds the same to me: a record of my insecurities, fears, and struggles played on a never-ending loop.  But according to Cameron, that’s the point.  The Inner Critic must have her say, and if she can have her say on the private morning pages, then she can stay out of the way in the rest of my art and life.  That’s what I’m working towards.

morning pages on the front porch
In the morning, connecting means yoga.  I’ve never been a yoga person.  Yoga people always seemed mysterious and otherworldly to me, able to understand something that I don’t understand.  I don’t know if I “get” yoga, or if there is anything to get, really.  What I’m discovering is that I like to do something physical but not too physical in the morning.  I like to breathe a little and be still enough that I can feel my breath and hear it, too.  I am a perpetually cold person, and morning yoga gets my body comfortably warm.

So despite feeling like a wannabe yoga imposter, I find a short and easy youtube video and get my yoga on.  My kids like Cosmic Kids yoga videos, so they sometimes want to do one when I’m done, and then I get to eat breakfast in peace.  Win win.   

When I’m in rhythm, I feel ready for my day and peaceful.  There’s no magic formula, no “everyone must do this.”  These are the things that resonate with me.  Your rhythm might involve checklists, scrubbing toilets, and laundry folded and put away.  Or your rhythm might involve you, a book, and a chair.  Whatever meets your family’s needs and makes you feel ready for the day, those are your rhythm. 

Oh, and coffee.  How could I forget coffee?  Coffee is the glue that holds it all together, my constant companion through my morning rhythm.  Coffee deserves its own post, but I’ll save that for another day.  

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