Movement, the bed shifts as he rolls over, sits, then stands. The sound of his glasses sliding across the bed table, he’s gathering clothes, soft footsteps, the creak by the closet and then the door closing. The bed smells like us. In the distance, I hear a plane, the winds must be right for northbound takeoffs from National. A truck rumbles by, another plane. Momentarily, I think of the plane full of passengers not only awake but in the air, flying to adventures, work, home. I take the pillow that covers my eyes off and roll into it. Eyes crack open, just a slit. I brush my feet under the bedclothes along the mattress, claiming the bed as my own. The street light shines through the high angled windows, casting shadows and reflections…triangles on the steep ceiling. Cars pass. Dawn arrives. I hear the furnace’s slow rumble, water moving in the radiators. The first bird sings…a solo warm up exercise; soon joined by a chorus…a performance just for me. The smell of coffee perking travels up the stairs. Sunlight begins to oust the harsh street light…modulated, it highlights and softens the khaki walls; shining through the high windows, peeking through the white blinds, just barely. No shadows now, washed in bright light.
My thoughts rouse and drift to last night. Why was I so snarky about where to go after volleyball for the end of season dinner? I didn’t really care; just don’t like one person always getting his way. What’s that about? Control? Feelings of inadequacy? Fear of exclusion? I want to be respected. Why am I so threatened? Why do I let these emotions out despite my better judgment?
Wish Casey and Jeff would get married. She says she can’t think about it until she finishes her dissertation. I hope Hadley gets that job. She needs a win. Haven’t heard from Kyla, good news? Wish they were closer. My only role is to worry (silently).
I roll over, away from these thoughts. The day encroaches. What’s on the agenda, how will the day be filled, that is, what will I make of the day? So different from a previous life, when children and work defined the day. It seemed that there were few choices to make. The “To Dos” were “Have To Dos”. I no longer fill my time responding to the needs, desires and demands of others. I must craft the content of my day…act with purpose. What purpose? A lifetime of reacting to others, solving problems, making things work leaves me with little experience in the realm of deciding what I want, what makes me happy, content, purposeful.
I’ve got that conference call with ICMA this afternoon. Oh, but the Fiscal Affairs Commission meeting was cancelled. Great, I don’t have to take a shower. One of the biggest luxuries of retirement or working from home is that you don’t have be presentable…it’s not the shower, it’s the process, the hair, the choosing what to wear…an underappreciated freedom.
I wonder if I can get the policy compendium done before we leave for the west coast. I should work on the Sardinian piece for writing next week. I think I’ll do my fast day on Thursday. I’ve got to get some kind of exercise…I should do something on days when I don’t spin…I don’t really want to walk, too cold and rainy, but I should. Lots of shoulds. It all seems so boring, not compelling. Last week I wrote: “…but I have recently realized that it’s the normalcy…the mundane, humdrum of life’s rhythms that are its essence.” Is that true or is that what I wish were so? Can I savor the ordinary and be satisfied?
At the Philips Collection viewing Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boat Party, I wistfully imagined the rest of my life as a guest at the “Boat Party”. A sunny Saturday afternoon with friends on an excursion, all festively dressed, laughing. Delicious food prepared and served enough spirits to make everyone happy but not argumentative or nasty, dancing, stimulating conversation. A fantasy of one kind of “perfect life”. Would that be enough? It leaves out so many other things that I want for the rest of my life; health, longevity, serenity, intellectual vigor, physical fitness, loving family, a peaceful, honest society. Is happiness possible without unhappiness? Can we appreciate the love and closeness of our families if we haven’t experienced the pain of love’s lack and children’s absence?
I get up, feel the warm burgundy carpet on my soles, the creak in the floor matching the creak in my ankles I step onto the bathroom’s cold sienna tile…awake. I pull on my stay at home uniform, black fleece pants and jacket. Go downstairs and turn on the electric teapot. It roils, steams and then clicks off. Turn on NPR…Morning Edition. I ask Rich how he slept, not a rhetorical question…the Parkinson makes four hours of uninterrupted sleep rare. While I soundly sleep, he spends part of each night downstairs reading or scouring the internet for how-to videos for his porch project. Fully dressed ready for the day, he sits at the kitchen table, reading the paper.
“How long were you up?”
“A couple of hours, oh maybe an hour and a half”
“What are you doing today?”
“ Got to go to Sheets, buy some screening and PFC …how ‘bout you?
“I’ve got my list.”
Paper read (or at least the Reliable Source and Carolyn Hax), breakfast finished, I make my list. I cede significant power to my list; envision that the list, both its content and form, will generate a new, absorbing, rewarding experience (that is, life). I need a system, to help me organize my sometimes-fuzzy thoughts. Once on the list, properly articulated, action and satisfaction will follow. I used to make my list on recycled paper. I kept the pages secured by a large paper clip so that I would have a record of what I’d done and when, about two inches worth of accomplishments, a tangible record of achievement. I tried a spiral notebook to record and cross off both long term and daily to do’s but I filled up the notebook quickly. So I thought I should use an electronic list maker. I googled “to do list” and “task list”. It turns out that “Productivity” apps abound. After much consideration, I decided on Workflowy and started using it. I haven’t seen a marked improvement in productivity, or in life.
The day stretches before me full of possibility. I sit at the computer. Check off the completed items. Search for purpose or is it happiness?
Original from prompt: Describe the setting of a moment in your life—March 2014
Published as Musing in Prompted: Writings From the Six Dollar Therapy Group December 2014