The iphone alarm intrudes on my sleep. It’s a gentle intrusion, though. To be honest, I’ve been half awake for the last hour expecting it, but stubbornly refusing to get up until it tells me too. I’m determined to not get less than 7 hours of sleep if I can help it, to not let myself fall into a vast abyss of sleep deprivation like I did in my previous life.
That is how it feels these days. Like I died and was reincarnated into this other existence, this new life. I am still not sure if it is a demotion or a promotion.
Mostly it just feels like the same. I am still me, after all. The only difference is that I remember my past life, what was lost.
I stretch and turn on the light. The lamp light casts a warm glow on my claret walls.
I know, I know. Claret. Sounds snooty. But it’s the only way to describe the not quite red, not quite burgundy shade.
When I moved into my new house I didn’t think I would like the claret. It was too dark, I thought. I wanted light and bright to reflect my fresh, new life. But the womb-like feeling of the small, red room makes me feel…protected. Safe. I sleep very well: I attribute it not to my new, admittedly very comfy, mattress, but to my claret walls.
I stretch and turn on my bedside lamp. Daylight savings was on Sunday and now the mornings are dark again. My vision boards of the last three years stare me in the face. I never made one before 2017. I’m not sure I even know what they were. And I’m positive that even if I did, I would have scoffed. A sort of arrogant, “vision boards are for new-age flakes” kind of attitude.
But I’ve always been a goal nerd and a vision board is a vague, crafty way of setting some high-level goals for one’s life.
Joy. Freedom. Abundance.
You know. That sort of thing.
I usually challenge myself with the SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely) goals every January 1st. The “I want to get a full-time job that pays enough so that I don’t need three other jobs to pay the mortgage” kind.
Vision boards are a nice change of pace.
The first vision board was all about finding a home for me and my girls. One with a window where I could prop up my desk. Look out at the world while I’m writing. Where everybody has a room. A home I can grow old in and the girls can come back to whenever they need arises.
I like to be reminded of that dream I set myself in early 2017. 2016 was such a terrible year on so many fronts. So much loss and so much change. In those early years of 2017 I needed something to help me look forward. It took me a long time to finish it. I was taking a drawing class at the time (another way in which I was exploring the possibilities of my new life) and I interspersed the collage items—mostly pictures of houses and living rooms and running in exotic places— with bamboo shoots and leaves.
My daughter remarked the other day that the boards get more colourful each year.
I hope that is true about me. The way I was before bled me of colour fast, like a cheap pair of jeans in the warm cycle.
This last vision board has a rainbow border and a reminder to uncork joy.
And no, not that kind of joy. Well, not only that kind of joy. Get your mind out of the gutter please.
I really want to uncork joy. I’ve been working on the stubborn cork for some time now and though it feels pretty stuck, I feel if I keep working at it, it might one day pop off and a light rivalling the Aurora Borealis will shine out of me.
On the other hand, I might just inadvertently uncork my vast, seething rage, a blinding nuclear blast capable of shattering the world and bringing on the apocalypse.
So. Uncorking, but with caution.
I sit by the edge of the bed for a second and get my bearings. What needs doing?
Remind myself that everything will get done and there is no use worrying about it. Stress is just a perverted relationship with time, to paraphrase John O’Donohue. I am determined to make peace with time, see if we can’t get along for once. Slow my breathing. One thing at a time. Take care of myself first.
Get up. Make the bed. It’s easy because I still only use one side. 20 years of sleeping with another body next to me means I still haven’t been able to take up more space. I worry about my new mattress though, how it will become lopsided. The other day I rotated it just to be sure.
The old marriage mattress we had for 20 years. My mother bought it for us when we moved into our first apartment. After years and years of sleeping on our respective sides, of uneven weight distribution, there was a valley in the middle where we would both end up in the morning. By the end of the marriage, that was the only time we would touch—accidentally.
The other side of my bed is not always empty these days, though. I have someone who sleeps over sometimes. On my most recent trip to Ikea, I recently bought him his own bedside table with drawers. A place to put his pyjamas, his books.
It feels like a serious commitment, drawers. I’m trying not to feel panicked about it. After all, the last relationship didn’t end so well and I’m not at all sure I can uncork enough to let someone else in (once again, mind out of the gutter, please).
But I too can be brave when I want. Hence drawers. Another toothbrush in the medicine cabinet, even if it is only used part-time.
I am hoping our disparity in weight and height will even out the imbalance. A nebulous calculation of increased height and weight versus hours. That one night of his sleep is like two of mine, therefore, the wear on the mattress evens out.
Not very scientific, I know. Just in case, I still rotated the mattress.
I went to bed early and got up in time to allow myself a meditation session. This is my favourite time of the day, when everyone is asleep and I have the world to myself.
That has not changed. I am reminded of the line from one of David Whyte’s poem: “To feel abandoned is to deny the intimacy of your surroundings.” I feel most myself in the early morning, most grounded in the present. Most “intimate with my surroundings”.
I am both alone and not alone at this hour. The house breathes in sync with the sleeping bodies in the different rooms, with the fridge and the stove and, on this cold morning, the sound of the gas fireplace exhaling as it automatically turns on.
Everybody is safe. Nobody needs me.
I can be the me that exists only when no one is looking.
The coffee is set to brew at 6:15 so it is ready after my meditation. I fill a glass with hot water and lemon juice, some vitamin C to kick off the day. My sister once told me there was nothing better for the digestion than some hot water and lemon juice first thing in the morning. I am not sure if that is true, have never bothered to look. But I stick to the tradition, if only because I like the taste and am thirsty when I wake up. It makes me hydrate before I fill myself with coffee.
Then I go back into my cozy room and sit on the large, green armchair I inherited when I bought the house. A forest green colour that was in style in the early 90s but is no longer fashionable. I dragged it into my tiny room and it dominates the space. I love it. And it doesn’t go so bad with the claret walls, either.
I began meditating in the year after my husband left. The anvil on my heart was so big at that time I thought I was going to suffocate under its weight, be pulverized by it. I was determined not to let it.
Let’s pause for a moment and give a shout-out to sheer stubbornness.
My friend lent me an audio book of John Kabat-Zinn’s Full Catastrophe Living. My workplace also held a half day mindfulness workshop and suggested some resources. I downloaded an app entitled OMG I can meditate, now called Breethe. I have been using the guided meditations on it ever since, repeating the 12-week cycle from week five on, sometimes doing meditations on specific topics — difficult relationships, how to grow self-confidence, how to deal with grief. You would think I would get bored of the script, but I don’t.
The meditations are always a good reminder: What acceptance truly means. How to create a space in your heart and your mind between reaction and response. How we concretize our stories and mistake them as facts.
Plumbing the intersection between self-compassion and taking responsibility for our actions.
I spend a lot of time on that last one. But more on that later.
I sit in my big green chair, under the circle of light from my lamp and I listen to the calm voice. Close my eyes, take some deep breaths. Listen to the sounds around me. The light snoring coming from downstairs. The hum of the fridge. A seagull squawking and a truck rumbling by. I focus on my breathing. My mind wanders about a thousand times, but that’s ok.
I bring it back to center and try again.