Every morning, I wake three hours before I plan to start my workday. I feed the cats, unload the dishwasher, make coffee, and then sit at the table and face the dark sliding glass door while I eat cereal and do the Wordle. Beside me on the table are my gardening log and my happiness-turned-meaning journal, along with whatever fountain pen has the ink color I’m feeling that day. Yesterday was pumpkin; today is Navajo turquoise.
After the Wordle, I move to the Quordle, and I usually finish my cereal about halfway through. It’s always a relief to push my bowl aside — I need my full concentration for the Quordle — and once I’m done with that, the space in front of me on the table is then clear for me to open my journals. The first is my meaning journal. This used to be my happiness journal, where I logged exercise, meditation, gratitude, acts of kindness, stuff like that. After two years of logging those sorts of things, I got bored with writing them down; the practice of documenting them had helped me to pay attention to those good things, but eventually, logging them began to feel like a chore, and I felt like I was failing if I didn’t write them down, and that made me feel less happy instead of more. When I read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, I repurposed my wellness journal and turned it into a meaning journal. Each morning, I date a page, then write three headings I’ll fill in throughout the day: Works created and deeds done, Experiences and encounters, and Attitude in suffering. Maybe I can write about that in a separate blog post so as not to derail this one.
Because then comes the part of the day that I feel a jolt of joyful anticipation about when I wake up in the morning. I slide my garden journal in front of me, uncap my pen with the meadow green ink, and I check the weather forecast to see what the day will bring. On weekdays, it’s still dark out when I do this, so unless I can hear rain and wind, I’m never sure what to expect at daybreak. I’m eager to find out. Will the sun shine? What time of day will be best for a run? And most importantly: will it be nice enough to sit outside for lunch?
My lunch break is a mini-retreat each day. I’m usually home alone, so I have peace, quiet, and solitude, and I have the kitchen to myself to assemble whatever I’m eating that day. If the weather is poor or too cold to sit outside, I sit at the table inside, facing the back door that’s now full of daylight, where I can see the bird feeder and the garden, and I read. Yesterday I finished Ann Patchett’s These Precious Days while cardinals and finches flitted at the feeder and three rabbits chased each other through the yard.
When it’s sunny and warm, or even just when it’s warm, I sit on the table on the back porch with my legs dangling over the rails. While I eat from a plate in my lap, I inventory the growth of my plants, watch bumble bees wobble, and listen to birds chirp. The neighborhood is usually quiet during lunch on a weekday; nobody is mowing lawns, everyone is at work. I feel serene, and I return to work refreshed.
This time of year, it’s a rare treat to sit outside for lunch; I’ve only sat out there twice so far. Today likely will not be the third. It’ll still be too cool for my comfort, and it might rain. I’ll sit inside instead and read The Remains of the Day. According to the forecast, though, tomorrow looks promising.