Waking Up to Routine and Finding Ourselves Surprised

(June 15, 2017)

The alarm goes off long before you want it to. The snooze button is not worth it, but it is tempting. You have to get to work. Or you have to get to work at home. Or you have learned that retirement is work.

The crowd going to work does not eat a healthy breakfast. A granola bar in your pocket. A chicken biscuit at a drive-through. Some of us have eaten fruit roll-ups for breakfast.

You glance at the headlines on your phone. You get more of your news from Stephen Colbert than Lester Holt.

You get to the office and are greeted by a coworker who is way too cheerful. You open your email and are reminded that you should not open your email first thing. You still have emails you did not want to deal with yesterday, and now you have new emails and still no desire to deal with them.

You are probably going to end up eating lunch at your desk again. You are doing the same things you did yesterday and the day before that. You are going to do the same things tomorrow and the day after that. It is Groundhog Day all over again.

You plan to get home as soon as possible, put on your pajamas way too early, and watch House of Cards. You will watch one more episode than you should of Frank and Claire destroying helpless people.

Our lives are predictable, which can be dull, but that is not all bad. We no longer spend time hoping someone important will see how great we are and make our lives perfect.

We are used to the way things are. We know the people we live with, and how to keep them from driving us crazy. We have figured out the easiest way to get wherever we have to go. We know which restaurants work for us. We know which podcasts we listen to. We know which websites we frequent. Familiar can be comfortable, like putting on your pajamas at 7:00.

We know who we are at work. We know most people’s names. We are fairly friendly.

We are people who get angry about politics but don’t do much about it. We know how we respond when homeless people ask for money. We have decided that it is not an efficient way to help, so we have gotten used to walking by.

We know who we are around children. Maybe we are people who do not know names but like calling children “Bud” and “Honey.”

The idea that something life-changing could happen does not enter our minds. We are too old to fall in love, too tired to feel too excited, and too reasonable to do much that is unreasonable.

But there are moments in the middle of a regular day when something (or someone) stirs our soul and opens our eyes.

You are ignoring the crowd crossing the street when God’s children start shining like the sun.

You have a moment when you become a person who has conversations with homeless people: “Have you lived here all your life?”

You are in a dull meeting when you have an uninvited thought and say, “I have an idea that could make a real difference.”

You ask a coworker, “How are your children?” and listen carefully for the answer.

You find yourself on the floor playing with a child. You are not sure how you got to the floor, but you are happy to be there.

You read the news and decide it is not enough to think right. You have to resist. You join a group to fight for what you believe.

You read a column that is trying hard to be inspiring when you realize what you need to write.

You feel alive for just a moment. The moment passes so quickly, you wonder if it is real.

These are the closing lines of Mary Oliver’s “When Death Comes”:

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

We need to wake up to those moments when we are more than visitors to our own lives.

This post was originally published in Funny When You Think About It: Serious Reflections on Faith by Brett Younger.

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