I wake up around 6:30 when I hear a combination of sounds: the shower running, my 6-year-old in the bathroom cheerily talking to my husband through the curtain, our cat yowling outside the 8-year-old's bedroom door. I lie in bed, cocooned by comfort and familiarity, while my husband pours Cheerios and kisses me goodbye. My youngest, the early riser, is puttering around in his bedroom singing to himself. The cat continues her relentless nagging. I get up as my 8-year-old emerges, and we trade blurry morning hellos.
"Dad already gave me breatfask," Dylan says. I run my hand over the top of his head and smile: I never want him to pronounce this word correctly. Riley sits down to a mountainous pile of cereal and devours the entire thing while dreamily paging through a battered Calvin & Hobbes book. I pull my fuzzy blue robe around me, walk across the living room, and open the blinds on our front windows. Thus signals -- at least in my mind -- the official start to the day.
From there on out it's many of the same routines over and over: driving Riley to school, sitting down to my laptop to work, fixing Dylan lunch and playing with him before his afternoon kindergarten bus pulls up. I transfer heavy wet clothes from the washer to the dryer, wipe jam-smears off the table and sweep crumbs, pick up errant LEGO blocks, and run the vacuum. I write articles and emails, research topics, peek at Twitter, check my word count.
I stare moonily out the window sometimes, looking for ... what? I don't even know. I leap to my feet when I hear the creak of our mailbox opening, so eager am I to collect the day's delivery of bills and flyers. I print Dylan his billionth Google Image'd Pacific Rim robot -- excuse me, Jaeger -- and for the billionth time the printer complains that it's low on ink.
Printer ink, I carefully write on a shopping list, feeling caught in a loop. Always out of ink, always doing laundry, always buying groceries, always typing into a glowing white TextEdit screen. Everything swept away by the end of the day only to reappear in the morning.
Sometimes it's like I've faded away around the edges. Restless, lonely, tired of doing the same things over and over. Am I even here? I think, nonsensically. I stare at myself in the toothpaste-flecked bathroom mirror, lining my mouth with a deep red color, thinking it will anchor me to the world somehow. Before I leave the house, I savagely wipe it off on a tissue: I look like I'm trying too hard.
From one moment to the next, though, something in me realigns. I bend over to grab a forgotten piece of paper and smile at the uneven crayoned letters scrawled across its surface: GiPsy DaNgER. I look up from my computer in the afternoon and see how my boys are working together to smooth a blanket so they can make handprints on its plush surface. "This one looks like a butterfly," I hear someone say in a marveling voice. I fix them snacks in their special animal-themed bowls and, as I always do, sing out, "Who's the cow? Who's the monkey?" as I hold them behind my back. ("COW!" "MONKEY!" they shout happily, jumping up and down, like they always do.)
At night, after kisses and bedtime stories, after my husband and I have stretched out on our respective couches to watch TV together, sipping hot chocolate and companionably chatting about whatever's happening onscreen, after I soak in the tub and settle into my pillows with a book, I feel it: a bone-deep contentment. When I turn out the light and close my eyes, my thoughts are calm. I'm fully present, soaking up the tiny pleasurable moments of my day. The routine feels less like a rut and more like a warmly cupped pair of hands. I feel lovingly held by the life we've made.
My husband and I were watching True Detective a couple weeks ago when a character said, Do you know the good years when you're in them? Or do you just wait for them until you realize that the good years came and went? I've thought about that line ever since. Sometimes I'm guilty of waiting, of pacing the confines of my day without seeing the richness of the landscape.
But sometimes I see it all for what it is. I see that I'm in the good years right now -- and they are so, so good.
Image via Linda Sharps