My alarm went off at 7am, but I had only fell asleep around 1am. I like to get at least eight hours of sleep, but my sleeping patterns have been off in the last month, which is surprising considering I'm more relaxed than I was before the pandemic. My mind races to my to-do list - what's on the agenda for the day? It scrambles and searches as imaginary numbers form in chronological order on top of one another with tasks alongside them.
1. Write Book Proposal
2. Edit Book Layout
3. Organize Closet (Finally!)
4. Send Letters to Penpal Group
5. Grocery Shopping
7. Make a Home Cooked Meal
8. Start B-School
9. Create New Meditation
10. Course Outline for Creative Writing Class
The list went on and on until there were about 15 items awaiting to be crossed off. My heart rate flurried faster, my jaw clenched and like clockwork, my eyes opened. I grabbed my phone and sat up straight. I had to get up. I had to get started on the list. I had to do something.
How many mornings have you started your day like this? You hear your alarm, your mind races to conceive a plan for the day, pressure builds as you create your list, and you groggily get out of bed to march into the world as though you're a slave to the system you had no voice in creating.
I started my day like this a few weeks ago and then realized that this is not my reality anymore. This is not my normal anymore. This doesn't have to be my story. I have the freedom to choose how I will move throughout my day. I get to choose.
I laid back down, put my phone on the nightstand with no new alarm set, closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths, smiled, and fell back to sleep. I awoke two hours later to the sun shining, birds chirping and fresh air filling my bedroom.
My stomach was growling so I decided to go to my cookbook, Half Baked Harvest, and flip through the recipes to see what was already in my fridge that I could make. Aha! Fancy toast. I would grab some bread and smother it with butter, cheese, vegetables, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs and toast that along with a latte from my Nespresso machine. I slowly prepared breakfast while sipping on my coffee and listening to Norah Jones. As my breakfast was cooking, I grabbed my current read, Where the Crawdad's Sing, and I leisurely read a few pages, my focus solely on the story in the book.
I ate my breakfast while reading and then went for a walk outside on one of the most beautiful spring days we've had in New York so far. I took notice of the trees giving birth to beautiful colors (one of my favorite parts of spring), I waved and said hello to those who passed me by, I saw birds flying from tree to tree, and I noticed the design of houses I had always passed by in my daily commute but never really looked at before.
After my walk, I returned to my apartment and pulled out my laptop to begin some work for my job and to also continue editing my book proposal. I didn't check my phone for texts or calls, I wasn't waiting for any new emails and I didn't hastily check the clock for the moment I'd have to run to my car and head straight to my office. I let myself read the words I had written, digest each sentence, go back and edit some paragraphs that could use tweaking, and I enjoyed the process of working on something that truly matters to me.
When I hit a point of satisfaction with my writing process, I grabbed my book once more and sat out on the roof of my apartment to bask in the sun and continue reading. I put the book down a few times to close my eyes and feel the sun's warmth on my skin. To listen to the sounds of nature just a little more closely. To simply be in that moment.
The sun rays put me into such a deep relaxation that I decided to go inside and take a nap. I nestled into a blanket, left my side door's screen open so I could feel the sun and hear the wind, and I closed my eyes and slept for a half hour - something I never do.
When I woke up, I went into the kitchen and tried out another easy recipe from my book and allowed myself the time to really go about cutting the vegetables with presence, smelling the fruit I was about to enjoy, feeling the hunger rise from my belly and into my mouth where I was ready to enjoy another home cooked meal.
I poured myself a glass of wine as I sat with the dinner I prepared for myself - another thing I rarely do. I didn't read. I didn't listen to music. I just sat in my kitchen with the evening light settling in and savored every bite of the quinoa tacos with avocado and chipotle honey I had made from scratch.
After cleaning up the kitchen, I made myself a bowl of vegan chocolate ice cream and put on a movie that I've been wanting to watch for a while. I left my phone in the bedroom and sat wrapped in a blanket watching the coming of age story unravel before me.
When the movie ended, I then lingered into the bedroom where I once more picked up my book and read a few pages before turning out the lights and going to sleep.
I know not everyone has the luxury to do whatever they want with this time. I know there is a lot of stress and fear surrounding this time. And I know there is no set date of when things will get better.
But, if you can (which you can), set a day aside where you can enjoy being more in the moment than you were before. Allow yourself the time to sleep in a little longer, to read a good book, to take a mid-day nap, to really enjoy preparing yourself a meal, to take your time sipping your coffee, to listen to music, to be with yourself, and for once in your life, just do what you're doing without any distractions. When have you ever really done that before on a consistent basis?
If you can, experiment with new ways of being during this time so that when things go back to normal, you will have already created your new normal.