I have a confession: I am a hoarder. I hoard alone time. I hoard quiet time. When I don't have my usual amount of alone time or my normal routine for meditation and reflection, I compensate for it, sneaking it and stealing it from other times. What that most often means is staying up later than my usual 10:00 bedtime. The consequence is that I am more tired in the morning and less able to respond to the demands and even the pleasures of the upcoming day. An unhealthy cycle is often the result.
I am not just discovering this about myself, of course. I have been aware when we have family or friends staying with us, for example, and the time is full of wonderful, stimulating, fun, thought-provoking interactions and activities, and the time is busy and full that I am likely to stay up alone in the quiet of a late night house, rather than going to bed. I may empty the dishwasher or straighten the living room and den, fluffing pillows, stacking newspapers and mail, restoring the rooms for a welcoming morning. I may do some preparation for breakfast time. I may watch some junk tv--yet another episode of House Hunters or Love it or List It. I may check and reply to emails or even play solitaire on my iphone (You are learning all my secrets.) or I may get totally absorbed in whatever book I am reading. What I am not as likely to do is move into some brief meditation and reflection time and go to bed.
Last week when I was staying with my father responding to some health concerns, there was little time for my go-to spiritual practices and yet, after he went to bed, I remained on the enclosed porch and flipped through TV channels, looking for distraction. I was tired, emotionally, more than physically, but how often the two go together. What I should have done was set the timer on my phone and meditated for just 10-15 minutes and then gone to bed. Doing that I knew would make me fresher and more able to respond with grace and openness in the morning, but I didn't do that.
Why is that I wonder? I know I should eat better, exercise more, and I know what the fruits of those healthy activities are both on a short term and long term basis, but oh, how often I am swayed from doing them. I seem to believe that knowing what is best for my body, mind, and soul is as good as doing them. Wrong!!! I seem to need to resist. The two-year-old in me is alive and well, apparently.
The next week or so is going to be challenging. My father will have surgery on Monday and be in the hospital for one to two nights. The orthopedic procedure is not an uncommon one, we are assured, but he is almost 90 after all, and nothing can be taken for granted. I am staying with him now and will be staying with him while he is in the hospital and then again when he comes home. This is an intense time of care taking, and while I am grateful, very grateful, not to be doing this on my own, I need to be at my best, my very best.
Before settling in with Dad this week, I had the luxury of a night alone at our apartment in St Paul. After dinner with Dad, I returned to the apartment and immediately got into my pajamas (flannel--have you seen the weather reports about this area?) and got ready for bed. I set the alarm clock on my phone for 10:00. Instead of wake-up time, it was a Go To Bed time. I sent three brief emails. I read for awhile, finishing a wonderful book, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, I meditated for 15 minutes and spent time in prayer. I listened to the quiet. At 9:58 I turned out the lights and crawled into bed. I slept well, and I was ready for the day.
When life moves out of the ordinary, regardless of the reason, welcome or not, how important it is to adapt what supports you into what is the new normal. It may not be anything major and may be something that in everyday life one takes for granted, but the benefits are real. Right now I pretend to hear the voice of my mother, "Nancy, it is time to go to bed."