This is how my mornings open—
Most days, the sound of my alarm stirs me from wherever I have gone, but the tail end of a dream can also startle me back into alertness. I can also suddenly be there in my body. Awake.
Most days, Mackerel is still asleep, being spooned by the backs of my legs. Or, I find her with her head propped up on my thigh watching the world wake up outside of the window. Sometimes, she’s on her back with her front paws framing her face, in such a state of content that vulnerability begins to look desirable to me. When she hears me stir, she unfurls and walks all 8 or so pounds up my body and head bunts me Hello, Good morning, You were gone too long once or twice before settling back down to purr on my chest with her paws on either side of my neck. Often, she is my first, and only, hug—the only other living thing I touch in a day.
Every morning, if it’s not already in my hand from sliding my alarm off, I reach for my phone. It holds me awake even as all of the words, thoughts, and images from friends and strangers that I’m scrolling through crowd other parts of me—the present, feeling, attuned,conscious and responsive bits—back to sleep. I tune myself out before I even tune in. I would call it numbing if it didn’t seem more like silencing.
And I think my self gets tired of showing up, every day, to be met, only for me to usher everything else in before her. Not even asking her to wait or extend patience my way. And she would, she would do anything for me. I take that for granted, and then wonder why I can’t hear my self when I need to, why I frequently hear a blank when I ask what to do or which way to go, or why I get so overwhelmed when I try to attune as an expert without having practiced the skills.
As a child, I was loved as an absence. Many of my relationships as an adult have demanded the same—that I put my self away for the sake of belonging. It’s no wonder I do it too, but breaking a behavior goes this way. You work at it, and work at it, and work at it, and see small changes in some areas and if you’re lucky, you catch the spaces where the weeds are coming through. It made me think of these two parts from The Salt Eaters by Toni Cade Bambara:
“Are you sure, sweetheart, that you want to be well?… Just so’s you’re sure, sweetheart, and ready to be healed, cause wholeness is no trifling matter. A lot of weight when you’re well.”
“So used to being unwhole and unwell, one forgot what it was to walk upright and see clearly, breathe easily, think better than was taught, be better than one was programmed to believe…”
Before writing this, If you had asked, I would’ve told you my mornings were grounded. How I meditate, read, journal, make breakfast, reheat yesterday’s coffee to scalding or make a fresh cup, feed Mack, and then play with her before work begins. I do these things, and I wanted to tell you the story of them, but I wrote myself into this honest thing instead.
My grandpa, who will be 90 this October, caught me as I was returning from a run yesterday. He said, “You know, you have to keep that up now until you’re 80. Don’t start anything you can’t keep doing,” and I think he was preaching from the same place as Toni. We carry the choices we make. Choosing wellness or wholeness is rarely easy or straightforward as people make it seem, and living it does have a weight. I think of what wouldn’t be met in the absence of taking this on, and I realize the cost, as always, would be me.