It’s the melancholy of the morning. The alarm rings and after a moment (or three) I sit upright on the edge of my bed. I don’t stand, just sit. Usually it’s still dark, my wife asleep beside me. In this silent space between sleep and wake, I hear my own breath and exhale slowly. ‘Here we go again,’ I say to myself.
From there it’s the routines of the bathroom, then upstairs to the kitchen where I make coffee. What follows is that predictable morning liturgy: wake the children, shower, dress, pack the lunches, make the bed, harass the children, make the breakfasts, remind everyone of the time, pack my bag, brush teeth, say my goodbyes and head for the door. Today, yesterday, tomorrow … the rituals barely change.
It’s in those moments at the beginning of each day, when the melancholy of the morning rests heavily, I sometimes wonder if there is not a more exciting life to be lived, a more riveting place to be than this one. Occasionally I long for more epiphany than melancholy, but it rarely comes.
In her little book, The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Women’s Work, the poet Kathleen Norris explores the sacredness of the everyday and our natural aversion to it: ‘We want life to have meaning, we want fulfillment, healing and even ecstasy, but the human paradox is that we find these things by starting where we are, not where we wish we were. We must look for blessings to come from unlikely, everyday places—out of Galilee, as it were—and not in spectacular events.’
To be honest, I could do with some ‘spectacular’ every now and then. I’ve certainly known it, but amidst the daily routine it’s rare. Norris prods me though: ‘I have come to believe that the true mystics of the quotidian [the commonplace] are not those who contemplate holiness in isolation, reaching godlike illumination in serene silence, but those who manage to find God in a life filled with noise, the demands of other people and relentless daily duties that can consume the self.’
It is in that early morning moment of sitting on my bed that I feel my humanity most tangibly. Somewhere between sleeping and waking, my bodily presence has a weight that I can feel. ‘And because we are human,’ Norris says, ‘it is in the realm of the daily and the mundane that we must find our way to God. … In our life of faith, then, as well as in our most intimate relationships with other people, our task is to transform the high romance of conversion, the fervor of religious call, into daily commitment.’