This morning I woke gently, and rose with a smile already tugging at the corners of my lips. I went to bed last night in a lot of pain, and on waking this morning I notice it has not diminished much. I am very stiff. I treat myself with care this morning, taking my time, and since I give myself so much of that in the mornings, there is no need to rush through any of the morning tasks or practices. Since I slowed myself down a few days ago (weeks?), my quality of life has improved.

I linger in the shower until I feel the stiffness of my arthritic spine ease. I make a point of relaxing and really enjoying the fish as I feed them, and watching them live their fishy lives. I breath deeply. I allow myself to listen deeply to the woman in the mirror, this morning – how is she doing? What can I do to make her more comfortable? What are her priorities as the day begins? I let in the fresh morning air,  opening the patio door and taking a moment to look out across the lawn; at this hour there are rarely any lights on elsewhere, aside from the walkway lights. I enjoy the pre-dawn quiet and the scents of morning, before making my coffee.

I have noticed that when my practices become ‘routines’ over time, they sometimes lose their ‘magic powers’. It’s not that they don’t really work, or that they have failed…It’s something simpler; I’m failing myself by doing them ‘mindlessly’. It’s easy-ish to fix. I have to slow down, begin again, and approach each such task or practice with a beginner’s mind, with willful mindfulness, and yes – a bit of discipline now and then, taking the time to fully embrace the task, the practice, the moment, engaged and present. I don’t berate myself over it when I drift off course – there’s no productive point in doing so. I don’t feel I have ‘failed myself’ grievously – I’m human, and these are practices for a reason; they require practicing. Going through the motions doesn’t count as ‘practice’ – or as living.

I am not a machine. I don’t actually benefit, long-term, from rigid habit, and life planned out thoroughly moment-to-moment, beyond the value toward simply getting shit done. Even for me, rigid habits and a strictly enforced disciplined approach to daily task completion are not something I thrive on – it’s just one method of coping with my injury, my poor memory, my challenges with maintaining a comfortable lifestyle over time. It’s not an ideal way to live. Living alone I can more comfortably explore life on a less habitual, less routine basis; moments of chaos and confusion are less likely to affect others, and any time I need to I can slow things way down, and be patient with myself; I don’t get stalled having to explain it to someone else. I am learning to live without the crippling burden of the [perception of the] expectations of others weighing me down.

The loss of so many small routines and habits sometimes catches me by surprise. This morning my cell phone wasn’t charged. I had remembered to put it on the charger; I had forgotten that the other end wasn’t plugged in. I changed my habit from leaving all the cables of all the kinds just plugged in and dangling all over the place to a much tidier practice of carefully putting away cables not in use . My environment is lovelier, tidier, and still quite convenient – since all the cables of all the kinds for all the chargers, devices, etc are conveniently in one location, together. It’s still a change. I forgot about the need to plug in both ends. 🙂 Surprise! I don’t take it personally, and I’m grateful for the quiet amusement, and practical perspective on the small inconvenience; there was a time it would have been enough to blow my morning, possibly causing some nasty pointless tantrum – I suck at frustration, even now. (It has been easier to learn not to be frustrated by certain kinds of things, that to learn to deal with the experience of frustration, itself. I don’t know whether that will be the wiser choice over time, but it does offer some relief now.)

Letting go of rigid fixed habits tied to time and timing, and all the expectations and assumptions those tend to support, has been a big change. The need to take great care with each task and practice, invested, engaged, aware, and fully living each moment becomes quite profound, lacking the foundation of rigid habit. Rituals exist because, perhaps, it is not so easy to approach every desirable practice in an utterly mindful way. I do like ‘easy’… but… I also really like living, eyes wide to life’s wonders, attentive, aware, savoring my experience, learning to thrive, and becoming emotionally self-sufficient. So many verbs involved. It’s scary sometimes. What if I forget my morning medication? What if I suddenly just stop doing things? What if I discover my values or preferences are at odds with the expectations of my loved ones? What if I’m not who I think I am? Well…I guess I’d begin again. 🙂

The sun is up now. I take a moment to make my bed, and tidy my bedroom. I finally feel ‘moved in’, in a very complete way. I think it is a combination of the love seat, and the wee trash cans which arrived over the weekend. I find myself wondering if the story of human progress can be told in the improvements in waste management over the course of history… I definitely feel the improvement in my own quality of life having a small trash receptacle in the bathroom, in my bedroom, and by my desk – I’d been having to walk every used tissue, bit of string, or piece of waste paper all the way to the covered kitchen trash, or recycling bin, and while it is a very small apartment and no real inconvenience to do so, nonetheless – I feel more ‘moved in’ having what seems the ‘proper’ number and placement of small trash baskets around the place. Funny which details matter to me. It’s exciting learning what matters most to me, myself.

I have time for another coffee, and some household chores that will ensure I come home to a lovely place – built for me, by me, based on what matters most to me. It’s a  nice feeling. Enjoying the moment seems to cause my brain to attempt a sneak attack, coming at me from behind with dire warnings and launching a salvo of ‘what if’ scenarios filled with house fires, burglars, unknown assailants, and all manner of extraordinarily negative [and incredibly unlikely] circumstances…I assure myself I’ll remember to turn off the stove, lock the doors, and be aware of my surroundings. My demons slink off into the darkness grumbling quietly.

Going my own way, having my own experience.

Going my own way, having my own experience, and feeling prepared to face the world.

Today is a good day to take great care with each task I face, with each practice I practice, and to face life with a beginner’s mind. I am a student of life and love. I am my own cartographer. The way I face the journey – and the direction I take – are mine to choose. It’s a very good day to set down some baggage and walk on.