Weathered wood

I’ve moved beyond lamenting there not being enough hours in the day. At this point, I regret that there aren’t enough first hours.

On any given day, there are at least three or four things I’d love to do first thing upon awakening. A faithful writer should write first thing; a good Zen student should practice. Unless I want to get increasingly soft in the middle, I should exercise first thing in the morning to make sure I don’t put it off, and on any given morning, Reggie is waiting by my bedside to make sure I let him outside and then get his breakfast first thing.

When I lived in the Cambridge Zen Center, I woke at 5:00 am and did two hours of bowing, sitting, and chanting meditation before breaking silence and beginning my day…but that often meant staying up late the night before to finish the necessary grading and class prep for day’s worth of teaching. These days, I don’t have the energy to stay up late grading and prepping classes, so if I don’t get everything done at a reasonable hour, those work-related tasks are waiting for me first thing…after, of course, I’ve done a quick check of my online classes to make sure there are no Urgent Issues that need to be addressed before I head off to campus.

Rural mailboxes

During the summer when I don’t have the deadline of an 8 am face-to-face class breathing down my neck, my preferred morning ritual is to wake, walk, and then write, the walk satisfying both Reggie’s and my needs for exercise, and the writing happening in the tranquil moments after we’ve both been fed. But during the school year, it’s difficult to find enough hours to get everything done, much less everything done first thing.
Roadside tree

My Mom once described the psychological juggling act of motherhood by saying “Being a mom means there’s always at least one person who’s angry at you.” Although I can’t speak toward motherhood, I can assert that being an adjunct instructor teaching a full-time-and-a-half courseload means there’s always a student email to answer, a pile of papers to grade, or a class to prep. I have an ongoing fantasy of leisurely mornings when I can wake without an alarm, reach for a handy pile of books and magazines, and lounge abed for a while, lulled by the comfort of pleasure reading. Instead, I have a dog who doesn’t believe in sleeping in and a pile of student papers stacked up to my chin. It looks like my morning would has gotten crushed again by a heap of morning shoulds.