It’s 5:30 in the morning. Or, as a friend more poetically puts it, “Oh-dark-thirty.” The alarm has just gone off. It’s one of those programmed to offer the most irritating, high-pitched buzz possible. My first thought it to turn the stupid thing off before it wakes everyone else. My second is that I need to find something—anything—that will wake me a little more calmly. Getting jolted straight from sleep to awake can’t be good for you. It just can’t be.
The clock is slapped and hit and thrown until the noise stops, and I settle back into bed to take stock. I’m awake. Awake is good. All of my body parts seem functional with a minimal amount of soreness. Also good.
I already know what the day ahead will bring. I know where I’m going and what I’m doing. I know who I’m going to see and in many cases what exactly they will say to me.
Sure, anything can happen. There are always tiny variations; nothing in life is ever truly fixed. I may choose to alter my schedule a bit and therefore miss someone whose path I usually cross. Or, of course, my schedule may be altered by something other than choice. You never know, as they say. But the truth of it is that we actually do in most cases.
For many of us, life immersed in routine. We get up at the same time and go through the same ceremonial acts of preparing for the day, just as we tend to reverse them to prepare for the end of it. The in between, that time spent out in a chaotic world swimming in chance, is really just as predictable. Sure, bad things happen. But not often. That’s why they always end up on the news.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe your life is the opposite of mine, full of adventure and derring-do. Maybe there isn’t an alarm clock by your bed because you don’t need one. You wake up on your own and fling your covers back, eager to tackle anything—everything!—if for no other reason than because it’s new and unexpected.
Aside from the occasional Saturday, doesn’t happen to me. My life is a long run-on sentence that is only occasionally interrupted by a comma or a dash. And while I hope there’s an exclamation point at the end, I’ll settle for a period.
I say all this not for your pity, because that’s not what I want. I live the quintessential normal life, and most of the time I’m proud of that fact. I say it instead for those few times when I’m not.
Growing up, the sort of life I wanted was one where I would wake up excited to be alive. My mouth would already be salivating over the endless possibilities before me. The world back then wasn’t something to endure, it was something to conquer. And life seemed to stretch out before me rather than close in around me.
We always have big plans for ourselves when we’re young. We’re just cocky and sure enough to think we know what’s going on and what the world is really about.
That doesn’t last long, of course. Things change. Not just our dreams. Not just our perceptions of life, either. Our perceptions of other things change as well. About three years ago I woke up just like I did a few minutes ago—5:30 a.m. on the button. And I beat the alarm clock into submission and took stock of both myself and my life (also just like a few minutes ago), and my perception was this:
I was in hell.
Which meant my perception of hell had changed as well. I always thought hell would be colored with a fiery red. Turned out it was a dull gray instead.
I was lost back then. I had blessings I was blind to and a future that called but couldn’t be heard. That’s what happens when you allow yourself to go numb. You miss the bad, yes. But you miss the good, too.
I’m better now, which is good. But I know that being unhappy with the much that God has blessed you with is a human condition, and if I am one thing, it is most assuredly human.
So as I’m lying here in bed, I’m reminding myself that it’s easy to forget that the ordinary is just the extraordinary that’s happened over and over again.
Sometimes the beauty of your life is apparent. Sometimes you have to go looking for it. And just because you have to look for it doesn’t mean it’s not there.
My exhale is the here-we-go-again sort, but with a smile. And before I throw back the covers, I offer this small prayer:
God, grant me the grace of a normal day.