My childhood days were predictable: School started at 8:00. There was “Language”, math, and social studies every day. Music and art took place two days a week. There was a regular schedule for PE, lunch, recess, and dismissal. Our lives were dictated by routine with school from Labor Day into June interrupted by occasional holidays. Saturdays were for cartoons, Sunday for church. Supper was always at 5:30. As growing children, we adapted naturally to the routines which dictated our use of time as well as the changes in our bodies and minds. Naively we thought it would continue forever.
The cycles of physical growth (and now deterioration) are easy to discern as we age and look back. Spiritual cycles may be more imprecise, but I can certainly mark points of change in attitude, temperament, and wisdom in my life.
Retirement was allowing me to establish a new daily routine, one I was not particularly happy with as I found myself mutating from a morning person to a night owl, following my husband’s rather than my own innate inclination. My satisfying weekly routines came to a crashing halt in March. Now with several weeks of shelter-in-place from COVID-19 behind us, I observe a new cycle marked by emotions reminiscent of adolescence.
Initially I approach life with energy and enthusiasm. As I read from my tablet and spend hours at the computer, my eyes begin to burn and shoulders tighten. I feel my brain smoldering as I tax myself to learn new skills. And my attention shortens so that even a TV show becomes boring. This leads to anger at . . .what? Watching the news and observing a lack of common sense in the general population feeds the flames. Anger is replaced by fatigue as I sloth (can that be a verb?), staring into space. Unfortunately, limited physical exercise leads to insomnia. Maybe a glass of wine will help.
Like stages of grief, this cycle is not linear. I spin forward and back, accelerating and slowing so that at times I touch each stage within a few hours. Inevitably, on about the fourth day, I crash. I sense the cycle’s control over me as my enthusiasm and energy wane. When the anger and fatigue set in, I know it is time to be extra kind to myself. If I had a bathtub, I would soak. But I don’t. So I stare into space, and wait for the new day.