Can you remember the last time you awoke to something new and different? A time and place where the old routines disappeared and all your expectations and habits retreated into the hazy memory reserved for all that was long ago? What about a moment when all that was to happen next was unknown and you found yourself filled with the delight of the unexpected?
Returning from a short trip this week, I was greeted by the known and the comfortable. The patterns of daily living that stem from years of living in the same house, sleeping on the same side of the same bed, and sipping coffee while sitting in the same chair in the same room that welcomed me about 6000 times before. There is beauty in such sameness. The comfort of the familiar fosters stability and belonging. Knowing what to expect brings confidence, a surety of step and steady certainty, that allows the freedom of peace.
Growing up, my family moved around a lot and I frequently found myself waking up in new houses, in new towns, in new schools. and walking new paths to places unknown while facing the uncertainty of those people and experiences that waited. I loved it. Even within the frightening uncertainty of such newness, the thrill of the possible was there each day and the certainty of my family created its own form of boldness. No matter what happened, there was a way forward to some other newness and it certainly would come.
Life is a grand adventure and we are made for it, in all of its beautiful, gritty, satisfying, frightening, and uncertain forms.
Waking up earlier this week, I was greeted by the deep, dark, silence of nature, away from the urbanity of my normal life. The chair was different, the sky untainted by the glow of a million lights, the coffee a little less bitter, and the day ahead completely unknown. Even the first voice to greet me was different – in 53 years, I had never heard that voice at 5:30am. The sun came up over sparkling water, birds dove at fish near the surface of the lake, and I felt the peace of having absolutely nothing that needed to be done nor place that I needed to be.
We are so often prisoners to our own routines. The glorious familiarity that grips us in patterns so familiar that we no longer notice them. There is such safety, comfort, and stability in those routines. We need them. We want them. We find ourselves lost without them. They are anchor and compass for us, mooring us against the rough waters of life while giving us a sense of priority and direction.
They can also chain and numb us. If we let them. For those of us at midlife or beyond, the restlessness sets in. The necessities of building a family, running to events, maintaining a household, and working to secure the future of our progeny break across the great rocks of time and her incessant pull into a changing future. The structure and distraction of those child-rearing years gives way to something else, demanding and forming its own patterns and routines. So many stumble into and among the rocks of these new unknowns.
A few hours after rising to a new day in a new place among new voices, Sally and I found ourselves atop a mountain, literally. The trail was described as “moderate” but pushed these two midwesterners, accustomed as we were to flat terrain back home. The ascent of a few thousand feet was demanding in an incredibly satisfying way and we were rewarded with a 360 degree view of the world from a commanding height.
As we walked across solid rock at the summit, the wind blew softly and the clouds moved slowly. The horizon was green in all directions and we could see the full 120 mile length of Lake Champlain to the east. Below, the winding road where we parked was hidden in a valley of trees, and the trail we had taken disappeared toward into it. It was all new.
Sitting down on a rocky outcropping, I pointed my face toward the sun and closed my eyes. The voices of my fellow trekkers faded for a moment and all I heard were dragonfly wings and cricket calls. New and different. Just for a moment.
The beautiful ordinary of our daily lives rarely treats us to the obvious wonder of the mountaintop, and it can be easy to let her routines wear us thin in places. Sometimes the beautiful gets lost, and we’re just left with the ordinary. Or so we feel.
Today, go find a mountaintop, even if it’s in your own backyard. Listen to an old song and try to remember it first coming to your ears. Look at a familiar face and follow those lines of time back to a point when it was all new. Walk the beaten path and allow your heart to wander to its first discovery. Remember the awe and wonder of those first moments and remind yourself that your beautiful ordinary was once all new.
Then, promise yourself to occasionally step outside of the beautiful ordinary and seek new paths. Even if just for a moment. Take the time to let it all be new again. You might just hear the dragonfly wings and cricket calls.