What do you do when you get up in the morning? Many people — provided they don’t, say, have proverbial buses to meet or children to stuff into snowsuits and send out the door to school — turn to the news of the outside world. My husband picks up his cellphone and checks out The New York Times right after waking, even though I remind him that the daily print edition is waiting just outside the door.
I follow the coffee ritual, but then usually find myself tidying the house on autopilot, putting things away, especially if I don’t have to think much about where they should go. Others like to sit down for a proper breakfast, but I myself don’t want to eat till a little later in the day. I think I should follow the lead of those who exercise before they do anything else, every day, but that is unlikely. I fancy the idea of taking the dog out for a walk, but that is foolish since, for the moment, at least, we don’t have a dog.
My mornings were defined decades ago when, having been thrust into responsibility for The Star, I spent 20 years meeting its immediate demands. Up and at ’em was the only option.
I never did learn that it is okay to waste time in the morning, perhaps to even enjoy wasting time. I remember very clearly waking up on Saturday mornings in the very first years of my tenure as editor and being at a loss about what to do. It’s been almost 20 years since I took a back seat here at the paper, but the impulse to take care of whatever I see before me hasn’t gone away.
Looking ahead to the next 20 years, and aware the time has come to adopt some new rituals, I’ve started musing and puttering in the morning. Reading? No. I prefer to read, whether newspaper or book, at the end of the day. I could pay better attention to the houseplants, at least in winter, and take up gardening in spring and summer. Or maybe it would be nice, once I actually do retire, to organize a breakfast club with friends. Or maybe I should devote myself to the memoir friends ask me about. In the back of my mind I hear T.S. Eliot:
What shall I do now? What shall I do?
I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street
With my hair down, so.
What shall we do to-morrow?
What shall we ever do?
The hot water at ten.
And if it rains, a closed car at four.
And we shall play a game of chess,
Pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a
knock upon the door. . . .
Hurry up please it’s time.