Annie Dillard wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” On the first of each month, Catching Days hosts a guest writer in the series, “How We Spend Our Days.”
Today, please welcome writer Lindsey Mead.
I wake up before my alarm, as I almost always do. It’s 5:27. I creep quietly to the closet so as not to wake Matt and get dressed in running clothes by the light of my iPhone. I brush my teeth and head out for my run, bundled against the January cold.
It’s pitch dark and the moon is still visible in the sky, heavy, almost full. These are the darkest mornings, and the sky has only just begun to lighten when I arrive home after four miles. I walk to the kitchen, catching my breath, the smell of coffee filling the house. We always set the coffee maker the night before, and that first cup in the morning remains one of the truest joys in my life.
Everybody is still sleeping as I walk to the third floor to my office. I sit at my desk in the quiet for about half an hour, reading my email and the morning’s blogs. Outside my window, light bleeds into the sky. This hour is often my favorite of the day. I feel as though I am the only person in the world.
At 6:50, the day begins for real. I wake up Grace and Whit with the same whispered question every morning: did you have sweet dreams? As they dress I take a quick shower. After breakfast and the January rigmarole of coats-hats-mittens-boots we leave for school, which is only a mile away. I’m home from dropping them off before 8:00. I pour myself another cup of coffee and walk back upstairs. There are two computers on my desk, one for work and one for writing. The writing one is always open and on. Now I turn on the work one too.
The morning dissolves into a frenzy of phone interviews, conference calls with clients, and responding to more emails than I can count. Though busy, it’s one of my favorite kinds of workdays: no meetings outside of the house. I am in jeans and slippers all day, and in between phone calls I do a load of laundry and make a pot of homemade chicken noodle soup for dinner.
My calendar has one open hour from 1:00 to 2:00, and all morning I climb towards it like a hiker on a slow trek to a visible summit. At 12:59 I click all the windows closed on my work computer and turn to my Mac. I turn on Freedom. Thirty minutes. I lean back in my chair and look out the window at my tree, which is so constant a part of every day as to be an actual character in my life. And then I open the essay I’m working on, and I begin to write.
After thirty minutes Freedom dings off, and I quickly glance through my work email, walk downstairs for a glass of water, and return to my desk. And then, twenty more minutes of Freedom. These are less fluid minutes. I keep writing and erasing the same sentence. I look up at the Wendell Berry poem that hangs above my desk:
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
Not for the first time, I think: I really hope he’s right.
At 2:00 I am fired out of a cannon again as my “day job” resumes. The afternoon is a blur similar to the morning. Around 4:45 I watch the sunset flame at the horizon out my window, noticing that the days are longer now than even a few weeks ago. Just like almost every day, I open the window, lean out, and take a picture of the orange and pink sky.
Just before 6:00 I turn off my work computer and the babysitter leaves. Grace tells me about her teacher’s comments on her book report rough draft. I quiz Whit on his multiplication tables. Wearing his navy blue constellation-print pajamas, he curls up next to me on the couch to listen to some Harry Potter.
By 7:30 they are both in their beds, reading. I climb into my own bed and open my laptop. I review the blog posts I have lined up for the week ahead, tweaking and editing, catch typos and errors, adding links. At 7:45, I kiss Whit goodnight, listen to his prayers, and do the Ghostie Dance (to keep the ghosts away). Then, back to the blog. At 8:15, it’s good night to Grace. I spend a few more minutes editing my blog and then I shut my computer and open Glitter and Glue, Kelly Corrigan’s new memoir. I read until 9:45, underlining and taking notes in the margins for my review, and then I turn out the light.
AND THOSE SAME 3 QUESTIONS…
1. What is the best book you’ve read in the last few months and how did you choose it?
- Someone by Alice McDermott. Several of my most trusted reader friends recommended it, and they were not wrong. What a powerful, beautiful book: I was amazed at McDermott’s ability to show how much poetry there is in the most mundane, ordinary life.
2. Would you give us one little piece of writing advice?
- Pay attention. When one is looking and listening closely, there is an absolutely endless source of inspiration, wonder, and humor available in this world.
3. What is your strangest reading or writing habit?
- My favorite place to read and to write is in my bed, so very often that’s where you can find me. I don’t know if this is that strange, but it’s definitely something I get teased about!
Where you can find Lindsey Mead:
— Other Writers in the Series—
It sounds like a busy day, Lindsey, and it sounds like you do well to live in the present. Thanks so much for the Wendell Berry poem. I hope that when I face that “what to do” question at five in the morning I am not compelled to go outside and run 4 miles. (Wink) I, too, prefer to write in bed.
I’m in bed as I type this! That poem accompanies me much of the time … I really love it. xo
Thank you for describing your very interesting, busy day! I so look forward to waking up before my children! They are still very little, and very early risers 🙂 I found it inspiring, how you fit your writing in around your other work.
Thank you. I am often frustrated by what feels like not enough time to write, but for now this is the reality, so it is what I have. My children definitely started sleeping a bit later once they were not tiny … I hope yours do too! xo
What an honor this is. Thank you, Cynthia, so much. xox
Thank you, Lindsey!
I loved getting this peek into your life, Lindsey! I’ve always wondered how you fit everything in. And might take a hint from you and get myself into and out if need earlier than I have been…
I assure you there is lots I don’t fit in!! 🙂 xoxo
Lindsey it is such a treat to be a witness to your days. They sound lovely despite the work and the duties. And you have inspired me to add some routines to my days which are often more scattered. I live your structure.
I am glad to hear that … though I definitely think there’s a boundary beyond which structure can be confining, and restricting. I’ve often thought of everyday life, and all of its demands, as something that both hems me in and holds me together. xox
Wonderful and inspiring post. I need to get in the habit of running first thing in the morning – I always feel better when I do 🙂
I am always, 100% of the time, glad I went. That helps force me out of bed in the dark mornings, truth be told! xo
Lindsey, I really enjoyed reading this. It’s so fascinating to glimpse into someone else’s life. What structure you have! xox
Thank you … sometimes that structure feels limiting, other times it seems to keep me from falling apart! xoxo
I loved going through this typical day with you, Lindsey. I didn’t know you had that system with the two computers.
And the advice “pay attention” is so spot on for a writer. Good reminder. Thank you!
I wish the two computers were really a system – I think it’s more a default! But I’m actually glad I can shut the work one down … symbolically, I think that’s important to me! xoxo
Really enjoyed this piece. And I’m reading it in my bed, which is where I do most of my reading as well. It’s comfy, and my favorite tree is outside my bedroom window.
I’m watching snow falling on “my tree” out my window as I type … xox
What a treat this was, Lindsey, to pull back the curtain on your writing, working, mothering day. Thank you, Cynthia, for offering us such a treat today.
Thank YOU, dear one. xoxo