I haven’t been writing like I should this summer since I’ve been working. It’s hard to read and analyze student writing all day and then come home and write. However, I do still find the time to read and have enjoyed an eclectic bunch of books.
I read Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren back in early spring–a high-stress time for me like so many educators, so this was a good find, loaned to me by the faculty advisor of our college’s Christian student group. It proved to be a good choice.
Being reminded of the value of appreciating the everyday events in my life and how these moments can become times of meditation and preparation for an increasingly tense working environment was the literary comfort food I needed, like the PB&J sandwich on the cover.
Warren takes us through a typical day with eleven chapters like “Waking,” “Losing Keys,” “Sitting in Traffic,” and “Sleeping.” Each one includes ways to not only appreciate the ordinary but also to find the spiritual force within it.
I especially liked Chapter 7: Checking Email because it discusses the value in our everyday work lives. One of the frustrations after almost 30 years of teaching is the sameness of my work. I still find joy in teaching, but I must admit to growing weary of answering so many of the same questions, marking the same errors over and over again.
Gratefully, my students do improve, but too soon they move on, and a whole new batch come in who need the same instruction. I’m not blaming them or anybody–nature of the beast. I’m just getting kinda sick of it, you know? I know, I know, I need to retire, and I’m going to–soon, but I don’t want to simply survive this upcoming year; I want to be a good, compassionate, not-burned-out composition teacher.
Having read this book will help me.
I also liked the chapter called Making the Bed. I hate to admit it, but for a long time, even though my mama taught me better, I wasn’t making up the bed. Then, I read this book about forming good habits (I blogged about it), and I started making my bed each morning. In the years since then, I’ve rarely missed a day, and it has indeed helped me to appreciate the value of routine–and the joy of it, even. Making the bed, preparing my desk for work, cooking, so many things I am finding pleasure in again.
Being 62 may have something to do with it.
For example, the opening chapter of Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca begins with the unnamed protagonist describing her quiet life now that all the drama is over, and she is far away from Manderly, the sprawling estate that she and her husband Max had loved so dearly:
“In reality I lay many hundred miles away in an alien land, and would wake, before many seconds had passed, in the bare little hotel bedroom, comforting in its very lack of atmosphere. I would sigh a moment, stretch myself and turn, and opening my eyes, be bewildered at that glittering sun, that hard, clean sky, so different from the soft moonlight of my dream. The day would lie before us both, long no doubt, and uneventful, but fraught with a certain stillness, a dear tranquillity we had not known before.”
I remember thinking when I was a girl and reading Rebecca for the first time how utterly boring it must have been and had no idea how an uneventful day “fraught with a certain stillness” could possibly be either dear or tranquil.
Now, I understand, and reading Warren’s book just solidified that understanding. She writes: “Without realizing it, I had slowly built a habit: a steady resistance to and dread of boredom.”
That’s it. That’s what I had been doing.
Now, I can’t say that I welcome boredom, but I am learning how to make peace with it and use it more as “me” time. Sometimes, I, a person who in the past always had to be doing something and “feeling productive,” just sit on the front deck with a cold beverage and (gasp) think!
It’s becoming my liturgy, but you know, it’s not really ordinary at all.