Saturday, August 22, 2020


Every morning, my one-eyed cat Zelda climbs onto the bed purring fiercely and nudges her face against mine. For an hour we play a combative game: I pull her squishy body against me & try to sleep a bit more and she pretends to nuzzle while really seeking my bare skin to bite. I've thought this was about her hunger but no matter who feeds her, she only comes for me and my shoulder (or hand or arm, sometimes chin or eyebrow). I've decided Zelda, whom I named after F. Scott's wife, is my muse. A feisty, aggravating, literally biting muse but one that will get me out of bed and into daylight.

I like to think, especially when faced with this isolating crisis, that routines will bring me what I need - consistency, stability, predictability. But they can only do that if properly recognized and named for their intentions. For most of my almost(tomorrow)-52 years I've tried to establish routines that will make me somehow Better; I've always been on the verge of being More Stylish, More Confident, More Fit, Cuter, An Artist, A Writer, Someone Who Can Follow A Basic Schedule. It has worked occasionally, I mean I did graduate from high school and college, and I got married. I've also finally developed a sort-of system of trying to plan daily meals, though "meal" is loosely defined and there is always at least one night for takeout. But what have I really been trying to do for myself? The world? What was the real point of all that organized angst?

I've been thinking that my approach to routines in daily life has been mostly seeing them as necessary but punitive tasks, and no one likes to constantly face punishment (conversations about BDSM aside). It might be more a matter of semantics but I'm starting to feel like if I call what I want to do with & for myself "rituals," I'll be more likely to embrace those changes. Already I light a candle at my desk when I'm serious about getting work done; I make sure my kettle is programmed before I go to bed because I envision my morning reading & writing time without waiting for tea to brew; I ride my stationary bike less for the exercise and more for the ritual of listening to podcasts + recording the distance in my weekly journal.

My August ritual used to be celebrating my birthday with something indulgent each day while also refocusing my attention on preparing for school; for decades I have loved both things in a way that filled my being with joy & gratitude & a sense of purpose. That tilted a bit last year when I thought I was done with teaching, though I found a similar outlet in becoming a docent. I'm realizing that the New Now and absence of my former teacher/docent ritual has depleted me; it's become harder to embrace joy, I feel thankful for life only in a more general way, and my purpose seems nebulous. I've moved some things into the classroom I won't be able to use for at least a couple of months due to pandemic concerns and I have precarious stacks of history books around my house to read & use for lessons, yet everything still feels unmoored. I've been trying to establish routines for organizing but the world is in such a state that organization seems futile. 

I can't allow that feeling to linger though, because that would mean surrendering and a Leo/Virgo is nothing if not tenacious (also known as control freakish, obsessive, bossy, and/or stubborn...). So, I'll take Zelda's morning ritual with me as my call to rise and get back into this odd new world. Excuse the bite marks.