Treasured Time

Treasured Time

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reader's Choice 20th Anniversary Edition

Treasured Time

Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment.

~Thích Nhat Hanh

“Just think! We won’t ever have to set our alarm clock again now that you are retired, too,” my husband said as I watched the hand on the clock move to the exact time my retirement would begin. Now I hoped to keep “normal hours.” For me, this meant going to bed and getting up when I felt like it. I looked forward to spending quality time together doing all the things we had been unable to do when we were young and we were busy raising a family and holding down full-time jobs. On the other hand, it was scary.

Doing research about retired people, I learned that divorce rates for couples in retirement were skyrocketing. Though many causes have been given, some of the reasons point to the difficulties couples have adjusting to being together too much. In time, they can become bored with each other. I wondered if this would happen to my husband and me.

At first, my fear was unfounded. We traveled to Ireland, took a barging trip around Texas, and attended our favorite concerts. For a while, I felt we were honeymooners. But just as the honeymoon wears off, so did our retirement bliss. I found I needed some space to be by myself. And even though my husband and I were communicating more with each other, I felt depressed at the end of the day because I had accomplished nothing.

I remembered my career days when my days were fulfilling and filled full. At my job as a high school teacher, I felt I had accomplished something every day as I helped my students to create a fresh piece of writing, add a new word to their vocabulary, or put geographic locations on a map. In turn, I learned something from my students, too.

My to-do list was finished on the weekend. The thoughts of doing something for me were out of the question. I always wanted to learn to play a musical instrument, listen to music, or become a published author.

But when I finally had the time as a retiree, I caved in to all the vices of late risers — sleeping late and staying in my nightgown as I glued my eyes to the television till noon over endless cups of coffee. I was getting further behind every day; many jobs had to be done in the evening or left undone. I began to feel useless. And frankly, I became bored with watching my husband sit around all day watching me.

About this time, I purchased a copy of the book Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Resolution. I read it from cover to cover, and all the stories touched my heart; but there was one story that stood out above all the others: “Confessions of a Morning Person” by Mimi Greenwood Knight.

That story began to change my life by altering my daily schedule at the most opportune time. Mimi Greenwood Knight relates how she kept early morning hours by getting up as much as four hours before dawn, as quiet as a cat burglar. And her secret — she enjoyed it. I thought, “If it worked for her, why I couldn’t make it work for me?”

Instead of getting up at 7:00 with my husband, I started my day a few minutes earlier. Then I started getting up at 6:00, then 5:00 and finally 4:00. Our fourteen-year-old cat became my alarm clock as she grew accustomed to the earlier feedings. Her meow let me know if I were even a few minutes late.

I could hear the sounds of the house as I sat at the table in the kitchen sipping tea and writing for at least twenty minutes. I listened closely to the rhythm of the second hand on the clock and the gurgling sounds of the refrigerator.

I came to love these early morning hours. I found I was my best self in the morning. That special story changed my lifestyle permanently.

I signed up to take piano lessons. With the aid of my headphones plugged into the keyboard, I started practicing my music during these early morning hours without waking my husband. I found I was more alert then and could concentrate better. In the same manner, I listened to my favorite singers, playing a favorite song three times in a row with no one to get tired of hearing it. I exercised with a DVD, and it gave me energy to tackle my chores all day long. I attended writing seminars and took an online writing course, and recently I had the honor of publishing two stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

As the morning wore on and the dawn came, I observed the birds at the feeder on the deck and learned to identify them by name. For the first time, I looked through my kitchen window to see a downy woodpecker with the rising sun as a backdrop. I wondered if heaven could be more beautiful. As Terri Guillemets says, “I used to love night best, but the older I get the more treasures and hopes and joys I find in mornings.”

One morning my husband greeted me with “What are you doing up so early this morning?” as he poured his first cup of coffee. It was 7:30.

“I am well into my day,” I answered as I rattled off a few of my activities. He didn’t know I had tiptoed out of bed in order not to disturb him and started my day three hours earlier.

“When you finish your coffee, let’s go out and smell the dawn,” I told him.

His eyebrows furrowed as he said, “How can you be so cheerful at this hour?”

I forgot about our encounter until a few weeks later when my husband came to the kitchen smiling and said to me, “Do you still want to walk? I haven’t smelled the dawn since I was a young boy.”

I relaxed, as I had already done my routine chores for the day. We walked out into the early morning sunlight hand in hand. I knew I had no worries about boredom.

~Janet N. Miracle

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