The 4040 list is proving to serve as an instructional manual for how to live life more deeply and fully. I thought before I turned 40 that I'd been living a pretty good life. What I have since learned is that my cautious, playing-it-safe ways were not conducive to life abundant. I know that now and will correct accordingly moving forward.
My week ended on a note of gloom. Luckily not doom and gloom, but just a bruising for this sensitive heart of mine to bear. I am getting better at not succombing to negative inner monologue. I reinforced moments of weakness with my proven mantras of “It's okay...I'm okay...Everything is going to be okay.” This self-mothering cooing worked and I settled into my couch to watch a Sherlock episode. I dozed a bit, woke to watch the end of the episode and decided that crossing off the sunrise item on my list would be a good way to keep my “It's going to be okay” momentum going the next day.
My morning writing habit has skewed my internal clock to wake me even earlier than usual. I woke up at 5:15, read until my alarm broke the silence of the morning, and I headed to the spot I'd decided to watch the sun rise.
I took incremental photos and in between I rested my chin on my steering wheel. I was contemplative as I listened to Ed Sheeran, Plain White Ts, Journey, Pink, and U2 on the radio. Each song, while ones I wouldn't have chosen, seemed to speak to me in their own ways. I listened to the lyrics looking for new phrases and meanings that could make this moment alone more profound.
My thoughts ping-ponged from subject to subject as I watched the cars cruise down the highway. My vast open future has taken up a lot of real estate in my thoughts of late. What do you do with the years ahead when all of the culturally subscribed and sanctioned milestones—graduations, marriage, children—have all been crossed off the list? And what do you do when those things didn't go quite as planned?
I remembered my “It's okay” mantra and gently nudged myself back to living in the moment where the anxiety doesn't pick at me.
As the sky lightened and revealed a touch of pink, I thought how sitting still watching the sun rise was another form of meditation. How sitting watching what is in moments an invisible process is an act of slowing down.
I noted the bridge ahead and the events of the week before. Sitting still on the highway as protesters shut it down. Disturbing defined schedules and plans for thousands. I thought about the seriousness of the cause that brought them to that moment, and how it needs to be talked about and fixed, but how shutting down a highway didn't seem to be the means to the end.
The sky brightened and I thought about Kansas. The place of my birth. The place where, no matter the destinations I travel or the zip codes in which I live, will always have my heart. I thought about its wide open skies and the inherent beauty of its expansiveness.
I set the alarm on my phone for 6:15—the official time of today's sun rise. I turned off the alarm and took another photo. This morning's sun rise seemed unremarkable. I picked a hazy day. I thought about how it was beautiful in its un-spectacular-ness. How life can be beautiful when it's gloomy and not spectacular. Just a different kind of beauty.
I sat in the driver's seat for a few minutes knowing that I'd know when the time to drive home was. I turned my head to the left and saw a sliver of brilliant pink. The Sun! I'd been watching the sky just south of where the spectacle was! There was more to see. I watched as the sun appeared. A curtain of cloud burned away dropping to reveal a stage—the main act. It was remarkable watching it. I marveled at how easy it would have been to miss it if I'd driven away too soon and gotten distracted.
I watched the sun until it was a complete hot pink orb in the sky. I stayed until staring at the sun no longer felt comfortable or healthy.
I pulled out of the hotel parking lot and took the long way home. Watching the sun rise changed how I saw everything on my drive. Everything that was sun-kissed seemed brand new. I turned into my subdivision and saw the sunshine now golden yellow and too bright to look at directly. I noticed the bright spots on sidewalks and shadows created by trees in the neighborhood. I walked into my house and began tidying up in preparation to welcome fellow writers later in the morning. I saw the sun dappled places on my hardwood floor that shifted with the trees that blocked the light. I felt the heat of the sun on my skin standing at the kitchen sink.
I'd never acknowledged the way the sun brightens life because I take it for granted that it will do it every morning. This morning I was reminded of the source of all this light. I had watched the morning transform from dark to light. It was like walking down the rows of a crop in a field planted by a farmer, and being reminded that the food on my plate first started here. It felt like a miracle, and one that I chose to witness.
Watching the sun rise is an act of hope. The dark of night will always be interrupted by the light of day. Bruised hearts will heal and love better than before. Every sun rise will be different. Some more fantastic than others, but each one of them momentous.
The weather app on my phone marks 7:56 as the time the sun is scheduled to set tonight. I'm going to be there too. It just seems right.