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Living The Daily Grind

 

He glanced over at the clock with one eye, four thirty a.m., again.

Rolling back on his pillow, he looked up at the ceiling in the darkness, seeing nothing.

His mind started its usual morning walk through of the “must-do’s”, “should-do’s” and “want-to-do’s” of the days ahead. The list was always long, and never completed. Monday mornings were the worst with an entire week of what lay ahead.

He sighed as he listened to his wife breath easy and slow, frustrated she was able to “sleep like the dead”. Not him. He closed his eyes and hoped for a couple more of hours of sleep.

Startled, he sat up, relieved it was only six thirty. He wasn’t late. His wife still slept. He sat up on the edge of the bed, took a deep breath, and forced himself up to begin the daily ritual.

Thirty minutes later he was backing his car out of the garage, showered, shaved, in a suit and tie, breakfast in his backpack, and a steaming coffee in the cup holder. He readied himself for the traffic as he turned the corner out of the cul-de-sac.

It was bumper-to-bumper, worse than usual, due to an accident and a stall. The usual shortcuts were of no avail. He relished the taste and caffeine of his coffee. One of the best parts of his day – strong and dark – not like the crap that came out of the machine at the office.

Other than the traffic, he did his best to enjoy the drive. It was time alone, listening to his favorite meandering radio morning show, the news, traffic, and sports reports. It was an opportunity to be mindless.

He maneuvered into his parking spot. Eight a.m. – made it. Others were making the same journey, stepping out of their cars, preened, hollow-eyed, resigned and probably caffeinated.

Mumbling hello and the standard morning greetings – hey, how’s it going, fine thanks, and you, oh good, good – they rode the elevator up together. As they exited to their designated spot for the day the usual – have a good one, or have a good day – yeah, you too… His cubicle was on the fifteenth floor, with a partial window view, a small perk considering how long he’d slaved at this job.

He checked email and modified his to-do list based on ever changing priorities. His day was booked with meetings and a monthly status report he had been putting off to get out to his boss by two. He resigned himself and got to work.

He went out for coffee mid-morning with a couple of male co-workers. The usual: “shop” talk, sports, weather, next vacation and long-weekend plans. Nothing new.

Feeling pressured, he ate lunch at his desk – a burger and fries he’d picked up while out for coffee – in order to get his report finished.

He was still fuming from the last meeting. Bob was such a prick, a regular know-it-all narcissist. He was still shaking thirty minutes after the meeting. After all of the input and hard work he’d put into the project, all of it derailed by Bob. But as usual, he had decided to go “turtle” afraid that if he spoke up he might go ballistic. He hoped someone else would be brave enough to speak up, but no one in the meeting took up the unspoken challenge.

The rest of the workday was a blur, getting the report in to his boss and sitting in two more meetings. In between was fraught with problems: clients, vendors, fighting fires and dealing with other people’s piss-poor-planning.

He left the office at five thirty – the time when the ants reversed direction and headed back to the mound.

The elevator ride down was the same as coming up, except most people seemed a bit more cheerful, end-of-day casual acknowledgments of ‘have a good night, and see you tomorrow’.

He steeled himself as he got in the car, taking a couple of minutes to get composed, preparing for the onslaught of traffic ahead. He plugged in his iPhone for some music and turned the ignition.

He arrived home just after six. He made dinner, his wife cleaned up. That was their deal. By seven thirty he was exhausted, plunked in front of the TV with his feet up and a cold beer in hand.

A couple of beers and a couple of hours later, he was done.

Before turning in he got his clothes out, breakfast and coffee prepped for the next day. By ten thirty he was in bed, his wife reading beside him. She was a night owl and would be up for a couple more hours.

He dismissed the lingering feeling of unease, rolled on to his side and closed his eyes.

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He glanced over at the clock with one eye, six-thirty a.m. on the dot.

Rolling back on his pillow, he closed his eyes, taking a few deep breaths, paying attention the rhythmic movement of his diaphragm, feeling his heart pumping.

His mind started on its usual morning walk thru of gratitude’s. The list was getting longer and never seemed quite complete. Monday mornings list was as comprehensive as Saturdays.

He glanced over at his wife, watching and listening to her breathe easy and slow, and whispered, “I choose you”. He joked with her that she was able to “sleep like the dead” and could sleep till noon. Not for him, he was a morning person. He carefully removed the covers and sat up on the edge of the bed, noticing how his body responded to his request for movement, wriggling his toes, stretching his arms up over his head.

He took a deep breath and smiled, relishing being alive and healthy.

Thirty minutes later he was in his car, showered, shaved, in his favorite suit and tie, breakfast and lunch in his backpack, and a steaming coffee in the cup holder. He plugged in his iPhone, backed out of the garage, and began humming along to Tom Petty as he waited for a break in the traffic.

A car slowed and the driver waved him in. He raised a hand in thanks.

It was bumper-to-bumper, no worse than usual. There was an accident and a stall – he hoped everyone was okay. He didn’t bother trying shortcuts – not worth the effort.

He relished the taste and caffeine of his coffee – a glorious part of his day – strong and dark – his preference.

He enjoyed the drive. It was time alone, an opportunity to recharge, listening to his favorite meandering music or radio morning show – the news, traffic, and sports reports – sometimes an audio book, Rosetta Stone Spanish lessons, or complete silence, paying attention to his thoughts.

He maneuvered into his parking spot earned by tenure. Eight a.m. – on time. Others were making the same journey, stepping out of their cars, preened, hollow-eyed, resigned and probably caffeinated.

They exchanged the usual morning greetings – hey, how’s it going, fine thanks, and you, oh good, good.

He met their gaze and smiled as they entered the elevator. He inquired about their families, noticing new outfits, and asking if anyone had a new joke to share.

As they exited to their designated spot for the day, best wishes were shared – have a good one, or have a good day – yeah, you too… accompanied by a smile here and there.

His cubicle was on the fifteenth floor, with a partial window view, another wonderful perk of working for the same organization for so long, an exchange of services between employer and employee.

He hummed as he checked his email and modified his to-do list based on new priorities – never a dull moment. His day was booked with meetings and a monthly status report he had been preparing for. He set himself to work.

He went out for coffee mid-morning with a couple of male co-workers. They chatted about their health, dreams, regrets, and the men they are working on becoming.

He went for a jog at lunch with Bob. He was a good guy once he’d got to know him. At one point he’d ben skeptical of Bob’s intentions. But after working through a few scenarios with him on the new project, they came to an understanding. They both wanted the same thing – for it to be a success.

Success could be shared. They found out they could work together. They each had their unique perspective and strengths they could bring to the project.

He submitted his report after his noon-time run, taking into account a couple of relevant points Bob had brought up. The following meeting was tense at times, with the finance folks concerned about the budget. But with Bob’s help they were able to reassure measures were in place to minimize the risk.

The rest of the workday was busy; getting the meeting minutes in to his boss and attending two more meetings. In between there were problems – opportunities really – with a few clients, vendors, managing a few unrealistic expectations and providing some suggestions based on his years of experience.

He left the office at five thirty – the time when most of his co-workers left the office.

The elevator ride down was the same as coming up, except most people seemed happier, and people left the elevator with ‘have a good night, and see you tomorrow’. He smiled and acknowledged their good wishes sincerely hoping their evening went well.

He settled himself into his car; appreciating the freedom it gave him. He closed his eyes for a couple of minutes and breathed deeply, in through the nose and out through the mouth, reveling in his body’s ability to keep him alive. Opening his eyes, grateful for his sight, he chose an old Billy Holiday album on his iPhone, turned the ignition, and turned up the volume to a comfortable sing-along level.

He arrived home just after six. He made dinner, his wife cleaned up. That was their agreement. He enjoyed cooking, she didn’t.

After dinner he read his latest Sci-Fi novel for thirty minutes, letting his food settle before beginning his every-other-day evening workout.

As usual, by 8:30 they sat down together with their tea on the couch, side by side, her head leaning on his shoulder, his arm around her, as they recounted their day, and their blessings.

They chatted about their dreams – individually and together – and the challenges and successes they had experienced in the day, what they did well, and what they’ll do differently next time.

They explored possibilities of downsizing, simplifying their life, maybe even changing careers.

Before turning in he got his clothes out, made both his breakfast and lunch, and prepped coffee for the next day. By ten thirty he was in bed.

He caressed his wife’s arm as she read, telling her he loved her, and hoping a wonderful sleep came her way. She’d continue reading for another hour or two. He would be out within minutes.

He closed his eyes, paying attention to the sounds of the house, his breathing, and his wife’s presence, grateful for all this life experience had to offer.


I write to inspire men to greater self-awareness, to make better choices and create a better life.

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