The Ritualized Couch

I spend the first hour of every morning sprawled out on the couch with my dog.  It’s my time to be alone, journal, stare into space, and sometimes doze off again.  It’s the most ritualistic part of my day.  I’ve never thought of this as a sloth-like habit (neither does Petey), but I wonder if my day’s momentum would change if the first thing I did was a little more active — maybe some early morning running, or maybe just watering the plants.

Since there are no Parker babies, neither of us have any urgent, early morning responsibilities.  The pups go out first thing, but this is a much simpler process than changing diapers.  I used to fix the coffee pot when we woke up, but even that became too much for me at 6am — so I started fixing it at night.  In the mornings, I literally move from bed to couch and then back to the bed an hour later to make it.  And then after I take a shower, I go back to the couch.  The couch just might be my morning crutch.

I’ll admit, I return to the couch constantly as the day goes by, looking for a taste of that early morning respite.  Petey does too.  This couch is not conducive to momentum, but it is conducive to rest.

Now that I think about it, though, the fact that my couch doesn’t do a jetpack number on my day isn’t so bad.  I’ve found my peace retreat — my little (well, big) spot in the house that reinforces shalom.

My couch time, making the bed, showering, and cleaning up the kitchen are all barreled into my morning “routine,” although it’s clear that it bears traces of ritual as well.  But the ritual really just revolves around the couch.  Everything else, to me, is such an energy-draining chore.

Karl Rahner in Encounters With Silence asks some pointed questions about routines, especially the ones that are perpetually draining:

How can I redeem this wretched humdrum? How can I turn myself toward the one thing necessary, toward You? How can I escape from the prison of this routine? Haven’t You Yourself committed me to it? And didn’t I find myself already in exile, from the very first moment I began to realize that my true life must be directed toward You? Wasn’t I already deeply entangled in the pettiness of everyday cares, when it first dawned on me that I must not allow myself to be suffocated under the weight of earthly routine?

And here’s his answer to the dullness:

I am responsible for making my life so humdrum.  It’s not the affairs of the world that make my days dull and insignificant; I myself have dug the rut.  Through my own attitude I can transform the holiest events into the grey tedium of dull routine.  My days don’t make me dull — it’s the other way around.

This realization is similar to my dishwashing dilemma last week.  I’m the one who has “dug the rut.”  I love how Rahner gives a voice to some of my own questions: “How can I escape from the prison of this routine? Haven’t You Yourself committed me to it?”  I’m the one who’s ultimately responsible for eliminating dullness; I can’t blame my clogged bathroom sink, dirty laundry, or smelly dogs for sucking the excitement out of my life.  I have to blame myself — but first I need to get off my ritualized couch.