The last ten minutes before I leave the house to take my sixth-grader to school usually go something like this: My voice grows louder and higher in pitch. A door gets slammed. I toss a sneaker or a lunch sack or a homework folder in my son’s general direction. We stalk to the car in silence. At the first stoplight I hiss at him, “It doesn’t have to be this way every morning. If only you would listen to me!”

My eldest was born by cesarean section at thirty-seven weeks. It was the last time he was early for anything. He was late to sit, crawl, and walk. He didn’t babble or play peekaboo or point at flowers or dogs when I took him out in his stroller. I consulted psychologists, developmental pediatricians, and speech therapists. Their diagnoses confirmed my fears: Global developmental delay. Possible autism. The speech therapist said, “Focus on if goals are met, rather than when.”

Back then I would have given anything to know that my biggest problem would one day be getting my son out the door on time. It often feels now as though his past belonged to someone else. The all-consuming anxiety I had in his infancy has been replaced by more-conventional worries over his adolescence. Academically he has caught up with his peers, but socially he lags behind. He’d rather discuss Legos or Star Wars than girls or sports. He speaks of not having friends. The snail’s pace at which he eats breakfast, tells a story, and brushes his teeth is a reminder of the path he has traveled, that long struggle. It’s easier to get angry than to let myself feel afraid for him. So I yell at him to tie his shoes, as if making him move faster might shield him from getting hurt.

One recent morning, as we were preparing to leave, my son ran into the kitchen with his guitar, shouting, “Mom, you’ve got to hear this!” He was barefoot. His backpack lay open across the room. His sweat shirt was balled up in the opposite corner. I began to reprimand him, but I stopped myself. “OK,” I said. “Play your song — one time. Then go brush your teeth.”

My son sat down and began to play, glancing back and forth between his fingers on the guitar and my eyes. As the music filled our kitchen, my heart swelled. And instead of telling him we were late, I allowed myself to really listen.

Melinda Gordon Blum
Los Angeles, California

I’ve been a pastor for two decades. My wife and I have just joined a new denomination, and we want to start our own church, so we are flying to Georgia to be assessed and get permission. It’s humbling to have to “try out” after all these years, but we feel called to serve God.

We’re finally at the gate. Our first flight was canceled. Then we were bumped from the next one. This is our last hope to make it to Atlanta. The church leaders have said we need to be there on time.

The gate attendant announces that boarding will begin in ten minutes, and I head to the bathroom. Bev glares at me, as if to say, Really? but I assure her I’ll be right back.

As soon as I’ve entered the men’s room, the odor of feces hits me as if I’ve run into a wall. I hold my breath as I step to the urinal. Other men are rushing to exit as fast as possible.

When I’ve finished, I look down to make sure I don’t step in anything — the stench is that close — and that’s when I see a man’s pants sticking out from under the stall door, loaded with excrement. Disgusted, I rush to the sink, splash water on my hands, and leave.

I get back to my wife just as the first passengers are boarding the plane. Though I’m glad to be out of the bathroom, I can’t escape the thought that those pants belong to someone, someone who made it to the toilet too late. Didn’t I choose this vocation because I wanted to serve others? I pull my favorite pants from my carry-on bag. Puzzled, Bev reminds me that the flight is boarding. Giving her an apologetic look, I rush back to the men’s room.

I go right to the stall and knock. “I have a pair of pants for you,” I say.

“No, that’s OK,” comes the reply in a shaky, elderly voice. The smell is awful. I want to run out for fresh air and catch my flight, but I knock again, assuring him he can take the pants.

The door opens, and there stands a deeply wrinkled, red-faced man, his hair mussed and standing on end. “Can you help me?” he asks.

I’m surprised to see that most of the mess is cleaned up. I ask what I can do.

“I got my pant legs twisted, and I can’t seem to get them right.”

His pants are gathered around his shoes. I bend down to pull them up and realize he has them on backward. We’ll have to remove them and start over. “Are you sure you don’t want to use my pants?” I ask. No, he just wants to get his own back on.

The situation is growing more uncomfortable by the second. Now I’m on my knees, leaning into the stall and doing my best not to touch the remaining mess as I pull his pants off over his shoes. A few men enter the bathroom, see me on my knees, then abruptly vanish, as if they’ve walked in on something they shouldn’t have.

I’m lamenting being in this position, hoping my plane has not left without me, and picturing my frantic wife when a strange quiet comes over me, and I hear a voice say, You have had help in your time of need. Now give.

With trembling hands the man assists me in pulling up the pants and buckling his belt. He tells me his family is outside waiting. I say goodbye, he thanks me quietly, and I make it back in time for my flight.

Dale Vallejo-Sanderson
Kailua, Hawaii

When I became pregnant, I felt that having my baby at home was best. No sterile hospitals for me. I found a doctor who agreed to help me give birth sans drugs, stirrups, and spinals at a time when it was still unusual to do this. Dr. Dan would be with me during the delivery, along with my partner and my best friend. He did make me promise, however, that if anything went wrong, I would go to the nearest hospital with no argument. I agreed, but in my mind I knew that everything would be fine.

The due date, in the first week of November, came and went. When nothing was happening by the second week — no cramping, no water breaking — I made sure we had plenty of food in the house and kept waiting. Then the third week went by. My family, friends, and neighbors called anxiously, but I was unruffled. After all, due dates are only guesses at best. I started making a hooked rug for my sister for Christmas, and that became my focus.

The first cramps were so mild I thought I was imagining them. My partner and I drove to Dr. Dan’s office. He examined me and said yes, the labor had finally begun, but I had a long way to go.

Back home I placed a small clock on the table next to my rug project and began timing the contractions. They were increasing in frequency and intensity, but slowly. Twenty-four hours later my best friend and my partner were taking turns sitting up with me. My whole being was focused on the rug and my belly.

On day three Dr. Dan came to camp out in my living room. He would check my progress, then nap on the couch.

Finally the doctor broke my water, and the true hard labor began. Four more hours of sweating, cursing, panting, and pushing, and my baby boy was laid on my chest. I’d been in labor for fifty-six hours in all. Dr. Dan said he could have reduced that by at least an hour if I had allowed him to use forceps, but what I’d wanted from the beginning was for nature to run its course. According to my neighbors and family, my son was very late, but to me he was right on time.

Lynda Z.
East Orleans, Massachusetts

My old man is a runner. He’s eighty-seven and figures he’s chalked up about fifty thousand miles over the past forty years. That’s a lot of time spent putting one foot in front of the other.

In his prime my old man ran fifty-mile races in the farm country of western Maryland. When he began to slow down, he switched to marathons. Three years ago he was the oldest male runner to finish the Baltimore Marathon. Now he runs half marathons. In the retirement community where he lives with my mom, most of the men have walkers. He’s the only one who runs.

My old man has become something of an institution in Baltimore. He gets interviewed on TV. The reporters usually end by saying that they wish they could run at their age the way he does at his.

When I ran my first marathon, my old man helped me get through it. He slowed his pace and kept me from starting too fast, which is what usually happens to new runners swept up by the enthusiasm of the crowd. For the next ten years we were evenly matched. Now I slow my pace to match my old man’s.

I first beat him in Stamford, Connecticut. I enjoyed rubbing it in, but these days I prefer running with my old man to competing against him. We talk through the miles, and he helps me get a grip on my job, my finances, my family, myself.

We used to train together on the C&O Canal Towpath trail just north of Washington, D.C.: ten miles up and ten back. Close to the end, when both of us were worn down, my old man would try to trick me by pulling up lame or grabbing my hat and throwing it into the woods, then sprinting ahead. Once, when I was aching and loopy after a fifteen-mile run, he bent over to help tie my shoelaces — then tied my feet together and dashed off. We laughed about it and fell into each other’s arms.

Last year we ran the half marathon in Baltimore. On race day my old man gave me two Tylenol before the start and two at mile ten to ease the pain.

The race was hard on me. I felt sluggish, as if I were running in mud. I was bone tired and even yawned at mile twelve, but I managed to drag myself over the finish line a half step behind my old man, who still looked fresh. What was his secret?

Later my old man told me he’d given me Tylenol PM — a combination pain reliever and sleep aid. He said it was an accident, but I know better: Looking for an edge, even at eighty-seven. Pretty clever of my old man.

Craig R. Gralley
Great Falls, Virginia

Today I love London, but I didn’t twenty years ago, when I was studying history at a university there. Poor and miserable, I couldn’t embrace the culture. I complained that there were just four television channels, that restaurants seemed not to know what ice was, and that it rained nearly every day. I did not like the typing paper, which was not quite as long as legal paper but just long enough to annoy me. I remember being sad when I had to go to class on Thanksgiving.

I was living in a flat in South London, and my school was in North London, nearly two hours away by train, plus another twenty minutes on the bus. On top of that, I had a half-hour walk to the train station, and there were lots of transportation delays.

One particularly cold and rainy November night, my bus was running late. It was nearly freezing out, and I walked up the street to stand under an awning. Just when I didn’t think things could get any worse, a homeless man crawled out of a cardboard box and said to me, “Two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate?” This was his creative way of asking for money. I gave him fifty pence.

“Don’t look so glum,” he said. “Life is wonderful.”

I suddenly felt ashamed for complaining so much.

Now, whenever I am feeling sorry for myself, I think, Two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate?

Nicole Kenneally
Fiskdale, Massachusetts

I was born and raised in Alaska. My family’s remote homestead — no running water, no electricity, no phone — was a sixty-mile round trip from the nearest town, where I went to school. We had to drive ten miles on a dirt road just to reach the school-bus stop. If we got stuck or had car trouble, I’d miss the bus, and my dad would have to drive me to school.

When this happened in ninth grade, we’d arrive halfway through first-period history. I’d be anxious to get to class, but my father would make me wait while he wrote an elaborate note to my teacher, Mr. Salisbury. In his fine handwriting Dad would compose fanciful explanations about bogs, moose, frozen engines, glaciers, and many feet of snow while I waited in the back seat, exasperated and embarrassed.

My father was a complicated man. He had a movie-star smile and a sharp tongue that he wielded with precision. He was intensely demanding but also generous by nature. He was both loving and full of rage, a visionary who sabotaged himself at every turn.

On May 9, 1978, Dad died in a car accident on his way to pick me up at the school-bus stop. I was fifteen and did not know what to do. I went to school the next day but could not face being in class, so I lurked in the halls instead. Mr. Salisbury found me there and invited me into his classroom between classes, saying he had something for me. He reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a stack of paper: all the handwritten excuse notes my dad had composed. Mr. Salisbury had saved them, and now he wanted me to have them.

I am several years older than my father was when he died. I have gained compassion for his weaknesses and can admire his strengths and appreciate the singular childhood he gave me. I’ve also learned from his experience. I tend to run ahead of schedule.

Skye Skinner
Carbondale, Colorado

When I was only ten, my mother put me in charge of my twelve-year-old sister.

“You’re the stronger one,” she insisted. “You have to help Peggy.”

It was my job to see that Peg got up for school on time, was neatly dressed, and had all her homework and books. By then our mother would have already left for her job. Our parents had split up years earlier, and our two older sisters were married and gone.

My sister didn’t so much sleep as travel to another world entirely beyond my reach.

“It’s me,” I’d say, shaking her. “Breakfast is on the table, and you have to get up.”

Peg would shove me away and go back to her dream world.

I tried bribery, coaxing, setting the clock an hour ahead, even begging, but nothing worked. Day after day we were late for school. My sister was indifferent to my tears of frustration. She just didn’t care.

One morning my sister got up angry and slammed my head into her bureau. I got a terrible nosebleed, which seemed to please her, and thereafter she would punch me in the face at the smallest provocation. If my nose bled, she laughed.

When our father visited, he would lecture my sister on self-discipline, but she’d look at him as if he were speaking some incomprehensible language. My mother had no influence over her, nor did the counselors from Catholic Charities.

My sister had no friends, so I was expected to bring her with me when I went to play with mine. The other kids were wary of Peggy’s unpredictable temper, and I couldn’t blame them. She was frightening. In her teens Peg fell in with the neighborhood troublemakers and misfits. My mother was concerned, but she still had to work long hours.

My own salvation came in the form of a scholarship to a private academy across the city. This meant I had to leave for school even earlier than my mother left for work, and there were mandatory activities and volunteer service after school. For the first time in years I was out from under the burden of my sister.

The more I began to find my way, the more lost Peggy became. In desperation my mother paid my oldest sister to let Peg stay with her family. That arrangement ended after just one school term.

“Never again,” my oldest sister said. “Don’t even ask.”

Peggy’s first psychotic break came when she was twenty-one. By then I was three thousand miles away, trying to make a home with my young husband. When I returned to my mother’s house for a visit, Peg was a changed person. Electroshock therapy had all but annihilated her memory.

“I feel like I’m living underwater,” she told me — a side effect of her medication. She’d gained weight and lost her considerable talent for painting. What little concept of time she’d had was also gone.

Years later my mother revealed that one of her sisters had spent most of her adult life in and out of a mental hospital. My mother had been the one to care for her sister at home. She must have seen the signs in Peggy from the start. Maybe she’d hoped my normalcy would rub off on my sister.

Today Peggy is enrolled in a program that lets her live at home. In her old age she is now considered merely eccentric and “noncompliant” rather than psychotic.

I became a medical social worker and spent much of my career arranging in-home assistance for clients and keeping them out of institutions. Some were like my sister. I did well with those clients; I’d had lots of practice.

Name Withheld

Whenever we met at a movie theater, Johnny D. was late. I would pace anxiously in the lobby, constantly peeking in to see if the feature had begun. Eventually I would see him running toward me, delivering his usual excuse: “Sorry, I got stuck in traffic on the 5 South.” At some point I began to tell him that the film started fifteen minutes before the actual start time.

Today I live on an island with no traffic lights, no turn lanes, and a meandering, sometimes one-lane road incongruously called Kamehameha V Highway. A local named Uncle Damien controls the pace of traffic on the Kam V whenever he’s on it. He has never pushed his little red truck’s pedal to the metal. Rather he putters along at thirty miles per hour — and that’s on the straightaways. At almost ninety years of age, Uncle Damien is a respected elder. No one honks at him, and rarely does anyone pass. Whenever you’re late to meet someone here, you can always say, “Sorry, I got stuck behind Uncle Damien.”

Gregory Kahn
Molokai, Hawaii

We are five minutes late and still sitting in the car, waiting for my younger brother. My mother stares out the window, her hands resting in her lap. My father taps the wheel and hums under his breath. My little sister is wedged in the front seat between my parents. My other brother and I sit in back with a large space between us for our missing sibling.

It is summer and very hot in the car. Even with the windows open the air doesn’t move. Everything is damp, and my legs stick to the seat. I watch my father strike a match to light his pipe. He sucks in hard, and the red embers glow. My mother shifts and looks toward the house. My little sister squirms and turns around to see what we are doing in the back.

If I try really hard, I can make out my brother in the kitchen window, standing at the sink. I know he is counting the number of times he has washed and dried his hands. This is important to him. He can’t leave until he has done it right. None of us knows what “right” is except him.

My dad’s tapping gets faster and his humming louder. My mother leans across my sister and places a hand gently on his arm.

My brother cannot help making us late. He is tied to that sink as if by some curse. He does not enjoy the ritual any more than we enjoy waiting for him.

Ann F.
Estes Park, Colorado

My husband and I had been separated for two years and were living in small Alaskan towns three hundred miles apart. That Christmas we flew separately to the Seattle area to spend the holidays with our two grown sons. Although the time together as a family was full of joy, being in close proximity to my husband was difficult. The wariness, regrets, guilt, and recriminations all came back, but so, too, did admissions that we still loved each other.

Our flights back to Alaska, on different airlines, were leaving Seattle at about the same time. Our boys dropped us at our separate terminals. In the hour before takeoff, I thought back on the week and was overcome with sadness about the end of our marriage. I looked at the clock and realized that my husband’s flight hadn’t left yet. I might still be able to catch him and tell him how I felt. I raced for the distant terminal with my heavy carry-on bag thumping against my knees.

When I got to my husband’s gate, the seats were empty, and the plane was taxiing outside. I stood at the windows and cried.

Six years later we are still separated. I’ve often wondered: if I’d gotten there five minutes before he boarded the plane, would there have been a chance to start over?

Louise Freeman
Anchorage, Alaska

When I was a college senior in the early 1980s, I went to the career advisor’s presentation on job-hunting. We were in a recession, and I was an English major, so I needed all the advice I could get.

One of the advisor’s interviewing tips was “ ‘On time’ means ten minutes early.”

I took this to heart when I moved to New York City after graduation and began my search. Going to interviews at publishing companies and nonprofits, I always showed up with ten minutes to spare. And I did find work. As I grew into adulthood, the ten-minute rule helped me make it on time to meetings, travel departures, and doctor visits.

Thirty years later, though, I find myself dawdling. I decide to have another cup of coffee before getting ready for work. On my way upstairs to shower, I look out the window and notice a rabbit grazing in the backyard, and I stop to watch it chew a dandelion. In the shower I daydream, remembering a funny thing a friend said and wondering when my family will get together again. I recall that I was going to send my mother a note, and I convince myself that I can do it before I have to go. By the time I start to look for my keys, I’m already late.

It still feels better to head out the door with a few minutes to spare. But with so much of my life behind me, I am less eager now to move on to whatever comes next.

Havertown, Pennsylvania

I caught sight of her through the orange trees lining the perimeter of the courthouse lawn. She was hurrying because she was late for our appointment at the marriage-license bureau. Being late, I would soon learn, was a habit of hers, one I’d have to put up with for the next forty-eight years.

After we’d been married for a while, my wife and I joined a small church that held Sunday-morning worship in a private home. Of course we were late for services often. As the congregation outgrew the house where it had been gathering, the preacher asked if my wife and I could host the meeting in our home each week, and we agreed. So a group of about twenty-five church members came over every Sunday. To get to church, my wife had only to walk from the bedroom to the living room — a distance of about six feet. She was regularly late.

William B. Grove
Phoenix, Arizona

I’d planned to travel to Hawaii for the birth of my daughter’s second child, but two weeks before the due date I got a call around 4 AM California time with the news that Lynn’s water had broken. The baby was coming early!

My son-in-law, Lee, had already made flight arrangements: I was on standby for both an 11:30 AM and a 2:00 PM flight out of LAX. In the terminal I paced and prayed as I missed the first standby. My stomach ached in distress, but I recalled how I had been in a similar situation with Lynn’s first pregnancy and had still arrived in time for the birth.

When my name was called as a passenger on the second flight, I let out a guttural sound of relief. On the plane I calculated how many hours my daughter had been in labor and how long it would take me to get to her. Then the captain announced there was an air show in progress in Oahu, and we would be circling the airport until we were cleared for landing. I gave in and accepted that I would be late for the delivery.

As soon as we landed, my phone rang, and I asked Lee whether it was a girl or a boy.

“If you hurry,” he said, “I think you can still make it.”

Relatives were waiting to pick me up as I ran out of the terminal, and we sped to the hospital. I have no memory of the ride, but the driver swears I got out before the car had fully stopped. All I know is I dashed up the stairs to the delivery room and heard Lynn say, “You made it!” Two more contractions, and my second granddaughter was born.

We are all convinced she waited for me.

Anne Prince
Laguna Niguel, California

Nana hated to be late.

“Why can’t people honor time commitments?” she once asked me as we waited at the Fontainebleau Restaurant for friends to arrive. Her coral lipstick was painted on in a straight line, her back ramrod straight in the velvet-cushioned chair. “Honestly, you’d think we had time to waste,” she said, motioning for the waiter to pour another glass of champagne. “People are just rude.”

Any doctor, lawyer, or financial advisor who kept Nana waiting was fired. Any friend who was more than five minutes late to lunch would find an empty table.

Nana developed dementia a year ago and remains at home with a different caregiver every week. She calls them all “Annie.” We have no idea who Annie is, or was. For some reason Nana remembers me — not my mother or even Sally, the woman who has kept house for her for more than fifty years, but me.

One day recently Nana was not happy, and it showed. She scooted her walker across the Persian carpet, expression grim, head down, eyeglass chain swinging with her efforts to propel herself forward. She was impeccably dressed, as usual; no housedresses for her.

I asked where she was going. I knew she didn’t have an appointment; I made them all for her.

She looked at me as though I were the one with a memory problem. “My dear, have you forgotten? I have my hair done every Friday at two.”

Nana hadn’t kept her hair appointment in more than a year. I slipped into the bathroom and called her hairstylist, Ruth, on my cellphone.

“Honey,” Ruth said, “for her I’ll make the time.”

Nana always gave Ruth a 50 percent tip.

Next I called my office and told them I’d be late. The irony that I was going to be late because of Nana did not escape me.

Nana looked at her watch every few minutes in the car. There were no parking spaces near the salon, and I couldn’t just let my grandmother out at the door and trust her not to wander off. I drove around the block until I found a spot, and we made our slow way to the shop. Nana didn’t see Ruth climb down off a chair under the wall clock as we entered. My watch said 2:05, but the clock, thanks to Ruth, said 2:00 exactly.

“We are late,” said Nana.

Ruth came toward us with a smile, saying no, we were right on time, as usual. She pointed to the clock on the wall. Nana was appeased, and I went to get a cup of coffee while Ruth worked her magic.

When we got back to Nana’s house, a number of cars were parked in front. “Someone must be having a party,” said Nana. She clucked her tongue in disapproval. We walked in the front door to find Sally the housekeeper fidgeting. “Ma’am,” she whispered, “did you arrange for some women to come by for tea today?”


“Ma’am, there are a dozen women in the living room who came for tea.”

“What time did they show up?” Nana asked.


Nana looked at her watch. “I’m five minutes late,” she said under her breath. She straightened up and asked Sally to make the tea and bring out the cookies we’d put in the freezer over the holidays. She instructed me to go to the bakery and pick up some treats.

Then she went to the living room and made her entrance: “I’m so sorry to keep you waiting, ladies. My hairdresser took some extra time with me today because she knew how special you all are.”

I called my office again to tell them I’d be even later.

Kathy W.
San Diego, California

I named my second son after my mother’s handyman, James Lewis. When I was growing up, he was at our house every Tuesday and Friday afternoon and all day Saturday. I don’t know what he did exactly, but he always had time to lift me up by my elbows, pretend to wrestle with me, and call me “Speedy.” When I was older, I met his adopted foster sons, who were about my age. Then one got stabbed to death on his way to school. James used to wear the shiny silver jacket his son had been wearing when he’d been killed. It had two slits in the back.

One Friday night when I was in college, after my father had died, my mother arrived home from a concert. As she climbed the steps to her house, she slipped and hit her head and froze to death in an unusual Baltimore cold snap.

I had planned to surprise her with a visit that Friday but had gotten lazy and waited too long to book a flight from Albany, New York. Instead I arrived early Saturday afternoon to discover our neighbor washing blood off the front steps. I went inside and called my aunt and my mother’s best friend and James, who came over right away. He told me about something else that had happened earlier that week:

On Tuesdays James would usually finish up work at the bank, where he was a custodian, then check in on his ailing uncle before coming to Mom’s. But that past Tuesday he’d been running late and had come to my mother’s house before stopping in to see his uncle. When he got to his uncle’s, he discovered the man dead on the floor of an apparent heart attack. The body was still warm.

That Friday afternoon, the day of my mother’s death, James had arrived on time at her house. Instead of their usual stand-in-the-doorway conversation, for the first time my mother had invited him in to sit with her in the den. James described to her the events of the past Tuesday and confessed his feelings of guilt: his uncle might still have been alive if James hadn’t been behind schedule.

James must have known I was feeling the same guilt about not catching an earlier flight, because he told me what happened next as if it were intended just for me: My mother took his hands in hers — another threshold crossed — and said that everything happens for a reason. She believed this with all her heart. “What’s meant to be is meant to be.”

Margaret Cleveland
Portland, Maine

As usual, I was scrambling to get to work on time this morning. My two-year-old son clung to me as I fixed his breakfast. Then I gave him a few extra hugs, since I wasn’t going to see him again for eight hours. That left me five minutes to shower and throw on some wrinkled clothes. I arrived at my office at 9:02.

Since I’ve returned to work after maternity leave, each day has become a sprint through to-do lists — the work to-do list and the home to-do list, both equally impossible to complete. The moment I cross off one item, three more take its place. At work today I submitted print orders, wrote up a letter of agreement, and processed payment vouchers. After work I dropped off glass bottles at the recycling center, stopped for band-aids and Neosporin, and picked up my son from his caregiver’s house.

My husband watched our boy while I made dinner; then I watched him while my husband loaded the dishwasher. After an elaborate bedtime routine involving a bath and many books, our son finally fell asleep. While he slept, I cut his finger­nails, ordered some sippy cups online, and changed the furnace filter. Pushed to tomorrow’s list: buying stamps, paying bills, calling the plumber.

I did not ride my bike today. I did not exercise. I did not do yoga. I did not meditate. I did not write the Great American Essay. I did a bunch of chores that no one will ever celebrate, acknowledge, or even notice. These tasks did not contribute to my personal growth or replenish my internal resources. They just needed to be done. And doing them does not mean I’m caught up. 

At midnight I remembered I had to go out to the car and fetch the empty recycling bin. Now I’m sitting on the front-porch swing in my pajamas on a sixty-five-degree June night, up later than the mosquitoes, listening to the crickets chirp, and finally taking a minute to appreciate this harried and blessed life.

Lynne Nugent
Iowa City, Iowa