Surviving the worry hour

April’s full moon rises over the mountain ridges across the river from my small town.

I woke at three-fifteen this morning, smack dab in my “worry hour,” the time between three and four am when I’m likely to wake if something I haven’t resolved in daylight surfaces to trouble me.

Last night what woke me was–everything. (Including the silvery light from the just-past-full moon sneaking in around the edges of the window blinds.) I’m leaving in a few days to drive to Austin, Texas to give the closing keynote for “Stories from the Heart,” Story Circle Network’s national memoir conference. When Story Circle invited me to speak a year ago, it seemed like a great excuse for a road trip.

Of course, a year ago Richard was alive, and though he wasn’t driving, his brain was recovering well from two craniotomies the previous month. I imagined traveling the 2,500-mile round-trip to Austin together, holding hands and talking–or just enjoying the silence; sharing the traverse across the southern Great Plains from the shortgrass prairie here in Colorado to the woodlands of the Edwards Plateau; visiting some of his old Austin haunts, ogling roadside displays of bluebonnets, and coming home the long way, via Las Cruces, New Mexico, to visit friends from our years there.

I made plans accordingly, including guest-teaching commitments along the way.

Now it’s just me. I’ve gone on road-trips by myself, and in fact, used to hunger for the solitude they afforded. But that was back when I had a family at home, and solitude was in short supply. Now I wonder where I’ll find the energy for the drive, what I’ll do if something goes wrong when I’m tired and can’t think straight, whether I am ready for my first Woman Alone road-trip.

No matter, I said to my internal worrier firmly at three-thirty this morning. Ready or not, I’m leaving soon.

The enlarged shop bathroom-in-progress, waiting for inspection of the plumbing rough-in

The worrier moved on to renovation. I’m up to my ears in projects, and as things so often go with remodeling, especially involving historic buildings, none of them are progressing smoothly. The work to modernize the bathroom in Richard’s shop has been particularly bumpy. I thought once the concrete guys had cut the slab to make a channel for the shower plumbing, we were over the worst of it. Until the plumbers realized they hadn’t marked the cut correctly. And they discovered another slab beneath the current floor (fortunately the buried slab was deep enough they could lay the pipes over it, saving me from paying to have a trench sawed through two layers of slab). Then the inspection of their roughed-in plumbing didn’t happen last week as it was supposed to…. Sigh.

That’s me, throwing “soil” into the sifter to build a bed for another flagstone. Photo by Tony Niemann

There’s also the flagstone patio off the bedroom. The lovely local flagstones were my Mother’s Day gift almost three years ago. They sat around while Richard thought about patio design (imagine a huge jigsaw puzzle with pieces that weigh 100 to 150 pounds). Last July, he taught me how to lay the first flagstones. I’ve been working at clearing the ground and preparing the bed to lay new flags one by one since then. (It’s heavy work, involving a mattock, an industrial rake and the hand-sifter Richard made me.)

Last weekend, with the help of my friends Tony and Maggie, I got four more flags laid. I was pretty proud of myself (and very appreciative of Maggie and Tony’s help). However, I am still sore. And, as my inner worrier reminded me early this morning, at this rate, the patio will take years. I don’t have years.

I turned over, told my inner worrier to chill, did some yoga breathing and finally fell back to sleep.

Almost full moon sets as dawn colors the sky.

When I woke again, the moon hung low in the southwestern sky, huge and gold and just off-round; and the house finches, robins, and one song sparrow were singing a glorious dawn chorus.

Next time I wake during my worry hour, I’ll remind my inner worrier that after the night, always comes the dawn. And that sometimes dawn comes with a spectacular moon and a chorus of birdsong so melodic that in that moment, I know there is nothing worth lying awake and worrying about. In that moment, I know this life contains all I need, just as it is.