Every day, for lunch, Grandpa Bernie has three baby carrots — sliced lengthwise — and a can of lentil soup. In the afternoon, he enjoys one glass of crisp white wine at 4:30 p.m. — never a minute earlier or later. He’s not my grandpa, exactly, but he’s my late grandparents’ best friend who has always been there. He was there through 50 years of friendship, the raising of nine kids between their families, and more grandchildren than I can keep track of — myself among the litter.
When I recently learned of his routine I was charmed, curious (is he bored of the same soup?), and self-reflective. “What do I do every day?” I mused. A few humbling scenes came to the surface: flicking through Instagram as soon as I open my eyes in the morning; debating the pros and cons of a third espresso (the answer is usually yes); committing to a productive evening of tidying up and changing my life, only to find myself horizontal on the couch by 8 p.m., thumbs-deep in millennial TikTok humor, out-of-state Zillow fantasies, and monogrammed toddler sweaters.
My rituals feel less… cinematic. (What would my protagonist montage be at the beginning of a rom com? Yelling at my dogs to “hurry up” their bathroom break? Grabbing the mail barefoot at dusk, hoping my neighbors don’t see my dumpy pajamas?) So, I wonder: Is it easier to romanticize other people’s rituals and criticize our own? Or am I in need of a routine makeover?
I do know what I aspire to do every day. Read the pulse-racing novel on my nightstand; walk slowly through our neighborhood after dinner; write a few more pages of the book inside of me; connect with my husband in a conversation that goes deeper than practicalities. I won’t lie to you and say I aspire to be a better cook or discover the magic of tidying up. I like to live in big, juicy brush strokes and that means that sometimes the details get messy. You know, stairs sprinkled with shoes; a smattering of receipt-filled purses on the kitchen table; mirrors smudged with toddler fingerprints and maybe jelly (is that jelly?); forgotten dog toys that I step over 67 times. I like to think these trinkets paint the picture of boisterous life (insert angelic, forgive-me grin).
And while my aspirations to read and walk more are sincere, it’s also possible that nothing needs changing. Instead, what if I sharpened my focus on the beauty of what’s happening now? Paying closer attention — both in the moment and while reflecting — makes it easier to see the romance. Instead of saying, “I get my daughter ready for the day,” I say: “I sip milky coffee as my toddler tickles her feet against my legs and licks the jam off her toast.” Instead of, “I drift off around 11 p.m.,” it becomes: “My dog burrows under the covers to curl up by my knees, his chest rising and falling, his fluffy dog eyebrows twitching.” Et voilà! Suddenly, my life is more endearing-character-development and less frazzled-filler-scenes.
After all, tiny details are where the magic lies in books, movies, art, and even thank you notes. It’s the minutiae that grabs us, moves us, and shows us that there’s something delightful in all our days, dumpy pajamas and bare feet included.
I’m curious, what do you do every day? Is it amusing or humbling to think about? Would you like to add something to your routine?
Jessica Lopez is a writer and mother based in Southern California. She has contributed to BRIDES, Byrdie, THE/THIRTY and more, and she currently enjoys (over)thinking and writing about parenthood. You can connect with her on Instagram, if you’d like.
(Photo by Jovo Jovanovic/Stocksy.)