I learn by going

The road we travel is unknown to us, but it's a beautiful and compelling journey. Almendros en flor (cropped) by Gregorio Puga Bailón, CC by 2.0 via Flickr

The road we travel is unknown to us, but it’s a beautiful and compelling journey.
Almendros en flor (cropped) by Gregorio Puga Bailón, CC by 2.0 via Flickr

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.   
I learn by going where I have to go. —  Theodore Roethke

I’ve never been fond of awakening from a nice dreamy sleep, and getting up (especially on cold, dark mornings) is not something I do well. I envy and wonder at Jeff’s ability to get up very early, usually without an alarm to wake him, and immediately start his day.  Aside from his recent times in the hospital under sedation, I can’t remember a single time when he has shown any reluctance to get up in the morning.

This is the season when it starts to become most difficult, as the morning light wanes and we have to get up in the dark.  When the cold sets in, it will be really brutal. But every day, along with millions of others who share my morning drowsiness, I somehow arise and go about my morning routine, my steps seemingly ahead of my brain much of the time.

Life is like that, isn’t it?  A lot of what we learn, we learn simply by doing what we have to do and going where we must go, even if we start out in a bit of a fog.  Whether we place ourselves in the hands of God, or look elsewhere for direction and reassurance, daily each of us must summon some measure of faith to keep moving into an uncertain future.

The present moment is deceptively familiar, yet totally unknown to us; our entire world can change in the blink of an eye.  Little wonder the comforting nest of sleep is something many of us are slow to relinquish.  But the day ahead calls to us, and we know it is often beautiful, sometimes amazingly so.  With lingering yawns, we move forward.


  1. This is an interesting metaphor. Morning fog is not a great alternative to our warm and cozy beds but this feeling of uncertainty is what we should start with. Such posts and analogies inspire me to have faith in a sunny day.

    • Hi Marta, and welcome to the Defeat Despair comments section! I am so sorry it has taken me so long to reply; normally I answer comments within a day or two, but as you may know from the current post, we lost our father last week and have been busy with the many details along with being somewhat blindsided by grief. Thanks so much for visiting here, and for your comment. I am so happy to hear from you.

      • You have a wonderful blog. It’s a sheer pleasure for me to read it.

        • Thank you Marta, that is so kind! I am always happy to hear someone enjoys the blog. It has helped to keep me sane since Jeff’s diagnosis.

  2. Good morning, Julia. I am joining you here this morning, early and before coffee. I can’t help but smile as the coffee maker seems to be groaning while its brewing almost to say, “Its so early”! We had boisterous neighbors last night (loud blasting music/pool party) until 2:31. The consolation is that they’re only neighbors for one week. Wonderful words to wake up to this morning, beautiful photo that you’ve chosen. You’ve mentioned how Jeff starts his day early and with enthusiasm. Last night I prayed for his needed strength with procedures that he’s going through. Well, I must get going….. ☕️ and the DAY! 🌞💛

    • Oh, my, boisterous neighbors are something we haven’t had to deal with since our very first roach infested modest apartment the year after we married. But we HATED it then! When we moved to our townhome in Alexandria, we knew we had found the right place when we noticed the lights out by 10:30 in all the neighbors’ homes, and scarcely a peep to be heard anywhere! Thanks for your prayers…as you know, we needed them sorely around the time you wrote this message. I miss all of you, and I miss being here. Hope things will be back to normal (whatever that is) very soon.

  3. I can relate to many quotes right now ” the road we travel is unknown to us”, “our entire world can change in the blink of an eye” . My life is one big ? Right now and so many paths are possible, some .. Most not to my liking but I get up each morning and move on into whatever uncertain future lays ahead with God’s help.

    • Hi Barb, sorry to be so long in responding to this comment. We had this “unknown road/blink of an eye” experience not long after you wrote this comment, and as you know, we are still working through the grief and details. Daddy was 87 so his passing was not untimely, but none of us expected it to come so suddenly and so soon. Thanks for being here…your comment has special resonance now, so perhaps I was meant to be reading it today.

      • blseibel

        Peace and comfort for your family as you move down a new road without your dad, I can only imagine. My dad is 92 and the main reason we moved back home 8 years ago, to spend time with him and help him. It has been a blessing. Special daddies like yours and mine are a blessing in life.

        • How wonderful that your Dad is 92! And extra-wonderful that you are able to be near him when it will mean the most to all of you. I have known so many people — especially women — who had difficult relationships with their fathers, so I am always happy to read of the good stories. May you and your father and the rest of his family be blessed with many rich and joyful memories to come. Thanks for being with us at this time of mixed joy and sorrow.

  4. Carolyn

    Enjoyed your blog this morning. I see my doctor tomorrow, hope my arm has heal. You all have a great week end. Hugs and love to all.

    • Hi Carolyn, I’m way far behind on correspondence since Daddy’s death last week, so I hope your arm is better! Love to you — hope to have more time to communicate soon!

  5. Oh, I feel your pain today Julia. I was 2 hrs later getting up because I was awakened last night and ended up reading blogs instead of trying to unsuccessfully go back to sleep right away. The colder, darker mornings are hard. Wish I had a coffee maker with an automatic on so the smell could entice me out. I have no alarm since I don’t have a job but normally get up around 5 am. Sometimes sooner. It’s like a rooster in my head. 🙂 I would love to go back to bed but I’d be thinking of all that needs doing and in what order. 😦 Sometimes it feels like I’m living a groundhog kind of life. I need to spice it up a bit. Soon. You said this so eloquently. Is it nap time yet?? YAWN… Autumn is here. In my knees. 😉

    • Hi Marlene, I think Jeff does have a rooster inside his head. I have often wondered whether the smell of auto-perk coffee might entice me out of bed (I love the smell of it, though I seldom drink it) but truthfully I think it would take way more than that to make me eager to get up. Lately my sleep has been in fits and starts, but I suppose that’s normal with bereavement. I miss being here and hope to be able to come back on a regular basis soon. We are staying busy trying to get Mama some care. We knew Daddy was giving her a lot of caregiving (in fact, he had broken his back literally from lifting her into bed each night) but because he steadfastly refused our offers/urging to get him some help, he was handling even more than any of us knew. I’ll keep you all posted as I can. Thanks for being with us through this journey.

  6. One of my very favorite decades-old quotes from a poet I have long-adored! Nice share…

    • Thank you Cynthia. I have a special fondness for the villanelle form, and though I’ve read relatively little of Roethke’s work, I’m impressed with what I’ve seen so far, and want to read more of it.

  7. Jesus knew that we would struggle too much if we had to face more than one day at a time (Matthew 6:34)…heck, even what might be awaiting us today can be too much for us without God by our side. I pray your day goes well today, Julia.

    • Roger, by now you will know that your words here are almost prophetic to what lay ahead of us at the time you wrote this. Thanks for being here with your encouragement and support!

  8. MaryAnn

    Julia: once again, something we have in common! The joke in our family when someone talks about doing anything at 6 am, my answer is, “I did not know there was another 6, I only operate in the 6 pm slot”…Best way for me to feel like getting up with celerity,though not quite alacrity, is if I am going swimming early in the morning! I agree that my faith in God knowing my future is the reason to get up & get going.
    Love you insight!

    • Thank you Mary Ann! We have appreciated your prayers and kind words at this difficult time. By now you know why I am so late responding. Love you.

  9. What an interesting lane way you were traveling on that day. I used to brag about being a morning person but find myself less so these days. What can I say, our bed is really comfortable, ha.

    Actually, the cats wake me as soon as Jim gets in the shower. Usually it’s for food but first there must be a love fest. By the time I’m through with that, I normally have to get up for the bathroom break and so my day begins. Once I’m up and have a nice cup of hot coffee in hand, I’m glad to be starting my day. But there’s a bit of arm twisting involved most mornings.

    If I sleep in too late, then I’m all out of whack and feel terrible for wasting the day. I love the alarm setting on my phone because I can pick so many different melodies to play me awake. Even a rushing waterfall pre-alarm to poke at me before the music starts. I have it set for 3 snooze plays, 5 minutes apart. I almost always use at least two, LOL. As you know, I can stay in my PJ’s very late if nothing prompts me to dress. OMGosh, sometimes I’m finally just getting showered and dressed and in walks mr B from work. HA! I’ve dodged that bullet a few times. It’ll be our little secret, shhhhh! xoxoxox K

    • K, once more I feel relieved to know I’m not the only one who loves to hang about in my robe and slippers for hours on end. I can only manage it on Saturdays and holidays, though, as I have to be up at 6:00 to help Matt get started on his day. Waking up to sweet kitties and hot coffee is a nice consolation, surely, but those snooze alarms have their appeal. Before we had kids I used to hit the snooze button at least 3 times each morning, hee-hee. If you are still in your PJ’s when you get this, I’ll never tell! 😀

  10. My mom was like Jeff: up and at ’em at six every morning, no alarm needed. She was a light sleeper too. Conversely, I like the comfort of a warm bed and enjoy lingering beneath the covers on cool days. The menopause years, along with the huge mug of tea I have the evening before, mean that I can’t sleep in. And oh yeah, school-aged kids.

    With lingering yawns we move forward…indeed, Julia. xoxoxo

    • Thanks Alys! I can tell you understand totally. I have often consoled myself with the idea that perhaps, in OLD old age (i.e. older than now) I will be able to sleep in every day! As for now, Jeff always lets me have the morning off if he has a work holiday, since he is much happier to get up and start his day (and Matt’s) than I am. Sleep has been sporadic in the past week, as you can imagine. I miss you and miss being here, hope to be back regularly very soon. Hugs til then!

      • Julia, it’s so nice to see your name pop up in my comments section. I’ve been thinking about you and wondering how things were fairing. I know you’ll share when you can.

        Jeff is a remarkable man. The two of you compliment each other beautifully. Hugs back at you. xox

        • Thank you Alys, I started answering comments today and then got interrupted with more logistical details as we try to work through the labyrinth of details that will need to be handled for Mama now. I miss all of you and will be here as often as I can. Blog today, hopefully Facebook tomorrow. I so appreciate all the thoughts and warm wishes and prayers and support. Meanwhile, this weekend, a whilrwind trip back down to York where we hope to pick out some interior details for the World’s Most Patient Builder. I know I felt busy before but just now I am looking with longing on life as it was two weeks ago. We’ll keep you posted and can’t say enough how much we appreciate the love and support we feel here.

  11. bobmielke

    I’ve noticed so much has changed since I was in my early 50s. I’m 66 now and you’d think I was a different person. My sleep habits are whacky. I sleep in chunks that vary from day to day. 10 years ago I’d sleep through the night before getting up to go to work early in the morning. I retired in 2010 and now I go to bed at 7-8 p.m. and get up at 2 in the morning, do some computer surfing and then return to bed for another couple of hours.

    I’m likely to take extended naps in the afternoon, or late morning, or anytime I’m sleepy. There’s just no rhyme or reason to it.

    • Bob, sorry it has taken me so long to get to this comment; by now I’m sure you know why. I’ve always imagined that one nice thing about retirement would be the ability to follow one’s own body clock in regard to sleeping, eating etc. They say regular hours are best, and Jeff seems to thrive on them, but like you, my brain does not always cooperate and I often awaken far to early. I’ve learned to view it as a gift of time. Enjoy those naps! “Experts” are now agreeing they are good for you!

      • bobmielke

        I stayed up for a farewell dinner two nights ago and got home at 11 p.m., way past my 7 p.m. norm. I slept straight through to 7 a.m. that night after I returned home late. It took me two days to feel human again. It’s 1 p.m. now and I’m in need of another nap. Who cares? I have no pressing engagements. LOL

        • What’s not to like about that? I hope you will get in a nap or two for me — I’m feeling sleep deprived lately, but then again, what else is new? I hope that Jeff and I have many years of retirement to sleep in and nap whenever we want.

          • bobmielke

            These days my biggest excitement happens when there’s a new McDonald’s opening and they celebrate by selling their hotcakes for $1 with free coffee. LOL

            • Hey, that’s my kind of excitement! Let me know if there are any grilled cheese specials on at Jason’s Deli or Panera or wherever else they sell them. 😀

  12. HarryS

    “Country roads ………………”

    • 🙂 The scenic route!

  13. raynard

    Julia, I can remember highways across, the states of N.C, Texas, New Mexico, Upstate NY, most of the state of NJ… Drove cross country 3 times and even got some” behind the wheel time in Germany.. Oh did I mention” The City of Brotherly love Philadelphia as it gets closer to the Pope’s visit there this month..I pray that I can share all this with my 2 youngest daughters both who are just beginning to drive and experience 1 freedom from public transportation. 2 waiting on their mother to take them somewhere. I forgot to tell you last week, the blog you posted about me, I reposted to my FB page. and wait to know was it ok that I repost your blogs on my page. I look for encouraging things to read and share them with other. Was thinking about a mini Cannonball run but my wife has to work tomorrow and Monday..If you are going to BBQ this Labor Day Weekend, tie one to a carrier pigeon’s leg and drop it by my house a burger or ” some ribs” lol be blessed

    • Hi Raynard, I am very pleased that you shared the blog post, and you are welcome to share them any time. By now you will know that our Labor Day weekend was a very sad one. We made one of your “cannonball runs” for Daddy’s burial in the little town where he was born and grew up. A memorial service is planned at his home church in the Atlanta area, which we will be going to soon. Thank goodness Jeff handled the 30 hours of driving it took to get us there and back, and we were blessed with traveling mercies in the form of traffic-free roads and “smooth sailing.”

      We are taking one day at a time and trying to stay grateful for the mercy and blessings we have enjoyed in Daddy’s 87 years of a well-lived, adventurous, generous and Godly life. I am so very sad and miss Daddy so much already, but I feel like my siblings and I hit the jackpot when they were handing out Daddys, so that gives me joy and thankfulness along with the sorrow.

      I recently learned of the Pope’s visit to PHL and in fact, he will make a quick stop in the DC area. Apparently they will be canonizing Junípero Serra, the father of the California missions our family loved to visit. Sooner or later I hope Jeff and I will make it to Philadelphia for the flower show. Give Ms. Ella and Mary a hug for me and don’t forget those cute little dogs too!

  14. Raynard

    Julia next year’s flower show theme is A Tribute to our National Parks. I believe its the first week of March.. Hope by now you and Jeff are unwinding from all of your Road Warriorness. Mary is getting cranked up for the holiday craft season. I think she has some of her blankets she made on her Facebook page. Be blessed and encouraged and have a great day.

    • That sounds like a great theme. I can already picture someone making waterfalls with white blooms and canyons with red and orange and yellow ones. We aren’t quite through with all the details — still a memorial service to go since Daddy was buried in his hometown with his parents and grandparents, and not the state where he had lived for the past 50 years. The biggest challenge will be lining up care for Mama — I know you and Mary have “been there and done that” with Ms. Ella so you can imagine the challenges. Mary is a woman of many talents! I will try to find some photos of her crafts. I love that aspect of fall, when we start to get excited about making things and cooking and decorating.

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