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  • Writer's pictureHilary Kelley

Push the ground away

10:00 pm: set alarm for 7:03 am (the numbers on my cheap but reliable non-smartphone alarm clock move too fast when setting and 7:03 is close enough to 7:00)

10:10 pm: put away the book I've been re-reading the same page from for the last three days

10:11 pm: kiss Kyle goodnight, lights out, wait for him to fall asleep holding his Kindle and then startle when I try to put it away for him

10:15 pm: stare intently at the ceiling, will some stars into it, remember that night in Moab when the sky looked like static

I wake up between 7 and 8, having turned off my intentions when they rang. Kyle has been up since 5, an hour before he heads into the library for his shift. The library is in our house; the library used to be the dining room that we never used for dining and only ever used as a repository for stuff and things. I got rid of the table and put in bookshelves and a desk and a chair and a record player two summers ago. The library is now a proxy office where Kyle can clock in.

Our bedroom gets the most light in the mornings, which, on a Saturday or any other day when we're both at home this early can be transporting or romantic, especially in the spring and summer. Our backyard slopes dramatically, which means our room sits in the trees despite being on the first floor (above the basement). It's surrounded by green. I lay on my back diagonally in the middle of the bed, the way I always wake up if I'm alone. I know I'm not alone, I haven't been alone for three weeks.

There are about two hours in the morning where the forthcoming events feel hopeful and charged. I stare at the ceiling again in daylight to see if anything's changed. My feet make it to the floor. In my notebook I itemize the day in minor achievements:

Wake up

Drink water (2 x jugs for the day)

Drink coffee

Eat breakfast

Take meds, iron and magnesium

Work out

Shower, get dressed

These are usually time-stamped according to how fast I anticipate moving. They are the same every day, I write them down every day. After the Big Seven I try and set goals, and those can be small or big. Apply for jobs even though there are hiring freezes, finish some contract work you managed to pull together, ride a bike to the post office.

Two Saturdays ago I decided to reclaim the built-out portion of the attic that had become a repository for stuff and things. The attic room is finished but was never insulated--a perplexing choice made by previous owners and one that we'll eventually have to rectify. It's mostly unbearable in the summertime, but there is a window in the morning when it's cool enough to retreat to if you need the space. This is where I've started keeping my yoga mat, and a small and motley collection of dumbbells, and when I do a round of jump-squats Kyle watches the light fixture in the library swing.

No one has tagged me to do 10 pushups yet. For a minute, in the first week and into some of the second, friends took turns tapping each other to get down on the ground and laugh and press up. I don't mind; I don't like participating in those kinds of games. I'll enjoy watching other people play, but it's not my thing.

I watch videos when I work out because I need someone to tell me what to do. I go as hard as they go, gritting my teeth and nodding when they say ready. I want my legs to be strong, stupid-strong, enough that when I finally get back on a trail I'll run as far away from one place as I can. I hold planks for two minutes, I wobble in and out of asanas, I make my heart pound and my breathing audible. I cannot. do. one. pushup.

I've tried. In earnest. Mind over matter. I have muscles.

As soon as my chest starts to hover a few inches from the mat my thighs give way, spoiling the effort. The woman on the screen tells me that if I imagine I'm pushing away the earth beneath me I will float back up; I do some reckless version of The Worm.

Right now I am floating.

Around 11:00 am I feel like it would be better if it was nighttime again, so I could go to sleep and start over in the morning. If days were four hours long, I would be accomplished. If I didn't have to fill the other eight with ways to keep going, I would feel rested. I crossed off my big seven, see you tomorrow.

Kyle sits at the desk I got him until 3:00 pm, and then he clocks out. He's fatigued, because waking up at 5:00 am never gets easier. When he was going into the real office, he woke up at 4:00 am. I stand in the doorway in jeans that feel like a costume and I'm grateful for digital marketing platforms and people who still need Kyle to help navigate them. I'm grateful that he's willing to repeat himself.

I tell him the same thing every day and he tells me the same thing every day and it never gets old.

And tomorrow I'll plant my hands again.

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