This I Believe

Barbara - 10025, New York
Entered on January 18, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

Twenty Minutes

I believe in the simple ritual of taking time for myself. You could call it self-care.

One simple self-care ritual I have begun is the practice of getting up 20 minutes early each day to write.

As a general rule, I am no longer early to anything – parties, appointments, or airline departures – but my 20 minutes in the morning are precious to me.

The tradition began just over a year ago when I started to write morning pages, a staple of Julia Cameron’s creative self-help book, The Artist’s Way. I was being creative. I was getting in touch with my inner artist – all in the extra 20 minutes.

Each morning, I get up out of bed, turn the radio to the local NPR station, WNYC; put a tea kettle on the stove to boil; settle in at my breakfast table; and write.

What do I write? I write lots of things. I write lists, poetry, dreams remembered and not yet forgotten, or dreams that have not yet been lived. I draft conversations I want to have with my sister or a boyfriend. Sometimes I start to write a story or an essay, for example, this essay.

Some mornings the writing is more creative and more legible than others, depending on the amount of sleep I’ve had the night before. I am fairly disciplined, filling three pages of a marble-covered composition book each day. I love the smell of the paper and the movement of my pen as it passes smoothly across the page.

One thing I tell people to explain this morning ritual is that I get everything off the front of my head and down on paper before I start my day.

As this tradition has continued, it has also been a chance to remember my father, who passed away President’s Day Weekend, 2003.

For more than 20 years, my father worked the night shift in a textile factory. He would arrive home in the morning and make himself a cup of tea. He would sit at the table, or in his favorite chair, and enjoy hi drink – sometimes taking naps between sips.

Remember the water that I put on the stove? It’s boiling now, and I’m about to make my father’s perfect cup of tea: Lipton, steeped for two minutes, with milk.

My kitchen becomes a personal sanctuary in the morning, a place to pause for a few moments, be still, write and reflect. The 20 minutes pale next to the hours I spend at work or out and about in the city. But they can be the most meaningful minutes of my day.