For the past year and a half, I have been roughly experiencing the same day — day in and day out.

The alarm nudges me from sleep around 6:30 a.m. This is promptly snoozed in order to initiate the hour of post-alarm slumber that, for some reason, feels more rest-imbuing than the entire night’s attempt put together. I grind coffee beans, transfer them to the coffee maker, crack open a book while it drips into the carafe.

At the moment, it’s Amor Towles’ “Lincoln Highway.” The pot finishes filling around three pages in. Thirty minutes is what I generally allow for this morning ritual. A cup of black coffee descends into drinkable temperatures after a single ice cube is plopped in. Time is of the essence.

Over the summer I happened upon another book by Mr. Towles: :A Gentleman in Moscow.” On initial consideration, a lovely story filled with surprisingly poignant insight, but almost saccharine in detail. Over time, as it usually happens, the reader begins to empathize with our nuanced hero Count Rostov (a surname that is perhaps a nod to one of my other favorite literary characters, Natasha Rostova of the Tolstoy pantheon).

In it, the count, as part of the Bolshevik purge, is sentenced to live out the rest of his days confined to the filigreed foyers of the Hotel Metropol in Moscow.

By force of circumstance, what seems daunting at first glance morphs into a life full of intention. Rather than let himself become fortune’s fool, the count realizes it is necessary then to embrace the change. Or rather, embrace the tedium.

Towles writes, “If a man does not master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them.”

For a while, it was easy to focus this column on external goings-on. Turning inward, confined to my own headspace, day in and day out, has proven to be something more difficult to master. This was an intentional pivot, however. One has only so much bandwidth to divvy up, after all. It is part and parcel of a mother with young children who has doggedly decided to craft every minute detail of their homeschool journey.

Among life’s other circumstantial tribulations. For example, I was recently possessed by a demon who, out of all the things a malignant spirit might influence, convinced me to join the board of my Homeowner’s association. The learning curve has been steep.

So as the count calls upon the Boyarsky each evening, looking forward to his bottle of vin, so too must I call upon the quiet moment with my cup of black coffee. A granular, intentional moment afforded solely to me.

To this end, I often find myself feeling stuck inside of my own private Metropol.

How simple it is to let the frustrations of the moment take precedence over all else. It’s only when those small frustrations have laid a foundation, erected walls, and brought in furnishings that we realize we’ve become the architect of our own anguish. Happily, however, it is never too late to plot our escape: To gather around us friends, confidants, and comrades who might aid us in such an endeavor. To let intentional gratitude of simple pleasures accrue instead: A son who declares he’s “making waffles for dinner,” a cocktail with my sister at a restaurant whose roof is inhabited by goats, a phone call to my Grams.

In other words, when we cannot change our circumstances, it then behooves us to lend them moments of gratitude. Big or small — it makes little difference. It just takes courage to initiate the Rube Goldberg machinations which will eventually lead to this epiphany. That we can leave our own Metropol. The pulling of a lever that topples a teacup thus starting a chain of events that ultimately end in us finding our very own “willowy woman.”

In other words, master or be mastered.

Sign up for our Daily Headlines newsletter


Alex Hobbs is a former educator turned full-time homeschooling mom. She has a degree in political science from Oregon State University.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.