Most mornings, I'm glad to be alive; spring mornings especially. But I don't wake up glad. I don't wake up anything other than wondering what the pestiferous noise is 2 feet from my ear. Too many times I make the noise go away for the next 8 minutes before stumbling out of bed 24 minutes later. You do the math.
Here's the thing. I try to hit the gym 4 mornings a week and get up absolutely no later than 6:15. Why would I do this to myself? It's not pleasant to wake up, and it's even worse to get out of bed. I'm not a "morning" person, but still I get up and go work out and the shocker is, I love it.
I didn't always want to get up early and the transition wasn't pleasant. Mom said I was a cheerful kid in the morning, but not that I got up particularly early, and by the time I was a middle-aged teenager I could hardly drag myself up and out by 6:30 to read my Bible. I'd sit there fighting to prop open my eyelids long enough for a few words to penetrate my brain, and it bugged me that usually I fell back asleep. At 18, I worked at an orphanage where I had to get up at 5:30 and get those five-to-eight-year-old boys rousted out of bed, showers taken, hair slicked, beds made and ready for breakfast by 6:30 because woe betide me if I failed; in these cases there was the house mother's wrath to pay and pour out on my bedhead. I always had sympathy for the boys because I wasn't feeling any better than they were and in the event we weren't sharp enough or the beds weren't made perfectly we'd all get the energetic, morning-person-edge of Margarita's tongue. A few years later, at 23, I started work at a bakery restaurant and had to get up at 4:30 to get ready and make it to work, and this was the final straw.
A Decision must be Made
Here is where we ask ourselves the question of, "am I a morning person or do I work better in the evening?" Personally I think it just goes against the grain to get out of bed, period, so probably more people identify as evening people or rather, as not a morning person. Some people do function better at certain times of the day, but I believe that we decide these things for ourselves. This is why the question of "am I a morning person or do I work better in the evening?" seemed immaterial to me because most of us don't get to make the world revolve around us but decide what we do with the time in our day. Most of the time, bodies adjust. With jobs and days in general my world worked better if I got up at a decent time even if my body fought it initially. Eventually it came down to figuring out a morning routine that worked for me:
- Exercise. Whoa, NO. (I've since changed on this point)
- Reading. No.
- Walking. Maybe
- Coffee. Score!
- Breakfast. Yes.
- Getting dressed. Yes.
- Making my bed. BINGO.
1. Make the Bed
It's hard to make a bed you're still lying in, and it's even harder to get back into a bed that you've just made. There's something about getting up and closing down whatever you were just doing that makes it feel like you have to go on because there's no turning back. Leave it unmade and all it's soft, cozy and warm glory is going to beckon and call to you to come running back. Probably you will. Make the bed.
2. Waking up
A nice, cold splash of water is sometimes helpful at this point. Some like to exercise, take a shower, play tennis, brew coffee, check emails etc. It doesn't really matter what you do as long as it works for you. For me it begins by stumbling out for a drink of water, and then getting ready to leave for the gym. I used to be adamant about never exercising in the morning because it was so miserable, and now the days I start with exercise are usually the better days. This part just takes experimentation and time. I like the plan of mixing things up with 4 mornings out of 7 being disciplined and treating the other as my lazy mornings. On lazy mornings I get to do things like watch the moon set over Court Square, sit on the rooftop awhile drinking coffee, or cooking breakfast instead of eating a quick yogurt and granola. I might still have to go to work, but it's a break from discipline and gets better results for the other days.
2. Tina, you fat Lard, Eat the Food
Back in those early bakery days doughnuts may have helped the process because at first there was nothing glorious about dry and gritty mornings frying eggs and cutting breakfast casseroles, and something had to be worth getting up for. For me, getting up early stoked appetite, and eating actually helped me to feel more energetic and able to face the grinding rushes of people restaurants deal with - as a grill chef I needed it. The doughnut fryer, Carlos, would leave little doughnut holes around for me and tell me about it so I'd eat them. Never underestimate the power of eating a little even when you don't feel like it, though I'd recommend going for something healthier than doughnuts.
I was weak, I admit it.
3. Find little things to like about it
A month or so into the bakery job I began to notice how special mornings were. Driving to work under skies of indigo and grey to soft blues and pinks, last stars winking out, the sun making a faint impression on the eastern sky, and the great stillness that surrounds June mornings in the north I saw something I never saw at any other times of the day, a magnificent earth awaking after her beauty sleep. It wasn't fair that I had to wake up looking like an episode of curls-gone-wild, but seeing how nature starts her day I started finding things to look forward to in the mornings. Little things like the drive to work, Carlos and Maria leaving little doughnut holes for me to have with coffee, the customer that would come in to supervise whether or not I put pepper on her eggs, the comfortable presence of people who can work together in a morning without the need to talk. Somehow when I woke up without being pitched straight into the days hustle the day didn't look so formidable anymore.
These days I have to be at work by 8, so I get up at 6, go to the gym to workout, and come home to shower and get ready for the day. It's a very different routine but my favorite parts are still looking outside to see the wind in the trees, worshiping God through the wonder I see in the world, feeling the early morning freshness, and saying hi to the people that get up early to work out too. Maybe not alert or enthusiastic, and definitely not ready to talk, but glad to be alive. I still hate to wake up and go straight to work, because frankly it makes my day feel like it's only about work. Doing something else first balances out the day to mean something more than the 8-5 routine.
4. There is always room for Grace
My routine isn't where I want it. A late night sometimes (or often) throws it off, or in wintertime I give myself some extra time or grace to face the cold. I still want to add getting up at 5:30 to take more time to sit with God because that's when His mercies are new, but this is a work in progress. Maybe it's ungodly of me to admit that I prioritize working out in the morning, but I'm tired of falling asleep on the Lord and think that probably it's better to meet Him when I'm awake. I'll figure it out around the time I have a kid or two and have the adventure of figuring out a whole new routine, but eh, what's life without a little change?