Mornings are hard.
I am not, and have never been, a so-called morning person. I stand in awe of those who can speak coherently mere seconds after their eyes open. In the past, when morning-inclined family members or roommates have marched into my bedroom and thrown aside the window curtains with glad tidings of the day to come, I have buried myself under my quilt and planned their gruesome and disorganized murders with my pillow.
These homicides have never occurred, of course, because that would require getting out of bed.
Now, however, I don’t have maddeningly cheerful morning people prodding me into wakefulness, and I’ve had to find my own reasons to get out of bed.
One: making breakfast. For me, breakfast used to be a necessary obstacle to starting the day, some fruit or a bowl of cereal to give me energy as I searched for my shoes and pulled on my jacket. Now, however, I’m trying to see breakfast as a way to start the day well.
That means no fast and easy food; it has to take time and care to make. Eggs, scrambled or fried, with fresh vegetables diced and tossed in. Peppers, avocados, tomatoes — whatever I have available. Eggs seem forgiving, when it comes to vegetables. A sprinkling of salt, to taste. Bread and butter, if I have it, or scones, if I feel like baking. Fresh fruit, or fruit juice. And tea, good English tea brewed in a kettle with milk and a splash of sugar, just enough to counter the bitter aftertaste.
Two: music. I find the day begins a little easier if I put on jazz or swing music as I try to jump-start my brain. I never choose talk radio; listening to all the loud voices and strong opinions is almost like having real morning people in the room. It always turns out to be some sort of lovely song or soundtrack — background music — that I don’t have to respond to, something that will drown out the sleepy static in my mind.
Three: written words. I can deal with small doses of words as long as they’re on a page. This is where the newspaper comes in handy, even if I just flip to the crossword or glance through the comics. I’ve been figuring out the local library, and I often leave one or two books sitting on the kitchen table that I can flip through. I always look for something short and interesting, something that will make me concentrate. It helps to phase me into the part of the day where I need to talk.
It’s not the food, or the music, or the words that make waking up worth it; it’s the process. Spending my limited reserves of morning energy on carefully slicing vegetables or choosing a song seems to remind me that it’s not just the end results that matter — a list of completed errands, a good day at the newsroom — but the way I achieve them. Life is not about check marks and success, I tell my tired brain. It’s about the space in between, when my eggs and veggies are sizzling and I pick up the paper, when I listen to jazz as I’m washing my dishes. These things remind me that it’s how I do things, not what I do, that matters.
And that’s worth waking up for.
Mornings are hard.