I’ve never been a morning person. Actually, I come from a lineage of not-morning people. (What do you call not-morning people? Laters? Evening people?)
Yep, my whole family, as far back as I know it is one of late risers and people who work into the night. One of my great uncles was the extreme version of it, having retired from a job at the post office he started delaying his day further and further to a point that he would only wake up in the afternoon and be awake until the wee hours of the morning!
Even as a baby I was told that I had a hard time going to bed and was sluggish in the morning. My father would walk me up and down the corridor lulling me to sleep and, just when he thought I was out and stopped he would stop walking and immediately I would start crying (sorry dad!).
Growing up, I don’t remember having a super early bedtime (even though my parents probably imposed one), but being Portuguese and from a family which is happy when the moon is up, that time was not exactly the Anglo Saxon flavour of when the sun is setting. It was more 10:00 to midnight.
I no longer get startled when I get a message (or set of messages) in my family’s WhatsApp group at 2 AM or even when my mom calls me after midnight just to catch up.
So, case in point, I come from a family where early rising was reserved for one of my grandparents and that was about it.
My body has also always told me that this was the way to go. Get your work done tonight, until whenever time it takes, and you can sleep in the morning - my body tells me. Or just one more episode of this Netflix TV series or even why does all interesting TV happen at night?.
I know that I am more alert at night and nobody is there to distract me. The beeping and tweeting and distractions stop and I can finally concentrate.
The downside is that I lose a chunk of my day (in the morning) because I’m tired or slowly starting up. And this morning time is used by the majority of society to do stuff. In example school, which was super hard for me to wake up to. Or work, where the only reprimands I ever got was for arriving late, in spite of the quality of my work.
So I grew up and accepted this story of mine. I know of people who sleep 5 hours and are perfectly fine (and I envy them). I also know of people that somehow have an internal clock which is stronger than man’s worst invention, the alarm clock. I truly do. I had a friend in university that would routinely wake up 5 minutes before the alarm clock went off. I kid you not! Can you imagine how infuriating that was for me? Hey, hold on E, I’m really really almost ready to get in the car with you, let me just try to get this body moving.
Well, you get the picture. In any case, I suspect that you are either like me and are having a fun time reading this and identifying with some of these things, or you are like my friend E and simply cannot understand how I can be so lazy.
Fast forward until a few weeks back, during my 37th year of life, and my wife shares this post with me: How I Hacked Time by Getting Up at 5:30 AM. My wife knows me well, and I think her intention was more one of telling me she wanted to do this herself, but I read the article and Marcelle’s description of how she got to wake up at 5:30 in the morning (yikes!) really resonated with me. Here was someone that was not writing to say “I’m a super successful person and to get ahead with my super day I wake up before anybody else and workout and read emails and get my coffee so I’m ready for the day by the time everybody else wakes up” (those people annoy me). No, she recounted how she had tried before to get a few more hours out of her day (I identify with that) and had tried multiple times with different approaches to wake up earlier (check!) and had failed (check, check and check!). So, after giving it a few minutes of thought and replied to my wife, over Slack, that I’d like to join her. And she was in shock. “You, want to get up at 5:30?” - she asked. To which I replied - “No, I want to get up at 6:30”. She immediately started thinking “here we go again, we didn’t even start this and he is already sabotaging the whole thing”. But, as I explained to her, I was actually trying to enable this change, 5:30 meant nothing to me. 6:30 on the other hand does. 6:30 (approximately), is sunrise, and there is something special about sunrises and sunsets. I thought that if I could connect with the sunrise, then my body’s circadian principle would not be too offended. After all, I was doing what the body was supposed to do in the first place before we got all these lightbulbs and screens that can keep us going during the night.
So we talked it out. At that time we were waking around 8:30 (we are very fortunate to work for ourselves and thus have flexible schedules). According to Marcelle’s approach, we should move the pointer 30 minutes earlier every 3 days until we got to our designated wake-up time. So, calculating that and the fact that C would be travelling quite a bit over the next few weeks we decided to start doing it in September.
Then our dog ate a piece of a dead bird at the beach and, without fail, became sick the next morning, waking us up at… roll the drums… 6:30! And we slumbered out of bed and took him out and cleaned the mess he made up and then looked at each other and decided that as long as we were up already, we might as well start the day. And it was a beautiful summer day, with the sunrise (as expected) happening around that exact time. And I was convinced that this could be a good thing, so I started doing it as well. My wife, being amazing, has simply done it, in the same vein that she decides to turn vegetarian and just does.
I still don’t have a “morning ritual” like those power people. But I do enjoy the fact that I get to see the sunrise (well, not directly or I would go blind, but you get the point) and have my breakfast with calm and make the bed and then depending on the day, go for a run (if I’m extra motivated), read, write, learn or do whatever else I want to do because I’m not feeling guilty for wasting precious work hours.
The is no “and they lived happily ever after” here. It’s been a struggle since. The variability, particularly when C is away can go up to 9 AM. But the focus is there and most of the time I’m making it work. The advantage is for having time to myself to do what-the-hell-ever-I-want. And I really really appreciate that. It’s also allowing me to do some things that I’ve been meaning to do but never “find the time” for. Like writing in general (and this piece specifically).
The hardest part has actually been the going to bed earlier part. My body has been telling me that it cannot go to bed at 23:45 to wake up at 6:30 regularly. It needs the 8 hours sleep. Which for me requires a lot of discipline letting go of TV and computer in a peak time to enjoy the morning instead. I hope I can keep going with this because it ties in directly with my wish to self-actualise and continuously improve. But I’ll talk about that some other post.