I used to wonder about my early rising friends. You know the kind of people that I am thinking of, the ones who arrive at work at six thirty in the morning and boast that they have already been to the gym and vacuumed their living room. They come bearing hot muffins that they popped into the oven while they were getting dressed. They are overly perky given the time of day and more than ready to go. I always had a hard time fathoming how anyone might push themselves out of bed before six on a weekday and nine on the weekend. I have always needed my beauty rest and I have taken it with gusto whenever possible. Then something happened that changed my entire outlook on life.
For the past several months I find myself sleeping peacefully until about four in the morning. I awake and begin to toss and turn for an hour. By five I have come to the conclusion that I am not going to be able to fall back into a peaceful slumber so I lie uncomfortably in the dark closing my eyes in the hope that maybe my body will surrender. It doesn’t happen. I’ve finally decided that the only thing to do is to begin my day before sunrise. Since I don’t want to disturb my husband I use the time for quiet endeavors. It has been a remarkably freeing experience.
I check the news on my laptop to see what happened around the world while I was dreaming. I send birthday greetings to friends on Facebook and look for important emails. Then I write my blog. The words flow readily with nobody around. It is a perfect time for reflection and for going quietly within myself. As the minutes tick by the world outside slowly begins to awaken. I hear the cars backing out of driveways as my neighbors head for work or school. Children wait for the bus on the corner right in front of my house. Those on the early route are still sleepy and make little noise while the ones who leave when the sun has lit up the sky are frisky and mischievous. I keep my blinds open so that I might see the activities taking place all around me. They somehow make me happy.
I eat my breakfast and sip on my Diet Coke while I compose my essays. Sometimes I get quite excited because I sense that I have written something important that might influence the way people think. At other times I laugh at my own platitudes and Pollyanna imitations. I enjoy my little corner of the day and love that it is uninterrupted by robocalls or knocks at the door.
I have a dear friend who routinely meditates. She has often told me of the power of silence. I have always had difficulty stilling the voices in my head. They seem to be constantly scolding me and reminding me of all that I must do. My early morning alone time has brought me a newfound peace and I find myself able to become completely relaxed. I hear the beating of my heart and feel the breaths that I take. Somehow I feel in sync with the universe without the clatter of everyday life that begins with regularity as soon as the sun is on the horizon. I am beginning to experience the beauty of silence and meditation.
For the first time I understand why the early morning risers are so happy and even a bit self righteous. I don’t plan to look down on the sleepers like some do because I have been one of them for all of my life. I will instead rejoice in learning the wonders of greeting the day in the dark. I will enjoy this new phase of my life for as long as it lasts for I fear that one morning my body will revert to its old ways and I will awake to find the sun streaming through the spaces between my curtains and the clock registering a warning that I must hurry or fall behind.
I hate to admit that my newfound ability to wake up before the chickens is a measure of my age. My mother used to tell me that she was sometimes awake at three in the morning once she entered her senior years. She and one of my aunts would talk on the phone in the dark of the early morning hours because neither of them were able to stay in bed. Research tells me that I am supposed to get eight hours of uninterrupted slumber but I can’t seem to push it past six no matter how hard I try.
I sometimes wonder if we are creating a nation of insomniacs with the constant barrage of sights and sounds that overstimulate our brains. There is rarely a time when I do not hear a car driving past my house or a siren in the distance. Planes fly overhead and my phone makes little noises indicating that someone has sent me an email or a text. People are always checking their computers, reading from screens, playing fast moving games. It will be interesting to one day discover what the effects of all of this have been besides an epidemic of pinched nerves, frozen shoulders and numb fingers. We are caught up in a brave new world in which we eliminate the sounds of nature by shoving earphones into our heads so that we might escape to loud music instead. Air conditioners are humming, clocks are ticking, appliances are buzzing and we think that we have managed to ignore them but somehow our brains are taking note and perhaps even changing in ways that make it more and more difficult to simply relax.
I still consider myself a night owl rather than a morning person. I find it difficult to go to bed before eleven. I enjoy staying up late to finish a good book. I sometimes have my most eloquent ideas after everyone else has retired. I plan to enjoy my newfound morning hours for now. Who knew that I would one day be joining the early birds that I used to think were obnoxious? Life is certainly full of surprises and maybe even a few extra worms.