This summer I find myself waking easily around 6 a.m., 6:30 at the latest, and I marvel as I begin the day how easy it has become to arise early.
This is a fairly remarkable thing to me. For years, I’ve tried to become more of an early-morning person. On January 1st of 2010, it was my singular resolution: I was going to try to be out of bed earlier in the morning. And by earlier, at that point, I meant before eight o’clock on weekends.
But it’s never been something that comes naturally to me. I get up early on school days or work days because I have to, but given the leeway of weekends or vacations, I used to always drowse until well after dawn, even in the winter when “after dawn” meant well past seven o’clock.
This summer that’s changed, though. It may be a sign of aging; I’ve always heard that it’s easier for older people to wake up early. It may be a sign that my children are more self-reliant; at the ages of 10 and 13, they simply don’t wear me out on a daily basis the way they once did.
Or it could be a combination of these factors. Because the fact is that it couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve started waking earlier just as the kids are reaching the teen or pre-teen years at which young people typically start sleeping later. (Actually, Tim sleeps ‘til after nine; Holly wakes and then likes to read in bed in the morning. She has no idea what a wonderful luxury of childhood that is.)
So I feel richly rewarded as well as a little self-congratulatory this summer. Even with no firm morning commitments – that is, nothing more time-sensitive than trying to get a few hours of writing done before lunch so that the kids and I can do something fun in the afternoon – I’m still up before 6:30. The summer air is fresh and cool in the early morning. Even the dog is still asleep; I write my Morning Pages, put on my running shoes, and then wake her when I’m ready to head out the door for a run.
And then when I’m done with my workout 45 minutes later, the kids are still asleep, and Rick is heading off to work. I can make breakfast and drink my coffee and read the paper and even check my email and start my work day before anyone else is awake, before anyone needs anything from me.
It’s funny to me to think how long I tried to force this change, and how then it just happened on its own. I don’t necessarily think there’s a uniform lesson to be learned from that. For example, I don’t really believe that if I just stop attempting weight loss, I’ll lose five pounds, or that if I stop trying to improve my writing, I’ll find an acceptance letter from the New Yorker in the mailbox.
Still, there may be a small lesson in it. I keep thinking of that Buddhist phrase: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Only in this case, it’s “when the subject is ready, the habit will take hold.” Maybe I really needed all that extra sleep, all those years. Maybe now there’s something different about me that is more interested in the quiet of the early morning than the chance to rest. I can’t take much credit, but I’m finally an earlier riser. And just as I imagined, it feels wonderful.