I’ve been fascinated for some time with morning rituals – how early do people get up? Do they have kids? What do they do? Do they exercise? It’s really interesting to see the variety (Here are three of my favorite links about this, if you’re interested: here, here, and here). A lot of really productive and creative people get up super early and advise everyone else to do the same, but just as many do not and insist on doing their most creative work in the middle of the night. I am selfishly most interested in parents’ routines, because there are some realities of being a working parent that you just have to take into consideration when you’re choosing a wake up time. You can’t sleep later than your kids, as a rule. And once they’re up, well – let’s just say if you wanted to meditate or hit the gym, you’ve already missed the boat. So if you want to do anything “for yourself” (lol), you’ve got to wake up before them, like Toni Morrison talks about here (tons of good interviews in that archive, too). She is quite inspiring for me, personally, not just because she’s one of the best writers of our day, but because she also started writing when she had small children. It feels quite rare, especially among the accomplished writers you hear about, mostly because most people who put themselves through that may be disturbed. I’m not saying Toni Morrison is disturbed. Little kids really take a lot out of you, is all I’m saying.
Now, I have tried, since the beginning of college, to wake up super early to exercise. I cannot do this. I mean, I can physically do it, and I have done it on occasion, but I have never kept it up more than a couple of days running. It feels amazing, once it’s over. Total type 2 fun. Great energy for the rest of the day, plus a little glow of smugness that you’ve already finished your workout, and most of these poor schmucks haven’t even had their coffee yet!
Alas, that smugness is always short-lived when I quickly, once again, become one of those poor schmucks blearily scrabbling for coffee at 8. I prefer not to budge until my kid is demanding my presence at 6:30 or 7am (very occasionally, even later!), at which point it’s a dash to the finish line (aka drop off).
I tried to compensate a little with evening rituals. I’ve been moderately successful at this, but the boundary-setting and self-discipline that it takes to essentially start winding down immediately after putting a toddler down to bed is rather exhausting in and of itself. I tweaked it a little by figuring out what I tended to do anyway, and just made a bit of a ritual out of it. Once he’s down, I pick up the house a bit, start the dishwasher if it’s full, wipe down a counter or two. Now I think of that as part of my routine so that I’ll enjoy the morning more. After that, things used to go downhill a bit – I would start reading or watching TV, then get too tired to get ready for bed and end up staying up too late while I put off brushing my teeth. So I’ve started immediately getting ready for bed after my nightly cleaning ritual. Then I can lay down and write a bit in my journal and read for awhile (or, at times, watch a bit of TV with my husband), and when I get tired, I just turn the light out. It sounds so obvious, but it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure this out.
Lately, I’ve been focusing again on the morning routine. I am definitely never going to be able to work out at night, or do any creative writing. I’m just too drained by the end of the day. Recently, I’ve been naturally waking up really early (like between 5-5:30), I think as my body starts to set to the baby time clock. I am not exactly in any shape to take on a gym workout at that time of day, but I do take the time to write and meditate and drink some coffee, if I can get to all of that before my son wakes up. I’ve been thinking about the possibility of trying again to make it consistent. I’ll probably be awake at 5 with the baby, anyway.
I think what I’m really doing is fishing for ideas, here. If you exercise first thing, how did you start? How long do you exercise? How do you get yourself out of bed? What is your morning routine?