There is one time of the day when the phone never rings, the world keeps getting brighter, and you have the whole day ahead: early morning.
Did that sentence just set your teeth on edge? You very likely had an instinctive reaction to the phrase “early morning.” You said to yourself, “I am not a morning person.”
One of the hardest parts of adjusting to motherhood has been the total lack of control I have felt over my sleeping and rising schedule. Caroline did not sleep through the night until she was five months old which meant we were up at least two or three times a night. She also teeths badly, moaning and waking up often which of course wakes me up without fail. When she is teething, she has a very hard time going back to sleep. So for the last twenty months I have felt very much at the mercy of her sleeping patterns.
At times I have decided to stay up late just to get things done. I could always count on four or five hours of quiet once Caroline went down. Invariably, whenever I had planned to get up early, Caroline also woke up early so I gave up on rising early because I was never certain of those hours being available to me. But in staying up late, I have usually paid the price of not getting enough sleep and have ended up sick. This has only frustrated me more in my feeling like I was living in a no-win situation over which I had no real control.
And, honestly, it was a no-win situation for this time in my life. The only thing I could do was muddle through, do what I needed to do for Caroline, and remind myself constantly that it would not always be like this.
Going through this has only reinforced my conviction that one of the keys to living simply is rising early. However, I will add this caveat. One of the keys to living simply is rising early and also getting enough sleep. There is nothing simple about rising early if you are trying to make it on only three or four hours of broken sleep. But for most people who want to rise early and struggle with it, the problem isn’t in the morning. The problem originates the night before with staying up too late. I know of which I speak because that is my struggle – forcing myself to stop at night and go to bed so I can get up early.
My ideal day would resemble Daniel Webster’s in a small way:
At his beloved Massachusetts farm, Marshfield, rose at three or four in the morning. Fed his cattle and then went to his library, worked until nine. Breakfast at ten. Afterward liked to say, “I have finished my day’s work, written all my letters, and now I have nothing to do but enjoy myself.”
My preference is to rise at five, read my Bible and pray, work for a couple of hours while Caroline is still sleeping, breakfast when she gets up, use my morning very productively, and have lunch. I would prefer to eat our big meals at breakfast and lunch so that when the lunch dishes are cleaned up, the bulk of my day’s responsibilities are over. Have I fully arrived at that yet? No, but I am encouraged that I finally have the opportunity to begin moving in that direction and have been making small steps in the direction of reclaiming my early rising pattern of living.
Some people certainly get up early more easily than others. But if you feel groggy first thing in the morning, that does not mean you are biologically incapable of getting up. In the days when most Americans farmed, everybody was a morning person. A dairy farmer would not roll over in bed at 4:00 a.m. and mutter to his wife, “I’m sorry, dear, but I can’t milk the cows right now. I’m not a morning person.” We all wage a continuing struggle against biology. Who is genetically suited to sitting at a desk all day or driving a cab for hours? A woman who’s thinking of taking up jogging doesn’t determine whether her oxygen uptake and slow-twitch musculature make her a jogging person. Yet we’re perfectly willing to categorize ourselves as biologically unfit for dawn just because we’re not one of those (extremely rare) people who bound out of bed, beam at their suffering spouses, and shout, “Good morning! What are your plans for the day?”
I am not naturally wired to be a morning person. I just know how much better life is when I get up early. I truly believe the day is won or lost by 10:00 a.m. There are intangibles available in the quiet of the early hours that aren’t available any other time of day. Perhaps most important is the ability to be alone with my thoughts and start my day quietly before tackling the responsibility of a lively toddler. For me, it is a key component of living simply.