6 a.m. reflections

I woke up without an alarm today and I could tell by the light coming in at the edges of the curtains that it was earlier than usual, but I’ve been trying to go to bed by 10 p.m. so I can wake up naturally by 6…so I go out of bed. It was 5:54. My first thought was that I could lay back down and curl up next to my husband. I would probably fall back to sleep for another two hours without even trying. But then I remembered that I’ve been going to bed earlier because I wanted to wake up earlier, and without an alarm, and that it would be the height of stupidity to give up right as I’d reached my goal just because I didn’t expect to reach it this morning.

I think that happens a lot with time, money, and eating healthy. I have heard that lots of people who have won the lottery–being the type of people who thought playing the lottery was a good investment strategy–have blown through their winnings and run themselves back into debt in just a few years. It’s like you finally meet your goal, but you’re so used to running on fumes, having barely enough time or money to get everything done, or eating a little too much garbage food every day, that waking up three hours earlier than usual, having a couple thousand dollars in the bank, or eating five small, sensible meals throughout the day feels excessive. So you hit snooze, you blow through what little savings you have, or you end a healthy day with a beer, cold pizza, and ice cream–because you’ve been good.

treat yoself
If you treat yourself as a reward for having the self-control to say no, I’m not sure how much progress you’ll make toward your goals. Image lifted from G2 Technology Group page

Then you feel normal, then you feel that familiar panic and and you can fall back on the familiar excuses of not having enough time, not having enough money, of being a victim to your impulses.

Even as I write this, I’ve already replied to an e-mail and a series of Line messages, logged onto Twitter and tweeted a few times and read a few articles, and found a recipe for furikake. These are indulgences I don’t allow myself when I wake up at 9 because I know time is limited and I have to write. But I woke up at six, so…what? I can play around until 9, until the familiar urgency kicks in? I need it like I need coffee, I suppose, but I know I’d be happier without needing either caffeine or panic to start my day.

So how to break myself of this habit? I think first I need to continue cultivating the habit of going to bed at 10 p.m. and waking up at 6 a.m. Right now, it’s just a bit of rookie luck that I got out of bed as early as I’ve always wanted to. It took a couple weeks to get into the routine of writing as soon as I wake up, but I feel more and more confident with that habit and I can see how it’s benefited me: I literally get out of bed thinking about writing, and that’s how I want my life to be oriented. I imagine it’ll take a few more weeks of training myself to go to bed at 10 p.m. before that feels more like a natural habit and less like fighting with my inner child who wants to stay up late. However, I think waking up at 6 a.m. writing, working out, cooking, reading, and then teaching from 2 p.m. until 8 p.m. will make going to bed at 10 p.m. a whole lot easier.

It will take some time and experience getting used to having a wealth of time and learning how to manage it, just like it’s taken three decades for me to learn that having a savings account or saving for retirement is not “extra money” that I can spend on frivolous purchases when I go over an imaginary budget. I have wasted some time this morning, but I haven’t totally squandered it: if I work on one of my stories in progress for an hour, which is about what I spend on them every day, then I’ll still be able to get in a big workout before lunch. Now that sounds like a perfect morning.

running through the city in the morning
Image by lululemon athletica, lifted from runaddicts.net

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