An (Early) Summer Experiment

For a night owl, setting an alarm for 2:40 in the morning is a somewhat surreal experience.  You know it is going to happen, but you just can’t make sense of it. That is bedtime after all (well, for me, a moderate night owl, at least a very late bedtime), not the hour for rising.  What happens from 3 to  6 a.m., in my knowledge bank, is just kids crying  to be fed, needing a pat back to sleep, or vomiting two feet from the toilet.  At that time of night, my whole goal is to get back to sleep, without ever the thought of starting the day.

But this morning I had to get my son to the airport; a summer camp had his name on a list to show up tomorrow.  When I set my alarm last night, my thoughts were all dreary-guilty ones…ugh, that is an entirely insane hour to be waking, I am going to HATE tomorrow, what a terrible mother, why can’t I sacrifice for my son without complaining.   Even my husband’s compliment, delivered from his hotel room across the country, only left me more guilty.  After all, he is an early bird pilot who regularly gets up at 3 a.m….why should I feel “heroic,” in his words?

Heroic is definitely not how I would have described this morning.  Euphoric is more accurate. Weird, I know.  It must have been the interference with my normal body rhythm which set off a chain reaction of abnormal chemicals, but euphoria is definitely the word.  Adrenaline must have played its part, too, as I didn’t even want coffee until two hours after I awoke.  Only my physical body seemed to be rebelling; I was cold and my eyes literally spat my contacts back out.   I’m pretty sure my youngest child’s newborn photograph was staring back at me from the mirror, but I felt too great to care.

The muggy, hot stillness warmed my chill as I took my son’s luggage to the car. No buzzing lawn mowers, barking dogs, or droning highway sounds.  When even birds are silent, the sense that you are only one awake in the world, however untrue it is, is convincing.  In my semi-chaotic house of seven, this was a rare and coveted moment of peace.

By the time my son walked down the ramp to his plane, I was positively embracing the hour.  Six o’clock?  This *is* insane!  What can I go conquer?  Driving home, I was filled with shame at how little I have been out at the early hour. Houston, as seen by the looping toll road,  is not known for its natural beauty, but the sun breaking on patches of misty fog hugging the low parts of the ground revealed hidden ravines and made even the cleared weedy lots look mysteriously beautiful.

Once home and waiting for my urchins to return from my parents, I attacked my fishy smelling fridge shelves with actual glee.  I usually strongly dislike (the substitute phrase for ‘hate’ that I urge my kids to use) any kitchen duty other than cooking, yet here I was whistling at 7 a.m., scrubbing away glass shelves, jubilant like the happy pig slop processor from Dirty Jobs. (Really, this man is my new inspiration!)  Job complete, beets for  a salad roasting away in the oven, still buzzing with energy, I had time to edit a few essays before 9 a.m. CST (Children Showing Up Time).    See what I mean about euphoria?

So, my real question…are early birds right?  I was certainly getting the worm this morning, but was it just an adrenaline filled fake out?  Certainly four hours of sleep is not enough, but could I possible manage to reverse my natural body rhythm permanently?  Without trying to overgeneralize,  I have noticed that the do-ers of this world tend to be early birds, but the world can’t all be do-ers, can it?   We still need the dreamers, idealists, and artists that tend to inhabit the night hours.  I don’t know yet, but I think I am going to experiment this summer, see if I can reign in my nature a little, do a little more, dream a little less, without changing me too much.


5 responses to “An (Early) Summer Experiment

  1. Love the early morning! My alarm goes off at 5:30, I run at 6, then sit down for a few minutes of quiet before the sound of little feet on the tile floor break the silence. Love it.

  2. I don’t know that early birds are right. I just know that I am wired that way. And I am not even a do-er of this world. Now you are going to make me feel guilty for not doing more and yet being an early bird. Like a privilege I should not be entitled to… What I do know, is that it is such a quiet glorious hour. If I stay home, I feel that I own my place. If I go on a run, I feel that I own the world. And I feel safe: I kid myself into thinking that all the bad guys are late nighters who are up to no mischief in the early morning hours.
    Did you crash in the afternoon though? I can get up early, but I have to do a 20min power-nap. Otherwise I become a threat at 5pm. When I worked in an office, I would close my door and doze off right there, on the floor.

  3. Carine, if you are not a do-er, then I rescind my whole thesis!

    I keep expecting the crash. I probably won’t be able to function tomorrow. I think maybe it’s like the “first high” of a drug addict. I’ll try it again tomorrow but it won’t be the same.

  4. I usually am not a morning person but a late nighter. When I do get up early I do tend to get more writing done. If I don’t get enough sleep sometimes I get a boost of energy and I clean the house etc. but if I sit down I’m a goner.

  5. Great read Jill. I love the part where you talk about Houston not being known for its beauty. Maybe I need to wake up earlier to notice. And just yesterday, as you wrote this post, I was thinking I need to become a night owl to get more done. It seems to me that the doers of this world are night owls. But maybe I just need to do more with the time that I have.

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