I’ve mentioned Ted Kooser on the site quite a bit, and while I don’t want every post to circle back to him, I can’t talk about mornings without bringing up his writing. His simple language and quiet appreciation for morning has instilled in me a desire to take back the precious time that I have before my day gets started. He has a book of simple poems called Winter Morning Walks: 100 Postcards to Jim Harrison. It is a collection of daily reflections on his morning walks. He writes them and then mails them to his dear friend, Jim, who is battling cancer. There conversations, in the form of poetic essays, are breathtakingly simple, profound, and in some instances haunting. In another of his books, Delight and Shadows, he penned one of my favorite poems of all time:
A Winter Morning
A farmhouse window far back from the highway
speaks to the darkness in a small, sure voice.
Against this stillness, only a kettle’s whisper,
and against the starry cold, one small blue ring of flame.
Mornings used to be the best part of my day. Honestly. I’m not simply posturing to impress all ten of you that read this blog. My mornings used to consist of walking my dog, making some coffee, writing for a bit, reading for a bit, and then mapping out my day. And the crazy part is that the seasons of my life in which I made the most of my mornings were also the seasons that my job demanded that I come in earlier.
And even though I was having to get up ridiculously early in order to make it to work on time, there was something precious about waking up before sunrise. I felt as though I was getting a jump on the rest of the world. Like I had a little secret that no one else knew. I had another life, another world, another “me” that existed beyond the reach of everyone in my life, even my wife.
The craziest part is a don’t have to be at work until almost 9AM now. You’d think that this meant my morning routine was alive and well, full of inspiring reads and a new growth in my writing. The truth is, now that my work day starts later, I’ve been sleeping in. Waking up with just enough time to slip out the door and start my day. With my transition to a new career, I feel as though I have let one very precious part of my former self die. So, in the midst of ridding my life of unnecessary possessions, I am making a conscious decision to bring certain things “back” into my life. My new directors have been so great to encourage aesthetic growth at work, so to free up some of my morning, I am going to do most of my writing once I get to work. But I am making a promise to myself to incorporate some basic elements into my mornings at home:
- Stretching. I know, I know, It sounds stupid, right? This used to be a specific part of my morning. I never took the stretch time past a long, intentional arm and leg stretch. But it was a great start to the day nevertheless. My wife has been trying to get me into yoga because I am starting to have some back trouble (first real old man problem), and I’ve promised her that I would indulge her.
- ScreenTime Zero. I am SO BAD at scrolling through Instagram posts and email as soon as I turn off my phone alarm. This is an easy one to fix. As soon as I roll out of bed, the phone goes straight into my work bag.
- Drink Water. I’ve been reading about the amazing effects of drinking a glass of water before my morning coffee. I am not usually a big water drinker during the day, and I am sure at some point my body is going to revolt. So, water it is. And then coffee. Always coffee. Always.
- Eat Something. As crazy as it sounds, I am never hungry in the morning. But, I understand that my bod hasn’t had anything for nearly 8 hours when I wake up. So, I am going to make it a point to eat something with protein. I usually hit the carb-heavy stuff in the A.M. I am going to try to eat something that will sustain me a bit more until lunch.
- 15 Minute Walk. I love walking. I love our neighborhood. I try to convince my wife to go for a walk nearly every evening. But for some reason it rarely occurs to me to go for a stroll before work. This is the routine that I am most looking forward to injecting into my morning. For a few minutes I am going to walk the neighborhood simply to get outside. Not for exercise. With no destination in mind. Simply to be outside and enjoy creation.
I’d love to hear about your morning routine. Where do you grab inspiration? What helps get your day going in the right direction? Any tips for me as I try to make these routines a normal, indispensable part of my morning? Hopefully by this time next year I can look back on this post as a great turning point in taking back the A.M.