In this world there are two kinds of people: night owls and early birds. I count myself among the latter species.
I love the mornings – always have. During the week I rise by 5 a.m. to get in a workout at the gym before work. Most mornings I’m sitting at my desk, coffee in hand, by 7 a.m. to get caught up on my emails and what’s happening in the world.
Why do I wake at such an ungodly hour? Well, I hate traffic, for one, and there are very few cars on the road at this time of the morning. Also, I work in the field of communications and PR, and it’s important that I stay on top of what’s happening in the world and the markets.
But even on days when I’m not working, I tend to get up early. I find my brain works best in the mornings – it’s when I’m most alert and productive. “Morning,” said Thoreau, “is when I am awake and there is dawn in me.”
If I have tasks that require clear thinking, such as writing, they are best done early in the day. By the time the sun has started its descent in the sky, my mental sharpness has begun to wane and I best switch to tasks of a less creative nature like editing copy or (when I am home) cleaning the house.
I love the stillness of the early morning. Being the highly sensitive person that I am, I have an outsized need for quiet in my life. I need at least an hour of morning quiet time to think, to reflect, to separate myself from the turgid stream of modern-day life and just be.
Of course, there’s a sacrifice to being an early riser, and that is the loss of the night. I need my sleep – seven to eight hours of it – and since I get up at 5 in the morning, I must by necessity go to bed by 9 or 9:30 p.m. at the latest.
My night owl friends talk of things that they saw on the late night news and entertainment programs, and I cannot relate to them. I haven’t watched a new episode of SNL in thirty years.
Studies show that morning people generally are happier, healthier, and more successful than our fellow night owls. Early risers tend to be more goal-oriented, make more money, get better grades, and climb higher on the corporate ladder. Every chief executive I’ve ever worked with, without exception, has been an early riser. There’s simply too much to be done to waste time sleeping.
But my love of the mornings isn’t about making more money or even necessarily about getting things done. There’s something bracing about rising early, while the rest of the world is sleeping, and stepping into the unbroken waters of a new day. On days when I sleep in because I have been out late the night before, I feel as if I’ve missed something.
What have I missed?
I have missed the swell of birdsong on warm spring and summer mornings.
I have missed the pinks and peaches of a cloud-streaked sunrise.
I have missed the way that ordinary things, taken for granted in my daily routine, look refreshingly different in the light of a new day – making me realize just how much of what we notice each day is dependent upon the light in which it is seen.
Most of all, I would miss the hopefulness of the morning. It’s a new day, a new start, a tabula rasa on which can be written a new message for our life. Yesterday may have ended badly, yesterday may have been full of pain and disappointment, but today need not be that way.
“To him whose vigorous and elastic thought keeps pace with the sun,” Thoreau said, “the day is a perpetual morning.”
I love that quote: the notion of thought keeping pace with the sun, like an airplane circling the earth to experience sunrise on every continent.
Mornings, for me, are a reminder of what’s possible if we choose to think differently about our lives. The day will grow old and stale, the sun will eventually go down, our bodies will age and maybe won’t be as pliable as when we were younger.
But every moment carries the seed of possibility, if only we are awake to see it.