I used to be one of those people who liked to stay up past midnight and sleep until 10:00 a.m. the next morning.
Being somewhat socially awkward, my late nights typically involved a good book or a movie on TV; something other than nightclubs or parties. But, I was definitely a night owl. I used to think most clearly when it was dark outside, after everybody else had gone to bed, and preferred those quiet, shadowy hours after midnight to the dusty, dim light of morning.
I once asked my father, who was an early riser, why he liked to wake up at the crack of dawn. He said, “It’s something that happened as I got older. I can’t stay up late anymore. I don’t always want to wake up early, but it happens automatically, and I can’t just stay in bed. So, I get up and get things done.”
At the time, I assumed the evolution in his internal alarm clock was driven, in part, by his Type A personality. I also assumed it wouldn’t happen to me. After all, my grandmother was a night owl, and I take after her in many ways. Plus, I dreaded the sound of the alarm as it woke me up each morning.
But here I am, an early riser. Just like my dad, it’s happened gradually, as I’ve gotten older. I still set my alarm clock when it’s important to be on time for something, but I frequently find myself waking up before it goes off.
What’s surprising to me is that, during these recent months of social distancing, Schedules Are Optional living, I haven’t gone back to my night owl ways. Even if I stay up later, the latest I’ve slept is 8:30 a.m., and that has been only rarely. Most often, my eyes pop open around 5:30 a.m.
As soon as my cat senses that I’m awake, he begins pawing at my back, reminding me that he hasn’t eaten since the kibble I served him a short while ago (get up lady come on can’t you see that I’m hungry I’m skin and bones hungry so hungry get up get up get up). I may push him away while I’m quietly lying there, thinking thoughts, planning plans, but he returns, paw paw paw, until he’s made it clear that he’s on the verge of collapse.
And so I get out of bed, and I feed him and make the coffee and unload the dishwasher and take out the trash and do all the other early morning things, just like my father. The house is quiet, the light outside is distant and misty.
I suppose that, if I intentionally tried to reset my internal clock by staying up late for many nights in a row, I might find myself going back to my late sleeping habits. But I don’t know that I want to. I’ve learned to enjoy the early morning hours and the feeling that comes when the tasks are done and the rest of the day stretches out ahead of me.
Today’s cuppa is for the early risers. We may not have chosen to wake up before dawn, but we can learn to enjoy the circumstances.