I went to bed at 9 last night. Read some. Woke and rose at 4:30 a.m. Crazy, right?
–First thought wrong. I’ve been listening to how some otherwise chaotic folk start the day off peacefully. Actually, I’ve been listening–not doing–for a long time. I think, hey I can do that (as well). The trick for me is what to move down the priority list, in this case, staying up late for reasons still mysterious to me. Rising early because I want to have mental clarity backfires when I stay up late because I’m used to it. Something’s gotta give. Ah, change, the scariest good thing I’ve ever done. Probably the closest I’ll get to skydiving. So, with no promises to tomorrow, I started a new routine today. Here’s how it felt:
Early morning is a vast quietness–like Yesterday breathes out and waits for a few hours before Today breathes in. An interstice. Dreams feel no immediate need to vacate the frenetic pace of a thought-possessed consciousness, and they loll about, draping themselves catlike over furniture and memory silhouettes. They are easier to catch and put on paper in the pre-dawn hours. Kind of like falling stars.
Some time had to pass before these hours felt right. See, there was about a decade back there when these hours boiled with fear. What had I not done the day before, which fire needed to be squelched first, when could it be called a day and I could again hide in a bad illusion of peace? Sometimes the hits would come solely from misplaced idealism. The perceived impossibility of my job. I stuffed volatile concentrations of fear, anger and procrastination all sub-psyche and waited for the skyline to lighten. Teacher-mares, common as syndicated re-runs, and ten times worse than waiter-mares, cast nets of restraint around any initiative I had for positivity. Bad stuff.
Add alcohol. I didn’t know at the time why I thought survival depended on oblivion. I do now. There were stretches of weeks where my crawling skin sucked me out of nightmare and into hot, spikey blackness only Captain Morgan could smooth to tolerable pin-like unconsciousness. Without fail, in the hour of three, this routine would convince me I could take another day of hell. That was near the end.
Beginnings are equivocal and attractive. Chemical delusions arrive in disguise and are seductively patient. Two decades ago, a 4:30 a.m. shimmered in an illusion of fun. Youth and health appeared to me bulletproof. If I was seeing the sun come up, it was because of an afterwork and/or all-night “party.” But the morning body told the truth, took on a nagging tension, an unease easily dispelled by another inducement or finally convinced by exhaustion to go underground and wait. Tomorrow there would be work, school or another drama that would eventually crest upon another 4:30 a.m. So the cycle didn’t show up as an addiction and certainly did not proffer a vision of the future, it spun and whirled, and I thought the spinning to be “normal.” Fast forward to hell with no handles out.
I wrapped the gift of morning myself and ugly indeed the paper with which I wound it year after year. It is an Amazing Grace that taught me to unwrap years of self-centered habit and acknowledge the present itself. The reality manifests in a quiet awareness that Now is well. No more slathering monsters of morning. Instead there is prayer and breath and gratitude. And when the sun does lift and radiate, its sure light fractures the crystals in my window into dancing incarnations of promise, one day at a time.