I am both a morning person, and an optimist. I am outgoing, and perky. These facets of my personality (perhaps more than my wit, or love of gloomy metal music) can be oppressive and reinforce a lot of nasty cultural and capitalistic narratives of how ‘we should be’. The tension between my own nature, and the knowledge of how damned obnoxious it can be can spiral into former-Catholic-kid guilt and self defeatism that stamps out the things I actually like about myself.
To be honest I am a morning person after about 2 hours of actually being out of bed. When I first get up I am groggy, confused – and if I am running late, downright angry. In the two hours I am awake, I need to ease into my day preferably with some kind of accomplishment that I can look back on if I start feeling a bit defeated. So I sometimes go for a run, do a cheesy dance workout video, or tackle a mountain of dishes. For example it is too cold to run outside today so I worked on a batch of banana bread, cleared out the sink, and did my standard sitting meditation. I was thrilled to find that I was still ‘running early’ so I could sit here, at my desk, and write.
When I carve out this time for myself to let my brain slowly wake up (I usually don’t have coffee till 8 or 9, so I have been awake for 2 to 3 hours) before really even interacting with my husband, I am mentally in a better place. My basic needs for quiet, movement, and groggily figuring out my day have been met. The small task done gives me a sense of accomplishment and the endorphins from the movement/run/meditation don’t hurt either. This morning time lets me ease into myself – from there I am able to be friendly, and perky, and generally try to be the goofball I present to the world.
This is all of course situated in my privilege. While I have a lot on my plate (job/school/activism) I only have one job, no kids, and a secure house to sleep in. I have a room/office to meditate in, and a safe (and pretty!) neighborhood to run in. My commute – either through getting a ride from coworkers, or by mass transit never takes more than an hour and a half (a luxury in some areas), and I have a partner who respects and supports my needs.
Perhaps I have been wrestling with Tony Rella’s blog post about the tyranny of positivity, and how to achieve that delicate balance of respecting others needs and my own. At work I generally have it handled – as a manager I strive to not tell folks how to emotionally react, I encourage breaks (‘if you are stressed – walk away from your desk!’) and do not expect others to really be morning people. At home it is a little harder – and I think this is rooted in guilt over my own needs and a history including severely depressed and alcoholic parents who needed tending. Squashing those needs, or being weirdly silent about them when the topic comes up with friends is not helping anyone.
The reason I wanted to write about this (rather than preach the good word of doing dishes in the morning) is because the current framing is all wrong. Positivity is promised as a solution to all ills, and out of those same mouths we are told to spend far too much time ‘being productive’ or ‘living for our jobs’. Sense of peace, and ‘relaxation’ is sold to us through expensive evening yoga classes at the gym in the gentrified part of town, pricy weekend work retreats, or vegging out to cable and carry out. Energy for our day is predicated on fancy coffee and caffeine shooters sold at the drug store. It is not as though I live ‘off the grid’ or haven’t gotten a mani-pedi when I felt down. I’m not picketing yoga studios, throwing TVs out of windows or slapping kale out of assumed-yuppies hands at the farmers market.
There is no ‘either or’ and this is not a zero sum game. Self care is not about commerce, and the world needs morning people as much as it needs the night shift – after all: who is going to make your banana bread?