Saturday, May 18, 2013

Getting up early

I delivered newspapers six days a week from when I was ten until I was 18, which involved getting up around 4:30 in the morning. Saturdays I would "sleep in", pleased if I made it all the way to 8:00, until I got a regular Saturday morning babysitting job that started at 6:00 a.m., so then it was seven days a week that I was up early. Then followed my year in Mexico, where I likewise got up fairly early because I had to be at work (volunteering in a children's home) early, and then one more year living with my parents and taking a more-than-full college schedule (I don't remember what time my classes started, but I do remember that I very often had to have my car jump started because I left home in the dark and arrived once it was light and forgot to turn my headlights off) as well as working more than full-time. And once you have a reputation for getting up early, they say, then you can sleep in for the rest of your life.

So in 1991 I moved to Germany to be a nanny for the children of an opera singer...who necessarily kept late hours, and the children didn't need to be at preschool (Kindergarten in German) until 9:00, so I was no longer such an early riser, for the next two years, anyway. Then I started working in the Kindergarten myself (as an apprentice or Praktikantin), so had to be there at 7:30 or 8:00 for the next year, then the next two years I was in school (Fachschule für Sozialpädagogik, for anyone who knows the German real equivalent in the U.S.), then my final year as an intern (Annerkenungjahr) in yet another Kindergarten, so that was four years of getting up decently early...

...and then Marie was born. For her first six weeks, she woke up and wanted to play at 4:30 a.m. every single morning. We went to Costa Rica for two weeks, where she had no jet lag whatsoever, waking up at 4:30 local time every single morning. Then two weeks in the U.S., where she likewise adapted immediately and woke up at 4:30 every single morning.

But when we got back home to Germany, when she was 10 weeks old, she DID have jet lag, sleeping until at least 9:00 a.m.! She was happy and I was happy, and I was rarely up before 8:30 or 9:00 any morning in the next 14 1/2 years. (Well, okay, for the three years and two weeks that my husband's great-aunt lived with us, I did have to have breakfast on the table at 8:30 every morning, but that meant that I got up at about 8:27 and it was convenient that she was practically blind, because she would have strongly disapproved of my being at the breakfast table in a nightgown, if she had known.) Because of my earlier reputation of being an early riser, though, I did continue to occasionally get early morning phone calls from my mother for about 10 of those years, because she continued to think of me as an early riser. (And she has always been one, as far as I know, and still is.) She eventually figured it out, commenting that it was so easy to deal with the supposedly nine-hour time difference (California to Germany) because we stayed up so late and got up so late, and she was used to going to bed early and getting up early, that she could practically keep her same schedule and it matched ours. (Likewise practical when we were in California--I would stumble out to the living room at 5:00 a.m. because I couldn't sleep, and Mom was usually already awake and reading or getting ready to go for a walk.)

Aaaaanyway...point being, For at least 14 years, I had been accustomed to rarely going to bed before midnight, and considering any time before 8:30 in the morning to be way too early. When I happened to be up earlier, I enjoyed it, but not enough to decide to go to bed earlier, so it was a rare occurence. Until May last year...

Although I had been out for occasional walks in the morning during our first three and a half years here, it was exactly one year ago today, May 18, 2012, that I started going out EVERY day, even wearing tennis shoes rather than sandals, and I've been LOVING it. When only the little girls and I were in Germany for ten days last summer I wasn't able to go walking on my own, and I didn't manage every day while we were in Germany, Costa Rica, Germany in February/March this year (although I did go out a lot of them, about five or six days a week!), but I've only missed about three other days because of sleeping too long.

So anyway... to be able to bear going outside and actually moving throughout the summer, I had to go really early, usually leaving by 5:30 at the very latest, often by 5:00, and even as early as 4:30 more than once. With autumn I could set out a little later, in fact, had to, if I didn't want to walk in the dark, but I still needed to be home by 7:30 some days anyway, so I was glad about the time change at the end of October which meant that I could leave at 5:30 again.

And then NaNo happened...

Marie and I kind of talked each other into participating in National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, which is a challenge to write a 50,000-word piece of fiction within the month of November. I would have quit on the first day if she hadn't been bugging me. Or on the second. Or third. In fact, I think I threatened to quit every single day except for the last two. But the only way for me to write 1667 words a day (not counting e-mails and Facebook and other easy rambling) was to write some every morning. So even though it wasn't light until 6:00, I kept getting up at about 5:00, almost every single morning, to write for an hour before going out for a walk.

What I have NOT done a single time in this year is set an alarm. (Well, I did two or three times to take someone to the airport. But not to walk or to write.) Three reasons for that: I hate alarms and waking up to one puts me in a bad mood; setting an alarm would be rather counter-productive as that would likely wake up small people that need to stay asleep for me to go out; and if I need an alarm to wake me up, I figure I actually need to sleep more than I need to get up.

By December, though, NaNoWriMo was over (Marie and I both finished!) and it was still pretty dark even at 6:00, and darker every morning, and I keep waking up at 5:00 or before and I did not WANT to be awake then! One night I read for absolutely as long as I could keep my eyes open, in fact, at one point I caught myself thinking I was still reading but I actually had my eyes closed. I finally gave up and turned off the light at about 11:30. And I woke up at 4:45. I refused to get out of bed and tossed and turned until 5:55, but never went back to sleep. Six months before that I was reluctantly turning off my light at 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. just because I knew I ought to try to sleep, and dragging myself out of bed at 8:00 or 9:00 because children needed feeding or at least refereeing.

After all those years of being up early (and enjoying it), I can't believe it took me 15 more years to remember how much I love being up early, and what a wonderful start to the day it is just to wake up because I've finished sleeping!

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