Making Peace with Mornings
BY: CLAIR ANNA ROSE
I wake up slow. The alarm goes off, or maybe it hasn’t yet. The sun is up earlier this time of year so it makes it a little less jarring to ease back into the world. The alarm is so soft and faint, it’s easy to sleep through, so there’s a back-up, but usually it’s enough. The sun has lit the red velvet curtains from behind so they glow and I can hear pigeons cooing outside. I put on a pot of coffee, and settle down into a plush velvet arm chair and while I sip and slowly wake, I write whatever comes to mind. An hour before it’s time to go I’ll make breakfast and take my time eating, shower and dress, and leave for work with a half hour to spare. I get to the parking lot early, and as I slowly amble across the parking lot, I admire the mountains and the clouds. I greet the ravens picking in the dirt.
It wasn’t always like this. For years my method for waking was hitting the snooze button until the very last possible minute. Rolling out of bed and throwing on the nearest clothes and rushing out the door with the philosophy that I can get anywhere in Flagstaff in five minutes from my house, no problem.
It was never true and I was almost always late, edgy from not eating and drinking only coffee. I didn’t plan lunch, so I’d get cranky and shaky until I’d finally rush to Subway or Taco Bell, or go home and make an American cheese and mayonnaise pickle sandwich.
Mornings aren’t my favorite time of day. I wish I could press a mute button until after I’ve had a few hours to come to my senses. I’ve learned how to enjoy my mornings, and the key for me is enough time to take it all slow… even if it means waking up way before the sun.
I am a night owl. Given the chance, I would soon digress into my natural rhythm of staying up writing into the wee hours of the morning and sleep until it’s time to get up for lunch. That worked when I spent my nights singing on stages until the bars closed, but these days I teach yoga and my students lean towards a morning practice.
The two most important things to me when I start my day are a hot cup of coffee and ample time to write. I first read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron in 2014 during a creative dry spell. I had quit writing editorial thinking I’d be able to finally write creatively, but nothing came. It was as if my creativity was fueled by the constant threat of a deadline. As if my muse would wait until something important was due and then pinch me and say, “Wait, this is good. That can wait. Here.”
The Artists’ Way opened me up again. Creativity began to express through me in more than just my writing. The exercise she has students do from the beginning is “morning pages.” Three pages of non-stop stream of conscious writing first thing every day. It was a hard habit to get going on, and those first few days and weeks dragged on.
I complained a lot. Morning pages in the first weeks, maybe months, were just me airing grievances to myself about my life. Pages and pages of all I had held in that needed out. I realized that was mostly what my journals had been growing up. Since I was 16 I had written daily in a journal, and what was once very detailed and full of poetry became very staccato. “Went to art store, walked around. Read a lot. Did some interviews today.”
Pages and pages of the same day over and over, every now and then peppered with something stimulating. The morning pages drew out all the grime I had been carrying around, blocking the songs, stories and poems that needed to be written.
Since then, I pour myself a cup of coffee and while I sip, write my three pages daily. They aren’t full of complaints now. Each morning I am usually gushing about all the things I liked about the day before. Every now and then contemplating on paper the decisions I have to make.
Writing first thing every morning fuels my creativity. It’s as if I have a place to just take everything that’s on my mind and empty it out, then the stories come. I take my time over the pages, and I’m no longer strict. Sometimes I’ll get a sentence or two in and feel a pull, some idea will come into my head and I’ll turn to a fresh page and poetry or prose will come out.
I’ll ride this wave until it’s time to make breakfast. It varies slightly each day. But it’s always the same amount of time. It’s so important to me not to rush anymore, that I always pad each activity with enough time so there’s room. Savor the moments of cutting up vegetables and eating them as I cook, taking time to eat and enjoy, luxuriating under the hot stream of water as I shower, picking the right song for the drive to work, and if the weather’s nice rolling the roof down and letting the air move through the car on the way to work.
“I can get anywhere in Flagstaff in five minutes,” had subtext, “If I drive erratically and hit all the green lights, there’s no train and no one else is on the road.” I first tried stretching the amount of time I needed to 15 minutes, but I’ve encountered enough double trains and trains coming to a full stop, and schools starting/getting out instances to realize, though it was an improvement to my old method, a half hour was the perfect buffer.
There is the rare occasion when the half hour cuts it close, though it does happen. Most days, I have time to get centered in the car and take my time driving, let those who are rushing go on ahead. Enjoy the pauses the train gives (an extra song!) and if I get to work early I can visit with my co-workers, or sneak a few pages of the novel I’m enjoying in the parking lot before going in.
So…I’ve made peace with mornings by making time for peace.
Clair Anna Rose is a creative who dwells in the largest ponderosa pine forest in the country with four chickens, a hairy rez dog and has an insatiable lust for life.