When I was in my early teens, my oldest brother gave me a wall banner that said, I think I’m allergic to morning. The words above a picture of Snoopy on top of his doghouse trying to wake up. Snoopy was tired, with heavy eyelids. He looked grumpy and unapproachable. He looked as if moving would take every ounce of energy he possessed and just thinking about was exhausting. I woke to this picture every morning for years. It was something I could relate to.
From the time I was a teenager, the hardest thing I had to do every day was get up. I am not, and have never been, a morning person. I have also, stemming back to around the same time, never really been a very good or very sound sleeper. It can take hours for me to get to sleep, or hours to get back to sleep if I wake up. My brain likes to kick into fast forward after dark. It does it’s best work when the rest of the world is asleep. Once it kicks in, there is no stopping it. As a student, all essays were written in the quiet wee hours. As a working adult, most creative thought took place during this time. Entire projects would be designed, produced, evaluated for flaws, redesigned and produced again in my head during the dark hours. I once sewed an entire twenty-five foot inflatable elephant while laying in bed all night, only to drag my tired self into work the next morning to rejig the pattern before actually cutting it out. These days, heat or night sweats can also keep me up. Menopause is long over, but hot moments still disturb my sleep. My crazy burning feet can make me so uncomfortable that sleep is impossible. I fluctuate between kicking off the covers and then pulling them back on when I chill.
As difficult as it was every morning, get up I did, for school, for work, for my son, and for everything else in this world designed for morning people. I did it because I had no choice and because I was a responsible human being. I didn’t like doing it, but that was beside the point. Now that I am retired, I don’t understand why people think that I should be getting up earlier? They suggest that maybe I should set an alarm because I am missing most of the morning, the best part of the day. The best part of who’s day? Certainly not mine.
When I was younger and working, my mom used to call around 11:am every Sunday morning and rhyme off a list of all the things she had accomplished since she got up at around 7:am. All these things sounded like make-work projects to me. Things like washing her hair brushes or shining the copper bottoms of her pots. The list always included several loads of laundry, because surely the washer and dryer worked better earlier in the morning than it did later in the day. These calls made her feel accomplished, while at the same time implied that I was lazy because I didn’t get up quickly and get similar things done on weekend mornings. I felt the same implication when she came to visit and called me at work with the sole purpose of telling me that she made my bed. Why would I take five minutes of extra sleep time to make my bed? A question I never posed out loud.
Now I am getting similar vibes from other people, morning people who think I am wasting time and not doing enough with my days. I do enough. I just don’t necessary do my enough early in the morning or with an audience. I have been retired just over a year; and since then, I have taken up kayaking and yoga and started writing this blog. I have added these things to all the other things that I like to do. None of these things need to be done early in the morning. My mornings have become quite nice now that they start when I feel like starting them, anywhere between 8:30 and 10:30. I ease into them with yoga, some breakfast and a long, slow cup of tea that I drink while I read the news and check in with the world on my iPad. I even make my bed, or The Doc does depending on who is the last under the covers. He is also not quick to get up in the morning, although he always was a morning person during his career. By the time I finish this relaxing and enjoyable routine, which has become one of my favourite routines, it can be close to noon and I am ready to continue with the rest of my day.
Why am I going on about this right now? What triggered this frustrated outburst in defense of my lifestyle? This did: Last week a representative from a local furniture bank called to make arrangements to pick up a mattress. When he asked what time would be convenient, I told him that I am retired so I am home a lot. It was my way of letting him know that I could be flexible. His response to this floored me. “Most people get more active when they are retired, he said.” I was stunned. This blog post immediately began to take shape before we even set a time for the mattress pickup. “I’m mentally active,” I replied, which was the only thing I could come up with since my brain had kicked in and words were spinning through it at full tilt. What gives him the right to assume that I am not active? Why does he equate being at home with being inactive? When I hung up I was angry at myself for not providing him with a list of my activities. Then angry at myself for thinking I should have.
What I am not doing is doing things for the sake of doing things. I am not trying to fill every hour of my day with accomplishments. I don’t need to do that to feel alive. I can relax and watch the birds at my feeder or I can sit and ruminate over blog topics or my latest read. I work in the garden when it suits me. Come to think of it, I do everything when it suits me. I don’t have rigid schedules for cleaning or laundry or anything else. Yet my house is not dirty and there are not piles of unwashed textiles scattered about on my floors. These things all get done when they get done. I also don’t book appointments in the morning unless I have no choice. All this works for me in a way that my everyday life in the past just didn’t. If this isn’t a problem for me and The Doc, the only people truly affected by my lifestyle, then it shouldn’t be an issue for anyone else. I am not lazy. I am retired. Retirement is a life stage that provides me with the freedom to choose how I spend my time. These days, in the mornings, I choose sleep. I would appreciate it if people would stop assuming that I am lazy or wasting my time. I am a much nicer person if you just leave me alone with my mornings and let me sleep.