Witless Wednesday: The Morning Routine

Witless Wednesday: The Morning Routine December 4, 2019

This is so brilliant. Someone over at the Atlantic has finally had enough of the Cult of the Morning Routine. This one was my favorite, by her description:

One notable adherent to this philosophy is Mark Wahlberg, the actor and father of four, whose morning routine went minorly viral last year. In an Instagram post, he claimed that he rises at 2:30 a.m., eats breakfast at 3:15 a.m., then works out for a couple of hours, including a golf outing at 7 a.m. By 9:30, he is inside his cryotherapy chamber, icing his muscles. Even three hours behind me on the West Coast, Wahlberg apparently has already prayed, sweated, and showered before I wake up.

Boy, that sounds like Sheol. I don’t even know what some of that stuff is. Why would anyone want to get up at 2:30 in the morning? I ask myself this everyday when my husband leaps into action in the middle of the night. I guess it’s technically the morning, but not really, it’s still night. 3:45 is night, is what I’m saying.

Anyway, here is the money quote:

In this way, otherwise fun accounts of morning routines can become mental-health traps for some people. “I’m concerned about people seeing the way things are for other people and thinking they really have to do the same thing, and they don’t take into account necessarily some of the constraints and realities that they have to deal with,” Flett says. “People are sitting there going, ‘I need to be perfect. Other people are doing it; I’m not. It’s attainable, but I’m not that way.’ And they get locked into a very self-critical pattern.”

Yes indeed, “locked into self-critical patterns,” “needing to be perfect,” and so the long gray morning of social media shaped life wears on. Like the author of the piece, I am obsessed with reading what other people do to get through their days, caught in the dumb thought that if I “optimize my productivity” and some such bunk, I will get ahead in the game and win something precious, like permission to rest, or just not hold the whole world together for a few minutes. Never mind that no one has really told me to hold the whole world together. Except for when they do, clamoring for whatever it is they thought I should have delivered yesterday.

That’s how I careen through each day—apologizing for not doing what everyone thought I should. Pushing too hard and then crashing into despondency. Did you go shopping? no sorry, not yet, didn’t have time. Did you read my paper? no, sorry, not yet, didn’t get a chance to sit down. Did you wash my jeans? no, sorry, not yet, didn’t make it into the laundry room. Why didn’t you work on your book? That’s so important, that should be your priority. no, sorry, I spent twenty-five extra minutes in traffic….and so I keep getting up earlier, trying to “cover the basics” like cleaning clothes and feeding people, leaping from one crisis to the next, feeling guilty all the time about everything.

In some sense, getting up earlier is helpful. The days I wake up at 4:30 (which is still night) I do get lots more done. But the deep, total fatigue by 7pm is, not surprisingly, unhelpful when other people aren’t ready to go to bed and need their work checked and their jeans still washed even at the end of a hideously long day. Getting up at 4:30 means I just did more work. Not that I improved my quality of life.

Working out is helpful too, when I manage to do it. In the interests of “saving time” it lasts exactly seven minutes. 100 sit-ups, punching the air with weights like a lunatic 100 times, exactly like the Bible says not to do, and a plank. That’s it. And I try to pray, but not in the deeply connected way that good people do with their coffee, their instagram, and their expensive pen. I struggle into the litany at an hour that’s not good for me because I’m not a morning person, but now I’m not a night person either. I go from one “essential” task to the next, trying to ignore all the other “non-essential” but really, very essential ones along the way. Which is it? when the cat is ill yet again because someone left turkey out on the counter? That feels essential. But that could be an all day thing, wandering around after an ill cat. And then there’s math, and the dishes, and…

It’s not just me. All of us live this way. It’s because we’re isolated in tiny, familial households, trying to do what whole communities used to, or estates full of servants, each of us getting up earlier and earlier and earlier, applying ice to our sore muscles and medicine to our exhausted souls.

What’s that line? “He gives to his beloved…sleep…” but we won’t take it. We’re too busy getting up early to remember what the night was even for.

It is into such a world that even Jesus might come, lightening the darkness of even that earliest hour, turning over the frantic useless striving of the wold with himself. Hope I’m awake enough to see it.

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