Seeking structure.

I’m beginning to be aware of my surroundings, but I try and go back to sleep.

Then I realize it is the weekend. I do not have my alarm set, and I’m feeling relatively awake. Maybe it’s time to get up? I check my watch. Almost exactly 8 hours since I went to sleep.

Yup, time to get up and begin my day.

But wait, it’s the weekend and I don’t particularly want to get out of this comfortable bed. I lie there for a good 45 minutes more before getting up to begin my day.

Sometimes not having an alarm or a plan in the morning feels blissful. But sometimes it is torturous. I should get up but have no real plan a reason to be up in that moment, so why bother? Why not enjoy some more moments in bed?

When the pandemic started… Actually throughout most of the pandemic, I never set an alarm in the morning. I didn’t have to. I would wake up early enough to at least get to the first appointment of the day…at home anyway. It felt a bit rebellious, or perhaps like I was adding comfort in a time of stress and chaos. But in hindsight, not having a schedule didn’t help me at all. Every morning I would fight the question of “is it time to get up now”, laying in bed for extra minutes or tens of minutes. I often wasn’t starting work until 8:00 or 9:00 a.m., wondering how I used to exercise and then be at work in a different location by 7:30 a.m.!

I also was often finding myself doing work really early in the morning before working out and then going back to work later. This was when I had something stressful that really had to get done and I wanted to do it right away, but it would completely screw with my morning routine involving exercise etc. By the time I was getting to my workout I was already stressed and in work mode.

Now, most days I’m not only back to the alarm, but I have set a time pattern in the morning. Awake & out of bed at 4:30 a.m., coffee while I read three emails, and then I journal (usually) and start working out at 5:30 a.m. This means I’m usually eating breakfast by 7:00 or 7:30 and at work far earlier than I was earlier in the pandemic.

I don’t feel happier between 4:30 and 4:45 a.m. with this more rigid schedule. But overall I am far happier and more satisfied. My particular plan doesn’t matter, what matters is having a plan that works for me and sticking to it. By setting a structure I no longer have to decide every day whether it’s time to get out of bed. Nor do I have to decide if I’m going to do work first thing or when to start working out. And I know myself and I know that over time the structure that I set will change. Maybe someday I will go back to meditating or stop journaling for a while, but that’s not what matters.

What does matter, at least for me, is to have some structure so I’m not re-creating my morning every single day. This isn’t a novel, but it is a personally interesting observation after struggling through a pandemic and occasionally seeking comfort in the wrong places that served to sabotage instead of save.

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