21 Damn Early Days
January 2017 started for me with joining the best New Years initiative I've ever bought into: 21 Damn Early Days. How it works is for every weekday of January you wake up at 4:30am - that's it. A group of 500 or so here in British Columbia signed up for the scheme and woke up with a text, a blog post and an expiring online check-in. You pay by donation to join this challenge and the whole idea is to use these extra hours spending time doing the things you want to do, rather than living on a treadmill of busyness and coping. I got an email notification at the start of January saying that a friend had paid for me to do this (alongside her) and without much thought I started setting my alarm to 4:30am.
Have you ever thought about whether you're spending time doing the things you want to do, or you want to learn, or you want to be known for? I want to be someone familiar with famous literature and authors, but I realised along the way that I then need to actually spend time reading these books. And not just as a one off, as a habitual thing. My favourite part about this early morning push was that it gave me chunks of empty and quiet time that I could choose how to fill. I answered a questionnaire at the start of January saying that I wanted to: write more (be it blogging or journalling), regularly read poetry, have un-rushed times to pray and have the time to study well in preparation for upcoming teachings. So these extra hours each morning became such a gift to me.
Okay, so I've talked about my gratitude for these 21 Damn Early Days, but now I'm going to level with you. Yes, I'm glad I did it (I'm actually still doing it into February, which should say something) but yes, it was brutal too. Waking up at 4:30am on day one was amazing. I felt victorious and energetic and like anything was possible. Day two, I woke up and felt like someone had hit me with a car. That's a feeling I've grown to get used to and not one that lessened over time. I would wake up with eyes so reluctant to be open that I'd need to manually water them with splashes of water. Most mornings felt like those times I've had a flight at crazy-o-clock and had to wake up in the middle of the night. The sun took hours to rise so I would be sitting in my tungsten lit room feeling aggressively hungry considering it was a time that was hours before I'd usually eat breakfast. It was hard to get into the habit of going to bed early (ideally around 8:30pm) and so throughout January I usually slept for about 7 hours each night, which I've learnt is not enough. One morning I woke up and journalled for an hour before going back to bed for an hour - that day still counts though because that was just a nap, right?
And yet here I am in February, still waking up at 4:30am on weekday mornings. Those two hours every morning (I'd usually pray between 4:30-5am before I had a gap of 5-7am before I 'got ready') didn't feel great, but they've been such a gift to me. I'm an introvert within (what I think is a) very extroverted organisation and much of my day is interacting with different people, whether it's in a classroom or meeting with students or running errands or living at home with my three housemates. Waking up early meant that no matter how busy/full/social my day was, I knew the next morning I'd be waking up to two hours of solitude and uninterrupted silence. That's been pretty beautiful for me and I think gave me fuel for January to be more life-giving for me. I was able to keep on top of some life stuff in the mornings, which meant that my days off looked more chilled or more adventurous (and less productive), and I felt that I had a greater capacity to be social. I got so much out of January.
It's hard to separate wondering if the value/joy/satisfaction of January hasn't been due to these early mornings. They taught me to see more potential in each day. They convicted me to do the things I want to be doing. And so, I'm thankful for these 4:30am starts.