For many, mornings are the most routinized part of the day. While the events of the day and night are often variable, mornings are often so consistent that we hardly remember waking up or getting to work at all. Mornings, at least for me, have a linear outline and all neatly follow a strict progression.
“ ‘Cause he gets up in the morning / And he goes to work at 9.” I paw at the alarm on my desk as “A Well Respected Man” by the Kinks plays its tune to wake me up. I used to be better about ripping the covers off after I hit the buzzer, but during summer I’ve been treating the sound of my alarm as a suggestion rather than a command. At about 7:45 a.m. I finally muster the courage, mostly driven now by my growing urge to poop, to peel myself out of my cloth cocoon and bolt directly to the bathroom where I take my very timely turd. With both feet hanging off the rim of the toilet seat, I find myself in the same picturesque position that I find myself every morning at 7:45 — naked and all limbs seated on the toilet bowl, perfectly perched atop the porcelain throne. I look back to my bedroom door with a bit of regret knowing that I will soon have to suit up and run out the door to my work.
On my jog over to the job, I see the same people arise at the same time. I say “hi” to the same homeless man walking up Cedar Street at 7:55 a.m. with the same Target shopping bag, I see the same cars at the busy intersection that I cross and I hear the same ting of bottles mingling with each other as this man sifts through the same garbage across from Casa Zimbabwe. Noticing all these same people appear out of the streets and the same birds chirp every morning has made me realize the world operates on a clock. Our livelihoods circulate around an indefinite time stamp; so much of our economy, philosophy and sanity depends on time, yet we never pay it much notice.
After work I attempt to shower but first determine whether it’s worth letting the faucet run for a while to get hot. I hate wasting water and will only take on the shivery, icy, mechanical rain bath if I am audacious enough. Today is one of those mornings. I let out a tiny shriek as the cold water initially wets my salty body. Knowing it’s probably not going to get any warmer, I decide to fully embrace the cold, thoroughly soak my hair and own every drop of nippy tap water. After shampooing and lathering elsewhere, I feel the water finally begin to run hot. I make a praying gesture toward the tiled ceiling as if to recognize some sort of divine presence.
Mornings are my favorite part of the day because to me they represent a new opportunity. The day ahead can be whatever I want to create of it. I can imagine how the day might unfold while sitting back in my chair calmly eating my bowl of cereal or morning spinach, not yet feeling the pressures of productivity.
Sometimes when I find myself in a fixed period of life where I am deeply wedded to my routines, the days stop feeling individual — more like repetitions of the same set of circumstances — and the mornings feel a little less special. This year, I began to see days as units of time rather than continuous extensions of life.
Depression can make days feel like a countdown to an event you aren’t looking forward to. Although I firmly stuck to my morning routines during bouts of depression, I can understand why people experiencing depression, severe anxiety or thoughts of suicide have a hard time getting up out of bed in the morning. Carrying on with the day in a normal and routinized way can be a small victory for those who find their days difficult.
Mornings are not only the marker of a new day but also a reminder that our days that come after are variable. Whether it be meeting new people or wrestling with new uncomfortable feelings, mornings are the constants that anchor us in daily segments of change. The sun rises from the same horizon each day but its trajectory over the sky may seem to have a different arc. Mornings for me have always been this hook into sanity and a reminder that change is natural and that no matter the course of the day, there will always be a new morning tomorrow.
Layla Chamberlin writes the Friday column on how routines create character and delineate personal politics