Why I get up early ... Oh, wait, I don't



I love early mornings. I love that luminous, numinous moment every day, when everything is fresh, crisp, untainted. It's the perfect time to meditate and to write, when it's still quiet and peaceful.


Before the neighbourhood is stirring, when the day is unsullied by the growing rumble of distant traffic and the smell of the garbage truck screeching to a halt in front of each driveway; by the yowling of the neighbourhood cats and the howling of its dogs; by the clattering of dishes and the slamming of car doors as people get ready for work; by the smell of coffee and breakfast omelettes wafting out the open windows of the homes along the street.


As a photographer, I especially appreciate the quality of the light unique to this part of the day, that sweet spot when the angle of the sun renders the shadows more dramatic, the colours at once warmer and more vibrant.


Yet I rarely get to see all that.


As a lifelong neurodivergent night owl, I’m rarely up before 9:00 AM. My preferred schedule is lights-out around 2:00 AM, up around 10:30. Even then I need a slow start before I face the day. Ideally: coffee, feed and brush the cat, then meditation and writing practice, then on to other things.


The trouble with this kind of schedule isn’t just that I miss the beauty of the early hours of the day. It’s that this schedule doesn’t fit the society I inhabit. It flies in the face of social norms for grown-ups. My schedule is considered fit for teenagers only, and only on weekends at that; once you’re in the workforce, it’s considered “lazy” or worse. It’s just Not Done in the neurotypical world.


For decades, I’ve struggled with the business of getting up early for work, even when I worked at home, especially when I worked for my ex, whose day starts at 7:00 AM or earlier, while I’m still lolling in bed for another couple of hours. By the time I’d get up, he’d have half a day’s work done already, and be resentful of my lazy ways.



For decades, I’ve struggled with feelings of deep inadequacy and failure as a productive member of society, even as a human being, because I’m no good at getting up in the morning.


No more.


I’m no longer working at a job where I need to coordinate my weird schedule with neurotypical peoples’ schedules. I make a point of not making appointments before noon if I can avoid it. I make exceptions as needed, but they're few and far between.


My day often doesn't start until I meet with my co-working buddy at 2:00 PM. She's on the west coast, so it's 10:00 AM for her, and it's perfect for both of us.


Sometimes my most productive time is often after 10:00 PM, when the rest of the world is winding down and it's quiet.


Still, every once in a while I’ll find myself inexplicably wide awake at 6:00 or 7:00 AM. On those days, I get to enjoy all the benefits most people enjoy every day: oodles of quiet time in the morning, to write, have a slow breakfast, drink in the beauty of the morning while it’s still fresh.


I used to berate myself: "If I can get up at this hour sometimes, why can't I just do it every day?"


I've come to understand that I literally just can't. This is not a matter of will, it's a matter of circadian clock. Oh, I've had a few jobs that forced me into getting up at 6:00 every day, but the longest I've ever managed to keep that up was maybe a year. Fighting my body's rhythms every day is exhausting. Eventually it takes its toll, and either I fall apart or everything around me does. It's not pretty.


I've come to accept that the days I get up early are exceptional and always will be. I've learned to simply allow myself to appreciate them all the more for their rarity.