If you’re a self-improvement junkie like I am, you know there’s one thing the self-help gurus preach like a sandwich board-clad apocalypse prophet on the street corner…
We are told the benefits of waking early to do such things as:
Write down what we’re thankful for
Read inspirational writing
Write inspirational writing
It’s all good advice (and I’ve certainly dispensed some of it myself), but it can get a bit overwhelming. Yet, since I’m in the business of improving myself, I’ve always endeavored to do some type of morning routine.
I lost my dad at the end of last year and the grief journey has been, well, a journey. Like the really hard kind. The kind where you think you’re getting somewhere and then you hit a big fat detour due to falling rocks or floods and find yourself navigating a tricky back road with dim headlights, worried that you’re getting even more lost.
Yeah, it sucks.
In any case, despite the back road grief struggles, I’ve tried to keep up the morning routine. Waking up early, before my kids and husband, to do the journaling and the deep work, all in an effort to improve myself.
Until I realized… Perhaps it was doing the exact opposite.
You see, one thing I’ve learned about grief in the last few months is that it is capital E Exhausting.
By 4pm most days, I would find myself on the couch or in my bed, trying to grab 20 minutes of eyes-closed-time (what I call napping because I’m often not really asleep) just so I could muster enough energy to make it through dinner.
By 9pm, I crabbed at my kids to “Get in bed!” so I could get to bed, so I could get up and do the damn morning routine.
Because of my early bedtimes, I was also missing another important thing I’ve needed lately: time with Josh.
When the triplets were little and went to bed at 7:30pm, it was easy to have grown-up time in the evenings. We’d put the kids to bed and then sit on the couch and chat, maybe watch a show. But now, with them going to bed so much closer to our own bedtimes, that precious evening couple connection time has slowly disappeared.
I miss it. And with what I’m going through right now, I need it. I need connection with my most important person, and if that means I need to stay up later to get it, I will.
So a couple weeks ago, I declared that the most important thing in my life was getting 8 hours of sleep each night. Which meant that if I wanted to spend some evening time with Josh, I was going to have to abandon the morning routine.
Which I did. To much joy.
Well, not at first. I felt guilty about letting go of my productive morning time. I felt like I was the “bad kid” in the self-improvement class.
But here’s the thing… Isn’t taking care of my physical and emotional needs self-improvement? Isn’t connecting with my most important person self-improvement? Isn’t giving myself permission to have exactly what I need self-improvement?
Yes, yes, and yes.
So I started setting my alarm for 7:00am instead of 5:30.
On weekday mornings, I roll out of bed after my kids are already up, getting themselves breakfast.
I haven’t worked on my book or done morning yoga in weeks.
And I’m okay. Better actually. I feel really good. I feel connected to my people and myself. I’m no longer cashed out by 4pm, trying to muster enough strength to make it through dinner.
I guess self-improvement looks different in different seasons of our lives.
For me right now, in a season of grief, it looks like a lot of time with my husband and a lot of sleep. Will this change? Will I go back to the early morning routine? I don’t know. I’m on the back road, navigating a few feet in front of me. But I’m okay. In fact, I feel like I might actually be getting somewhere.