Wednesday, November 9, 2011

When Will the Doughnuts Be Ready?

And Why Won't They Unlock the Doors?

Before becoming a mother, I was not a morning person. Okay, that’s an understatement. Before becoming a mother, I soaked up every hour of sleep I possibly could, fiercely guarding those precious moments of early-morning slumber before the alarm clock would force me to crack open my crusty eyelids and face the workday at the ungodly hour of, say, 7:15.

The situation was more extreme in my teens. Without effort, I could sleep in on the weekends until 3:00 pm, at which point my dad would stomp in, snap open the blinds and announce, “Enough is enough!” Having grown up in a farming family whose early-to-rise ethics verged on marsupial, he was deeply offended by my lack of interest in making hay – or even a peanut butter sandwich – while the sun shone.

In college, I lived like a nightclub owner, staying up until the wee hours most every night, knowing that I would recoup my REM losses the next morning. On those few occasions when I had no choice but to take an 8:00 am class, the excruciating morning reveille would disturb my entire week, turning me into a cranky, scatterbrained wreck – someone who, now that I think about it, bears striking resemblance to the person I am today. (All hail the circle of life! Hakuna Matata!)

Much later, after years of working in an office under what I thought was a crushing regime of having to be at my desk by 9:00-ish (the sleep enthusiast quickly learns the value of “-ish”), motherhood arrived. Within a week, my circadian rhythms were crouched in the corner of the laundry room, weeping and tugging at their eyebrows. By week two, they had moved out altogether, leaving me to face the patchwork 24-hour days in typical, punch-drunk, new mom fashion.

And, although it seemed the milky netherworld of new-babydom would be my home forever, things stabilized and at some point I found myself – for the most part, anyway – awake when it was light out and asleep when it was dark.

Fast forward to the near-present (earlier this year), when to my immense happiness and excitement, the book deal for The CHICKtionary materialized. The publisher envisioned this book as an ideal holiday gift, which meant it needed to be written on an aggressive timetable in order to be in stores in time for the seasonal shopping spike.

“Can you do this?” my agent asked.

“Yes!” I responded without pause with the word that has gotten me into more than a few hundred challenging situations in recent decades. In the words of the immortal Tim Gunn, I would “make it work.” [Note: Tim Gunn also said, “I’m troubled by your jumpsuit,” a phrase which, although I have not yet had occasion to use, I no doubt will in the near future.]

Once I knew the exact parameters of the project, I was forced to do one of my least favorite things: pull out a calculator and make a plan. A plan with numbers on it. As someone who gauges correct inflation pressure by how poufy the tires look, this process caused some discomfort, particularly when the cold, hard data came in. (That’s the thing about numbers – they have no “-ish.”)

There was no way around it. In order to finish the manuscript by the deadline, I was going to have to carve out extra writing time, and plenty of it. But from where? I already spent the child-free portion of my day writing, and once they were home from school, it was a breathless sprint through homework, dinner, baths and assorted domestic crises. Where was this “extra” time stashed?

Perhaps I could slack off the housework. This, of course, begged the question: could I phone it in any more than I already did? Doubtful. What about cooking? I wasn’t sure about this, but I had the nagging feeling that, before I could back away from that activity, I would have had to embrace it in the first place.

I was running out of options.

And then it hit me. I was going to have to [gulp] sleep less. As in get up earlier. What madness was this? There had to be another way. I smacked the calculator buttons again. And again. There was no arguing with these…these numbers.

That night I sat on the edge of my bed and watched the LED digits of my alarm clock roll over to their new set point: 5:00 am. I winced. Surely nothing good ever happened at that hour.

And so began my seven-day-a-week ritual of rising before the sun, brewing a giant cup of scary-tough coffee and settling at my desk to try and be funny, all while doing a very convincing Bride of Frankenstein impression. I won’t say I was grace under pressure, especially that first week. One of the nice things about being up before the rest of the household, though, is that no one hears you cuss.

After a little while, my body grudgingly acclimated to the new schedule and I got into a bit of a groove. I began to (well, almost) savor the slice of morning time that was mine alone, and to (somewhat) enjoy watching the dawn light change through my office window. On my calendar was marked my deadline – the day after which I would reclaim my title of World’s Greatest Sack Hound.

The weeks passed, my word count grew and, just as the calculator predicted, the magical day arrived when I submitted my completed manuscript.

The next morning I woke at 4:30 am.

Whee, I thought, relishing the sensation of rolling over to slide back into blissful sleep. Hugging my pillow, I closed my eyes and waited, but instead of the downy tunnel back to dreamland, my mind’s eye produced a razor-sharp image of the to-do list sitting on my desk. What the hell? Go to sleep, I told myself, and was rewarded with an inventory of the items I was to gather for our school’s silent fundraising auction.

I flipped over and stared wide-eyed at the ceiling, which I could not actually see because it was 4:30 in the friggin’ morning and the bedroom was as black as the inside of a sheepdog. I had heard of this before, I thought, raking a hand across my forehead. Morning people, they were called. The kind of folks who waited outside Dunkin’ Donuts, looking at their watches and stamping their sensible shoes until the first shift finally unlocked the door to start the day. At 5:00 am.

Stay cool, I told myself. It’s the first day off. You’re in transition. You’ll be able to sleep in tomorrow. Somewhere deep in my brain stem, however, I knew the truth.

I was broken.

Cut to: months later, present day. I have adjusted to my new lifestyle pretty well. Most mornings I slap the alarm off before it sounds and am padding around the kitchen by 5:15. Shortly after that, I’m at my desk, replying to emails and dipping into Twitter where my East Coast friends are already chirping away. (After a couple of frosty exchanges, I broke myself of the habit of calling local friends to share vital information from Facebook such as witticisms or warnings about computer viruses known to be going around.) By lunch, I’m on my third coffee and jonesing for a second wind. By 4:00 pm, I’m wondering if it’s too soon to slip into my jammies.

After all, it’s bedtime somewhere, right?

Speak Out Against Domestic Violence

You may have noticed the new "Speak Out" badge over in my sidebar. I learned about the Speak Out campaign from my blog friend Kristin at Wanderlust.

On November 18th, bloggers all over the world will post, tweet, share, and encourage people to “Speak Out” against domestic violence and provide direct links to domestic violence (DV) resources. The event date is strategically set to lead into International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Nov. 25.

I hope you'll take a moment to click over and learn more about the campaign and the ways you can participate. Thank you!


Anna Whiston-Donaldson said...

Wow! As a night owl myself, I would not have thought it possible to change into a morning one. Are you dining out on the early bird specials yet? I remember telling my best friend, about 25 years ago that I would never meet her for breakfast. She still asks every now and then...

Wanderlust said...

Aw, thanks for the shout out for Speak Out!

I have been toying with the idea of getting up earlier as I too have come to the same conclusion (no blood from turnips). It's a bit scary to think I couldn't slouch back into my old habits, though.

Love your humor. You had me laughing all the way through (as always). x

fishducky said...

When my kids were small, they asked if I would pack their school lunch at night & NOT get up to make them breakfast. I thought I was being nice but they said they couldn't stand me in the mornings. They put a Snoopy sticker on my mirror. It showed him on top of his doghouse with his head hanging over the side. It said I THINK I'M ALLERGIC TO MORNINGS!

I'm now 77 years old & have no reason to get up early--& now I usually go to bed about 1:00 am wake up around 7:30- 8:00 am.

Ann Imig said...

This is both terrifying and reassuring somehow.

Great to have your posts coming in my inbox. Now if you can find away to do that with doughnuts...

Consciously Sedated/Rachel Paul said...

Sleep deprivation is one of the reasons I could never have kids; I value my sleep way too much.

It's nice to know that such a transition is possible, though. It's amazing what a book deal will do for ya;)

Enjoy those wee hours in the morning that you've now, by default, set aside for yourself. Like the early bird, you got the worm... now enjoy it.

HermanTurnip said...

Track suits are so yesterday. Leisure suits are the new "black". In fact, I wear one whenever I blog.

Crystal Pistol said...

I am of the "ish" persuasion myself being a professional sleeper. (My husband has dubbed me as such.)

I can still sleep til 3 pm if allowed. I am never allowed. :(

Fragrant Liar said...

I promise, if you can have donuts at my doorstep, with a pot of hazelnut coffee, I will get up THAT early with you and do the writer thing that I'm supposed to be doing anyway. I promise.

If you can't do that, I'm just not going to do it with you. No, that's my final answer.

Alexandra said...

Oh, blog friends are becoming mature and plan aheady.

Dang it.

I do know the value of plotting things out.

I know I know. It's the only way to see results in your life, as if by magic ---voila!

You think Madonna ever slept in?

Heck no.

Working it every day since 1977.

The only way to go for the gold.

Student Mommy said...

I also get up at 5am. That time when the house is still asleep is so precious to me. I have my 'me time' then. Some days I hug my coffee for 15 minutes before my brain kicks in, others I'm Cheerful Charlie before the kettle boils, but sleeping in messes up my day now.
As for Speak Out - gladly will I support you on that day (raises right fist victoriously)... with a twist. Domestic Violence comes against men too, and I'm shouting out against that.

Liz @ ewmcguire said...

I hope I'm around when you work "I'm troubled by your jumpsuit" into a conversation.

Your book is so fantastic, Anna...thanks for sacrificing the sleep for it!

The Caustic Bunny said...

-You are NOT accountable to a greater force and DO have control over shuteye.
-All the people you annoyed by snoring will get over it.
-Habits, the good ones, were meant to be broken.
-Bad habits you accomodate.

You'll get over the early riser thing.

Suze said...

I always tried to avoid 8am classes at Uni.

When Pigs Fly said...

I am a morning person. The only time I seemed able to push the envelope sleep wise was while I was in college. I'm still not sure how I did everything. I really have to be productive before 5pm otherwise, I'm screwed.
I guess you'll just have to start writing another book!

Intangible Hearts said...

Too bad there's no hay around...I mean now that you wake up early and all! Congratulations on the book. You did it!

Cassoulet Cafe said...

I can sooo relate!!!! Great post! :)

MommyTime said...

I am fascinated by this post because I have always wondered if I could turn myself into a morning person. I always figured there was simply no way, since I could win Olympic medals for sleeping and I generally stay up pretty late. But the writing time...oh, it sounds like bliss. I stay up late, but I'm so tired by then than I get nothing done. Maybe what I need is a 5am alarm, 2 hours of writing, and a 30 minute dog walk to start my day. It sounds GREAT. Also? like pure TORTURE. How many days (weeks?) did it take you to stop cursing when the alarm rang?

Cassoulet Cafe said...

Speaking of donuts, I'm going to try Voodoo donuts this weekend. Btw. Sorry, but the word donuts just makes me salivate.
And sleeping in. Saliva. :)

Erin said...

I have started rising at 5:30 a couple days out of the week to go to the gym. It has not gotten an iota easier or more enjoyable. And when I look around the mirrored room of high-kickers, I wonder how they're doing it, considering half of them half osteoporosis.

Erin said...

I mean have osteoporosis. I'm the only one who has half-osteoporosis.

meleah rebeccah said...

You're amazing. I don't think I could ever get used to waking up at 5am!

K A B L O O E Y said...

The only way I'm getting up at 5 AM is if Tim Gunn himself knocks on my door and presents me with a design challenge. Or if I have a plane to catch. As someone who regularly overslept for a 2pm calculus class in college, and who now gets her "me" time by staying up until 2, then crawling back to bed after putting the tot on the school bus, I am very, very impressed with your transformation. Maybe that's why you have a book out and I don't. That and the funniness.

Along These Lines ... said...

Chicktionary: clever title!

Jeanne Estridge said...

Welcome to the light side!

Chanalesings said...

Awesome, I too have completely changed my sleep habits and these days jump out of bed before my kids get up!

anymommy said...

Love it. I can't believe that you did it. Well, yes I can. I always knew that wildly successful women had more than beauty and brains. There's that drive, ambition and dedication that people are always talking about.