New Plan: Starting Over, Starting Early

Starting Over, Starting Early
New plans often involve getting up earlier to be more productive. (Stock photo)

It's been several years since I even attempted a New Year's resolution. I used to make a list of things to change every year and then -- just like the cliché -- by March I'd abandoned them all.

After years of #ResolutionFails, I now know it's stupid to expect myself to morph into someone new just because my calendar ticked up a year.

If my last year was filled with Little Debbie Chocolate Chip Snack Cakes (which might as well be called "Crack Cakes") while binge-watching "Narcos", it's unrealistic to expect my plan to go Paleo and train for a full marathon to last for more than a few weeks.

In the words of someone more clever than me, "People change -- but not that much."

Also? I don't really have many bad habits that I don't want to keep. That is not to say that I don't have bad habits, just that I really like most of them. The great gift of aging is getting to decide that some vices are worth hanging on to.

But notice I said, "most" of them. Because there is this one -- and that's what I'm writing about today.

I'm a night person, and I would really like to be a morning person. So this is the year I'm getting back in the resolution game. Kinda. This is the year when "early" becomes my routine.

Several months ago I wrote about how getting up two hours earlier provided me with the extra time and motivation I needed to conquer the demands of Must-Have Parenting.

Those dark and quiet hours before my children were awake gave me time to work through an impressive chunk of my daily to-do list while my house was still and quiet. I loved the peace of the early morning and truly enjoyed watching the sunrise, especially knowing I was already ahead of the day.

Also, instead of spending hours watching Netflix and trying to unwind late into the night, I was falling asleep on the couch at 10 p.m., and that's a good thing. My husband has to get up early most days and I found myself actually seeing him, even having breakfast with him -- just him, no kids -- before he had to leave. For a couple that never seems to get enough time together, that was almost as good as a date night.

As I settled into that top o' the mornin' routine, I began to recall that in my teens I often went hiking before my high school started at 7 a.m. I remembered how much I loved being up early back then -- the sights, sounds and smells of the world before the world woke up. I began to wonder if maybe I really am a morning person by nature. Rising early began to be my new normal.

And then my 3-year-old went through an up-all-night phase for about several weeks and my 4:30 a.m. alarm seemed less like a productive advantage and more like a torture device. It didn't take long until I had fallen back to my old ways of staying up late, waking up just before my kids had to be up for school and missing out on that early morning tranquility.

New Year's resolutions may be unrealistic, but the start of the new year does feel like a good marker for trying new things. And then, like a written invitation to try mornings again, this Medium essay landed in my inbox.

So, come January 1 (okay, January 2) I'm bringing early back, but this time with a plan for failure. This time I know that one of my children will have a string of sleepless nights that leave me sleepless, too.

And I know that there will be times when I just want to stay up late, and those nights will necessitate earlier mornings.

So I'm approaching this resolution not as a discipline. My late night/late morning ways are not a flaw that needs fixing. There's nothing wrong with staying up late and there have been many times when staying up late has brought me great joy. I plan to have more of those times. This change will not be a #ResolutionFail if I don't manage to get up early every morning.

Instead, rising early is, for me, a reward, just like sleeping late will be when I need it to be. My setbacks won't be "setbacks" -- they'll just be breaks in my routine, a routine I can easily return to when I've gotten over the setbacks.

Unlike all the years when I vowed to lose weight, read the classics, learn a foreign language -- this year I'm not trying to fix myself. Because I'm not broken.

This year I'm resolving to be a morning person, because I want to be.

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