At some point in the last year, I decided to make mornings a luxury. They had become exhausting, a mad dash whose finish line was just the beginning to the “real” (and often very long) day ahead. I wanted more sleep. Lily wanted eggs. Neither of us could find a matching sock. And so it went. Then, in an effort to shave some time one morning, I opted for a quick dip in the bathtub instead of washing my hair in the shower. As I ran the water, I raced downstairs for my coffee cup. While I was there, I cranked up my “Mad Men” playlist on itunes. (It’s full of Perry Como and Julie London.) As I sank into the water, I felt calm. As I climbed out, I felt confident. In the months since, I’ve added (or reinstated) several other happies to my morning routine. I rarely accomplish all of them, but I have a much better shot at a lovely day if I can pull off at least three. Here are 10:
1. Wake up to something pretty.
Hanging to the right of my side of the bed is a photograph of a strong, sexy woman strutting straight through the middle of a jazz quartet. It’s the first thing I see when I wake up each morning, and it inspires me to be strong (and show the boys who’s boss!).
2. Open the blinds.
It’s hard to rouse yourself from sleep if it still looks like nighttime in your room. Cats need sunbeams for napping; people need them to get moving.
3. Make the beds.
I’ve made this a habit since my first place after college. I lived in downtown Franklin in a small cottage I rented from a gracious, well-known family who left fresh tomatoes on my porch. Everything around me was quaint and tidy. Slipping into a crisply made bed at night was what you did in a house like that. Making your bed in the morning was how you began your day.
I usually read a few pages before I get out of bed. If I’m really pressed for time, just a few paragraphs is still better than no words at all. On the weekends, if the weather is nice, I take my book outside. The best mornings are when the whole family reads together and the television remains silent.
5. Eat breakfast.
This morning, I made myself a peanut butter, honey and banana sandwich, which I enjoyed with a little dish of frozen blueberries and several cups of coffee. Some mornings, Lily and I ride our bikes to the grocery store and eat right there at a little booth in the deli. She usually has a muffin or yogurt. I usually have an orange and a sparkling water.
6. Exercise a bit.
I’m a runner – the more miles the better. But because I don’t have time for long distances in the mornings, I’ve learned to be happy with short bursts of exercise. A two-mile jog. Or, more frequently, a bike ride to my daughter’s school and back. The forward motion literally propels me toward the day ahead.
7. Stroll around the garden.
I’ll admit my garden has made me late to work more than once. I take my camera into the yard to capture what’s new. In the summer, I cut bouquets and bring them to the office. Even in the winter, I wander around looking for surprises in the dirt.
Like many trained journalists, my writing is generally better when I’m given a tight deadline. There is less time for navel gazing in the morning.
9. Listen to music.
I now have a growing playlist of “Knight’s Morning” music, which is a combination of peaceful and poppy tunes from mostly other decades and sometimes other countries. Etta James, Carla Bruni, Billie Holliday, Van Morrison, Cat Stevens, Randy Newman, Francis Dunnery and Duke Ellington all have more than one cut on my list.
10. Enjoy a moment of silence.
This happened by accident. A gas station car wash damaged the antenna on my Sonata. I listened to CDs for a few days, then grew bored of the same songs. After the first couple commutes in silence, I realized I felt a little lighter, a little crisper, a little clearer. This won’t work every day, I realize. Sometimes I’ll want the distraction from my own thoughts. But try it once in a while when the world is too noisy, and see what you think.