On Waking Up Happy

creative simplicity

I am a nighttime worrier. As soon as the sun goes down, my creative and productive energy dissipates, and a dreary little cloud of worry and anxiety takes its place. It’s the sort of superfluous worry—“recreational worry,” as my friend and I like to call it—that winds around and around itself as a tired mind loses steam amidst the liminal space between today and tomorrow. I worry about whether I’ve done enough today, and I worry about what I need to do tomorrow. I worry about larger questions, like finding purpose in life, and smaller questions, like whether I should have worded something differently in an email. This is usually my cue that it’s time to redirect my wayward mind to the simplicity of bedtime rituals and get myself to sleep as soon as possible. I’ve accompanied myself through enough worried evenings to know that this is simply my mind’s way of grinding from “full-speed” to “stop” in a matter of hours.

Mornings, on the other hand, have marked the difference for me across different stages and passages of life. I remember straggling out of bed before dawn, only to fall asleep again on the bus during high school. I remember waking up much later in college, always with a half-finished paper still writing itself in my mind. I remember the summer I took up running, bolting out of bed and out the door each morning with a surge of powerful energy I’d never known otherwise.

More recently, I remember waking up a little disoriented on so many gray Boston mornings during graduate school. My sweetheart was waking up hundreds of miles away, and my footing felt unsure. It took two cups of coffee and several hours before I could fully process stimuli from the outside world.

In my new home, I still tend to fall asleep to the cranking of my internal worry machine, even with my love close by and Southern sunshine to look forward to the next day. Waking up, though, these days is another story. As I rub the sleep from my eyes and my last dream slips from memory, I’m struck by the certainty that I am exactly where I’m meant to be. Before the small disappointments and successes of the day take hold and before my worry mechanism starts asking too many questions about where I’ve been and where I’m going, I can’t help but notice there’s something just right about right now.

I suppose this is what it means to wake up happy: to peek out from the business of life for a brief moment each day and smile at the thought that you’ve secretly begun to enjoy the journey.