I’ve discovered that my getting out of bed habits have changed through the years as I got older. As a child I was spoilt rotten and used to get my breakfast in bed! Not every morning mind, but at weekends or on special days. My very first memories of mornings waking up were in the bedroom of my parents because as a child, we kept paying guests in the house which had four bedrooms and there were six of us. At one time, two rooms were taken up by guests so my young brother, myself and our baby sister slept in our parent’s room. The memories are magical however. At the time we had no central heating but my parent’s bedroom had a heater so it was warm and Mammy had a bottle warmer beside the bed to feed my young sister. Daddy used to bring up tea and toast for my mother, and the smell of tea and warm toast covered in butter still goes to my heart. I remember Mammy singing to my sister and I would get in beside her in the warm bed that Daddy had just got out of.
No wonder I find it hard to get out of a cosy bed to this day!
In my teens my father and mother exhausted themselves shouting for us to get up for school and my father’s words were “sit up and get up!” As soon as he came into the room we would get up and when he left the room we would scuttle back into bed. I remember my mother bringing my young sister porridge in bed. When she came back into the room to call her when she didn’t come down stairs she was asleep with her head in the porridge! She won’t be too happy with me for sharing that story! We were always just about on time for school. I bet you all remember that fantastic feeling on Saturday when you could lie in! But again on Sunday, it was up for Mass.
In my twenties I lived in the west of Ireland as I managed a flower shop for just over three years. On occasion, the garage that was beside my rented house often had to use a long brush and bang at the upstairs window when they discovered I’d slept it out for work. Partying had a lot to do with that and when I look back I’m grateful to my pals in the garage or I may have lost my job.
Then came my thirties and marriage and children and we all know that kids are the best alarm clock of all. Gone were those lazy lie ins although I admit to having a very special husband who took over some mornings when work allowed and gave me time out? But it was at this point that I began to realise the value of early rising. I began a new career as a photographer and to fit in work and kids, in order to study and perfect my art, time was precious. I was always a personal development junkie and the term “when you snooze you lose” became stuck in my brain. This is when I perfected the art of early rising and it began with early exercise. The trick was to wake up and before a thought hits you, get up! No snooze button just up straight away. However it’s important to point out the motivation to rise early is important. For me as a young woman with small kids, I needed time for me before the day began. I found that out when I waited for the kids to wake and I would be moody and sleepy and not responding to them in a positive way.
I felt it unfair that they weren’t waking to a happy Mum (we lived in the UK, hence Mum as opposed to Mammy!!) I also had serious business goals to achieve and I needed the time to get in the zone of mixing “Mum time” with “business time”. Early morning rituals set me up for the day. I joined an exclusive gym and country club (paid for on my credit card!) because I knew it would be beneficial to us as a family as well as good for my hubby and me. It was a five minute drive and I went at six am in the morning. I would then bring the kids in the afternoon after school where they enjoyed a swim in the outdoor pool in the summer and the indoor in the winter. Making new contacts there for my work as a photographer not only paid off my credit card very fast but put me in contact with very affluent clients. The early bird really does catch the worm.
I won’t pretend it was tough some mornings, especially in the winter to rise and set out in the cold to work out but the positive results are so worth it. If my husband was on an early shift and I couldn’t make the gym , I would still rise and do yoga in my living room with the kids hanging out of me .! Sharing the experience of working out whether it is dancing to the kid’s music and programmes with them is so good for them and us.
In my forties I was back in Ireland and I won’t pretend, bad habits began to find their way into my life. In the UK there is no real pub scene so our social life was dinner parties in each other’s houses and the English are far more conservative than us Irish so there were very few late nights. However back home we found ourselves back in the social scene and frankly loved it. But our livers wouldn’t agree. We found ourselves out more, eating more and drinking more. I was building my business from scratch but it was Celtic tiger times and my business sky rocketed as did my weight. Again, my personal development studies got me back on track and I began to work out and run again. I also knew I could achieve so much more by rising early. Being self employed gives you great freedom. I worked three days and sold my work at night so sleeping in after working until eleven or twelve pm, I felt deserving. But it played havoc with my moods and I felt guilty as my team were working in my office from nine am while I was in bed was embarrassing. Bad habits can crawl back so easily. However I did find my new morning ritual and stuck by it as it felt amazing. I began a six am rise with a run followed by yoga and meditation. I’d run on and off since my twenties and it was the one thing I found helpful as a person who has experienced depression. Running was my anti depressant and morning rituals are also hugely helpful.
The trick to getting up at six was two alarm clocks! One went off beside the bed which I automatically switched off as soon as it rang but it did wake me from my deep sleep so I was aware. Then the next louder one was at the other side of the room so I had to go out of bed to switch it off otherwise it would wake an angry husband! My work out clothes would be laid out in order of how I put them on and my trainers beside them. Once the trainers are on, I was on a winner. I’d still be half asleep but a quick splash of cold water on the face and a jump up and down on the spot to waken the cells and organs in the body. I was out the door! I admit there were times even when I was up I’d hate being outside when I knew there was a cosy bed I could stay in but eventually the results were too fib not to do it !
When I was first diagnosed with cancer I realised the fact I was fit and eat healthily most of the time (I was drinking however) it stood to me, dealing with my illness . It made me all the more determined to keep fit. In fact I ran my first 10k in under an hour, a year after my diagnosis. I put my quick recovery to having a happy loving family, a great career and most of all a healthy disposition despite cancer.
Now, in my fifties things have changed no doubt. Although I still feel I’m in my thirties another cancer diagnosis changed everything about my life. I remember going out to an old cold church in the woods that I bought some years ago at six am and meditating in the freezing cold. It was like I was punishing myself for foolish decisions I made (like so many others) during the Celtic tiger. My decisions were to affect my beloved family’s finances for some time. This diagnosis was heartbreaking and I knew I had to take excellent care of myself. My morning ritual has changed. I sleep later as sleep is the greatest healer of all. I wake and stretch in bed and enjoy a cup of tea. When I get up I take it easy and do some stretching, yoga and occasionally go for a walk with my dogs. I enjoy a warm bath, and listen to relaxing music. I meditate, and enjoy doing household chores. My house is in order, warm and cosy and I love being in it and enjoying it.
It took me four years to come to terms with the change from ninja wake up rituals and 10k runs at 6am to a more relaxed and laid back ritual. We all face getting old ( if we’re lucky!) and any winding down at my age feels like a failure or cop out until you realise it’s actually the wonderful time of ” luxury living” I’ve coined that phrase! A time we have earned, now that our kids are adults, we can concentrate on enjoying our lives and doing what we love and are passionate about. I love to dance as if no one is looking and enjoy the wonderful daily opportunities , to walk in nature , cook soul food , bake , plump up cushions , enjoy log fires , reading and writing and beginning a new exciting an exhilarating career. Life is truly what we make it with the resources available to us. Life begins every morning, when we awake. It’s a new dawn, a new day and I’m feeling good! Open your eyes and let your first thought be….. THANK YOU for another chance to embrace life!