Coffee, Teeth, Journal, Run!

Wake up and run

Morning routine may mean a harsh waking to the alarm clock and the day's tasks. Is there an alternative? Alarm clock, hand slapping the buzzer. Rolling out of bed with a groan. Staggering to the bathroom. Staring into the mirror, then teeth, face, shuffling to the kitchen to switch on Mr. Coffee, then back to the bedroom. Blinking at the time, yes, a run is possible, no, a run will have to wait.

Shower, dress, kids, carpool, office. Running, running, running.

Is that how your morning goes?

Over the years, my morning routines have been rigid and fluid and rigid again, changing dramatically at those life stages you would expect: college, the working world, living abroad, juggling babies and the office, kids and the office, kids then teens, and work from home. Sharing life with a partner shifts routines; tasks may be spread, though there are more to shoulder. There are also more pleasures.

My neighbor’s morning routine

From my bed, I can see the rickety porch of a neighbor’s house, beyond my yard, beyond the tangle of downed trees and a rusty fence covered in vine, beyond the hardwoods that have shed their leaves for the season. I wake early, and I begin to write before coffee, before moving from my bed, before heading to the bathroom. But I glance out my window as I do, assessing and adjusting timetables, simply from the look of the sky.

Often, I see my neighbor, a man in his 40s, who takes five minutes on his porch in his bathrobe. He never sits. He stands, stares off, then goes inside. Even on the most blustery and bitter mornings.

I take in the day through the window panes; he breathes it into his lungs, standing.

Work-life balance Morning rush rush rush doesn't help work life balance get off to a good start.

Do you wake and immediately run the to-do list through your head? Do you take time over coffee, writing in a journal, or in exercise, granting yourself something before feeding the family or plunging into the commotion of the day?

Do you feel as though the day never anchors itself in a way that energizes rather than wearing you out, and seeming out of control?

  • How did you start your day today?
  • What does it say about your life at this stage?

I write

I wake and write, tapping on my keyboard, barely exiting from dream. I wake and fill the coffee filter, words tumbling noisily in my head and wanting their way. Demanding it. I give them steam – good or bad. I feel starved when I cannot.

Beyond first words, enough to lubricate my tongue and my spark my consciousness, it is all about my son. The start of his day which is still the core of my own, and my best parenting self which may require one hour of the morning or its entirety. And then I write again, still open enough to do so because my waking began with words.

Shifting routines (morning sex)

When there is a man in my heart and in my bed, I wake to a different sort of routine, to an anchor that is anything but mechanical. This is the sweetest awakening, one of morning sex or morning lovemaking. I do not have this pleasure often, but when I do, I savor. Even the writing will wait. Living must come first, for words to come naturally.

Healthy routines for adults

We say that routines are good for children, yet we forget that routines are good for people. With so much on our plates, the crazy requirements of full if chaotic lives, can we make room for healthier adult routines? A few extra minutes for the self or the couple, so we may benefit from the structure, security, and satisfactions that heighten well-being?

Can our rituals of sameness be supple enough for necessary variation?

This morning, my neighbor was on his porch as usual. It was 22 degrees. This morning, he wore a hat.

© D A Wolf



  1. says

    I often say that the routines are more necessary for me as the mom than for my kids! There’s something comforting in knowing what comes next when there is still so much beyond our control!

  2. says

    Like yours still, my mornings revolve around the demands of children. This morning, however, was a bit different. Tiny Baby woke us up earlier than usual. My throat was very sore so I nursed him and then Husband, dearest Husband, stayed up with the wee one while I went back to bed.

    One of the things I’ve found most challenging about being a parent is the way in which a routine is often hard to come by. The contours of our days are defined by our children – outsiders, even if they are the most intimate of outsiders. As difficult as it must be to be a parent who works outside of the home, I wonder whether it might be nice to have at least part of a day – morning, or afternoon – that is shaped by my own appointments and tasks rather than by those of my kids.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      I empathize. All the hours run together, and often night into day into night again, and it can go on for years.

      I did work outside the home – about 10 minutes away from my babies – in the first years of their lives. To be frank, I would’ve gone nuts if I hadn’t, with no family and a traveling husband. Especially since the elder didn’t sleep through the night until he was close to 4 years old (not so the younger). So for me, it was baby time from 6pm until 8am, Monday through Friday. And then office time. The weekends were baby time/family time.

      It was when they went into elementary school (ages 4 and 5) that I was able to negotiate working from a home office, not all the time but most of the time. A different sort of challenge, but with the structure in place I needed to fulfill all my responsibilities.

      Do you foresee giving yourself that morning or afternoon time for you sometime soon?

  3. says

    I purposely get up before I truly have to just to have morning time for myself. I am a morning person and like the quiet time after the alarm and coffee making but before anyone else has to be up and at the day.

    I did have to laugh as I am not sure your neighbor would have stayed out long at my house this morning. The wind chill has not been above zero since about 7 am.

  4. says

    “Living must come first, for words to come naturally.”


    In times–like now–when I seem to be living my least healthy life, I fondly look back at those periods of morning routine and ritual that were more about me than about my children–or, as it were, about just getting by. I try and try and try to summon the energy and the motivation to get back to those routines. To my morning workouts. To waking before sunrise to sip coffee and write in peace. Will I start tomorrow? Will I begin on Monday? How long will it take me to find the courage to begin anew something that I know brings me much peace and joy? Before I realize that an hour’s run gives me more solace than an extra hour of sleep.

    And yes, slipping on my running shoes or not, my eyes pop open and the running list churns once more, guiding me to all that must be completed. Ah, life. Exhausting. And full!

  5. says

    I admire people like Nicki who get up early to have time to themselves. My mornings consist of “Hurry Up!” “We’re running late!” “What part of hurry up didn’t you understand?”

    I have berated myself over and over again, because I know the lack of time in the morning is directly my fault for not getting up earlier. But it’s so hard to convince yourself when lying in that warm soft bed. And I am a sleeper. My perfect life would be a work day that started until 1 and went until 9, a couple drinks and bed time until around 1 or 2. I think it’s immaturity on my part.

    After I hit 30 am I going to start not being able to sleep past 7 am ?

  6. says

    I know I need to write in the morning, it’d be amazing to have the house quiet, the kids at school and all that time to myself, but, like a robot, I find myself at my exercise class six days a week at 9:15 without fail. And I mean I don’t think I missed one of those days all year. It gives my otherwise unstructured life structure, it makes me happy and healthy, it gets me out of my lonely house among people. But it does play havoc with the writing since, suddenly on the go, I then can’t stop really until after everything else stops, at about 10pm.

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