I am not an especially great “morning person.”
A poor sleeper, I sometimes awaken with a wearying sense of fatigue. Stirring from slumber, I push away discouraging dreams. If I’ve awoken during the night, worries that wouldn’t trouble me much during normal waking hours keep me awake.
In other words, I’m the kind of person who needs coffee and a hot shower to perk up and get agreeably pleasant. Before that, family, tread lightly.
I know I’m not alone in this. There are funny Facebook postings about people who don’t want anyone to speak or approach them until they’ve had their coffee. A friend posted one of these once, about husbands who dare not speak before their wives have been sufficiently caffeinated.
Like most jokes, there’s truth behind it, and several people piled on affirmatively with humorous comments about their beleaguered spouses married to early morning crabs.
It was funny, until further down in the thread there was a plaintive little post that said merely, “I wish I had someone to talk to me in the morning.”
This was a wake-up call, so to speak, to us early morning grumps, mainly me. What may be comic to some people may bring up loneliness or yearning in another.
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” wrote Henry David Thoreau, to which we must add, lots of women do, too, and by the way, this is not a good quote to think about when you wake up in the middle of the night.
Nor is it a good quote to think about before coffee, and it’s not a quote which should describe Christians.
At a recent Mass our Sunday reading was from 1 Peter 3:15-18, and included this line: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” The homilist that day told us we should spend time thinking about what our explanation would be. Hope defines a Christian. Hope is the noisy and exuberant, sometimes somber and diligent, antithesis to quiet desperation. Hope is what gets us out of bed in the morning, albeit occasionally reluctantly.
Vivian Hampton Wright is a writer and editor at Loyola Press, and she wrote a reflection that deeply touches me. It’s short, and each line begins, “Love as if…”
Her first line is becoming a mantra for me: “Love as if loving is the first thing on your to-do list.”
I am a dedicated maker of to-do lists. They energize me, and later reward me when I see little checks on each item. I am that person — and admit it, you probably are too — who will add something I’ve already done to the list just for the joy of checking it off.
What, I wondered, would it do to my early morning lethargy if I woke to recall that quote? Whom could I love, how could I love, as the first thing on my list? Who could I smile at, phone, wave to as I get the paper, say “good morning” to pleasantly? How much would gratitude and a smile-the-second-you-get-out-of-bed change my attitude? And lead to a day of loving?
Wright’s other lines bear pondering as well, like “Love as if loving can heal all wounds,” or “Love as if this is your last opportunity to love.”
Opening your arms — literally opening them as you get out of bed — to gratitude and the opportunity to love is a good practice for deflecting morning grumpiness. I’m working on it. Meanwhile, coffee please.
Wright’s writings can be found online at ignatianspirituality.com.