The Early Mornings

I have always been one of those individuals who doesn’t like sleep. OK, it does make me feel better, and generally is a good way to put distance between yourself and a shitty day, but my appreciation of it lies purely on a functional level.

As such, I don’t ever “lie in”. I don’t know what such a thing is. For me, there is an optimal amount of sleep, and it lies somewhere between 7 and 8 hours, and that’s it. When I’ve reached it, I’m awake, and can’t go back to sleep. My brain gets restless and agitated, and starts stressing that any longer does nothing for me, and I could be getting on with a, no doubt, busy day.

I used to get by on a lot less sleep when I was in college, regularly surviving on 6 to 7 hours, and it made no difference to me. My theory of sleep is that your body adjusts to whatever you throw at it; as long as it’s not regularly under 6 hours, you’ll live, and not suffer too much.

This attitude to sleep is what I call “pragmatic minimalisation”. Sleep, once its brain optimisation functions are completed, is a barrier to life. Taken to its extreme, I would sleep as absolutely little as possible. But I recognise that would cause me harm over the medium and long term. Hence “pragmatic”. See, I don’t just make shit up.

This approach is now ruling my modern life, but in a brand new way for me.

The new life pattern has become starting every day at 5am. Yes, 5 o’clock. I have always loved the early mornings, but this is quite something. Since about November, I have decided to get up at this crazy hour… and not really for any apparent reason. I live 15 minutes from my place of work. I have no reason to do this. I could realistically get up at 8am, and still get into work for 9am.

But that needs to be put in context. I work for myself. I also work for another business, which I’m a director of. Both of these jobs require immense amounts of my time and concentration. And they are exhausting, frequently involving work beyond the “traditional” 5pm finish of most other businesses. And, my IT business generates hassle at all hours of the day. Even when I don’t answer the phone, I still get angry when someone calls me at 7:30, 8, 8:30pm… it still makes me think of work, and wonder what it could possibly be. This is painful, and can go on and on, even after I’ve gone to bed (between 9 and 10pm) on some unusual evenings.

Except. Except there is one time of day when people don’t call me. Ever. Mainly because they are safely tucked up in bed.

And that’s the early morning.

I can safely say that I have never received a call from a customer between 5am and 8am. And even then, the number of calls between 8am and 9am is extremely low, relative to the rest of the day.

This creates an incredible respite. A time of the day during which I know I will not be distracted. A time of day I know names won’t appear on my phone, or the adrenaline rush of the office phone ringing will send my concentration out the window. I haven’t had this for some time. Other people can get home from work and switch off, knowing they are done for the day. But I can’t. The e-mails keep coming, the phone can keep ringing, the texts do flow.

Yet none of that happens in the morning. It means that from 5am until pretty much 9am, I can, and often do, do my own thing. I like to get up and make a cup of coffee, something I have never done in my life. I can feel relaxed, and not rushed in the morning. I can even put some washing on, do some cleaning, listen or watch a TV or radio show I’ve missed.

But more often, I can do a little bit of work, knowing that I will be able to knuckle down for 1 to 2 hours, without distraction, and get it done. This can give me an incredible sense of achievement. Which makes me feel like the day starts well, and hopefully carries on that way. OK, it invariably doesn’t go that way, as the ceaseless calls and e-mails during the day push me in dozens of different directions.

But at least I get a few hours of me time.

I like it. And now the mornings are getting lighter, it’s only going to get better towards the spring and summer.

We’ll see how long it lasts…


Bespectacled Weakness

As a man, we generally aren’t very good at admitting that we have weaknesses.

Over the years I have always lived in as much denial as possible regarding my eyesight. It remains one of those mysteries to me. I don’t remember thinking my eyes were “not optimal” during my school years. And yet, for at least the last 10 years I’ve known that my eyes have been poorer than I’d like them to be.

Until a couple of weeks ago, the last time I attended the optician was in July 2003. The last time I’d get a free eye check on the NHS, I thought, optimistically. At the time, the optician said that my eyes weren’t great, and I was slightly long-sighted, but it was no great problem. As long as I was happy with it, I could get away with it.

With the recent eye pain I had been experiencing, I was worried enough that maybe something was going wrong. So it was time to put foolish male pride aside and see if there was something amiss.

The optician was surprised I’d never needed glasses before. While my eyesight isn’t poor, and I could continue to exist without glasses, it’s only now that I realise just how much of a difference that having corrected vision makes.

I type this post whilst wearing my new glasses. I’ve been wearing them for most of the day, and most of yesterday. It really is amazing to discover that the mild astigmatism you’ve been living with all your life has always caused all rays of light to be out of focus. I knew that was the case, but I didn’t realise just by how much.

When I wore them for the first time yesterday, they instantly made black text appear black. The greyish colour of text that I’ve always called black was just what I thought was black. If that makes sense. All of a sudden those sharply focused rays of light were creating true black. All of a sudden, text I could not read at a distance became readable. And last night, I saw the moon for the first time without having to squint to correct the slightly out of focus blurry halo it had around it.

I still don’t know if I am sold on this though. Hopefully it will reduce the eye strain I have been suffering recently, but I think I will stick to just wearing my glasses for when I’m at my computer or reading books. When I tried them out yesterday when I walked through town, I felt very weird. The pavement felt a lot closer than it used to. The refraction of rays around my peripheral vision made the world seem odd. And given that I can see everything anyway, I don’t think it makes sense to wear them all the time.

On the other side, maybe they make me look more interesting. It’s certainly fascinating to me that I can now see detail on my own face, like the pores on my forehead or nose, that I couldn’t see in the past, because in the past the blur across such the area made it appear smoother than it actually is. Perhaps this is not a good thing…

Will give it a couple of weeks and see how I feel…