Now that the children sleep through my dawn tip-toeing over creaky floors, I am finding early mornings productive writing time. I am also slightly obsessive, because now I cannot sleep because the writing calls. My eyes open at 4:58 every morning, two minutes before my phone is set to vibrate me awake.
The routine these last 48 days works in its tedium. Sloppily pour coffee into comically over-sized cup, take a few deep breathes, and see if I can write three pages of anything — usually drivel — in under twenty minutes. My inner editor fortunately likes to sleep in, so at 5:00 it’s all words, no worries. Extraneous and self-indulgent? Welcome to the page! Weasely and unattractive? Sure, come on in. Tepid and fearful? The water is fine. Jump in.
A few minutes in, my Writer Brain flips on and takes my thoughts by the neck. “Stand up straight! Make yourself heard! Have fun!” It’s like improv on the page, at least the way I wanted improv to be. One idea following another, or sometimes one idea that only brushes hands with the previous idea in a way that makes no sense, but doesn’t have to. It just needs to be honest.
I write quickly to beat my inner editor, who I love and need, but she is fearful and precise. I try not to disturb her.
My children wake up. Sometimes after 750 words, sometimes after 2000, sometimes after I should have written 2000 but I’ve gotten caught up in distraction. Once they are up, my writing mind collapses in a heap, sometimes satisfied, sometimes not. If I do not make it to my desired 1667 (a number gleaned from NaNoWriMo) before I magically transform from a sparkly word weaver back into a mothering pumpkin, I try to keep that writing brain warmed up and nimble. It’s like when Olympic diving: there is a warming pool they go into between dives, trying to keep focused and ready, and not giving a flying fig if the entire world sees them pulling their swimsuits out of uncomfortable places.
If there is a gnarl in the writing, I try to unknot it while making breakfast, but I am unable to either devote enough attention to it or put it away completely, so I’m in a creative nether area that serves little purpose. It can lead to excessive grumpiness.
The kids also have routines, each one falling into habits that I can’t say are completely awful. The oldest comes and sits by me, curling luxuriously under a blanket, and reads a book. He doesn’t like to talk in the mornings, so we mutter a loving good morning to each other and continue meandering in our own thoughts. I can write while he’s here.
Middle child is all external, despite his rich inner life. While later in the day he can happily stare into space and daydream for long, satisfying minutes, in the mornings he realizes he’s gone nine hours without talking to anyone. There is much information he needs to offload. He begins talking to me before he’s even in the room. He continues thoughts from the day before or shares commentary on what lies ahead for him that day, not always aware that I’m not capable of fully attending to anything or anyone at the moment. It feels like he and I are mid-conversation, and yet I’m completely lost on what we’re talking about. Once he’s in the room, he needs my presence. He also needs me to put a bagel in the toaster oven for him and get the cream cheese from the top shelf of the fridge while he tells me all about some random fact that must be connected to something we’ve spoken of once before.
The morning fetch begins in earnest as the little one stirs at the very moment the oldest realizes he’s also hungry. They are able to make a lot of their own meals, but there are still things I have to reach or I have to do, still. Then, despite routines and things being done the night before, there always seems to be a flurry of panicky activity to get them out the door in some state of readiness. Despite them having an hour-and-a-half to eat breakfast, get dressed, and do the most basic of chores, we are rushed. They complicate the process with their own distractions. I become a talking alarm clock. You have ten minutes before you need to brush your teeth. Detonation in ten, nine, eight…
It always feels like we are running late and running the risk of forgetting something important. It’s a sense of perpetually wondering if the stove is on, yet there is no real reason for it other than the lack of ability to bring one task to completion before beginning several others. The kids want fun, I want accountability and calm, and my husband just wants to go move into someone else’s house, I’m sure.
But through it all there is the sky. We generally only notice the sun and its rising as it relates to our estimated waking and departure time and, at certain times of the year, the glare it throws in our eyes when we stand in certain spots wondering where shoes and backpacks have wandered to.
But this morning was remarkable. The sky started as an unusual navy blue, promising spectacles to come. The sky, before turning blue, went through a palette of oranges and reds, pinks and purples, with some yellow as the sun was about to make its spectacular entrance. It was perhaps the unusual heat of this December, mixed with the low light of this time of year. Perhaps there was excess dust in the air. The sky was unreal and yet moored me to the moment, holding me by the shoulders with its magnificence.
When I opened my mouth to make another reminder to wash up or to double check the location of papers or bags or snacks, what came out was an appreciative gasp.
“Come, look.” Unspoken and unnecessary was “Be still,” because the full glory of the sunrise hushed us with its majesty.
We stopped. We beheld. The sky asked us to breathe and be together, and we did.