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Staring at the Clock

On this week's Keepin' It Real, what was Cam Doing today at 4:59am? Well, he wasn't getting out of bed. That we know for sure.

Most mornings I’m staring at the clock about 4:30 am waiting to get up. I won’t allow myself to get out of bed before 5am. Getting your day started at 5am means you’re aggressive. You’re eager to get going. Getting out of bed before 5am means you have a problem. They’re slight gradations. Minutes matter, and 4:59am is a good bit different from 5am. I stare at the clock until it turns 5 when I feel like it’s ok to jump up and get the coffee started.

Most of my friends are much the same. I sat at my kitchen table last Saturday night with two friends as we waited for the beef ribs to get to 203 degrees, which, according to one of my kitchen guests, is the magic temperature for beef ribs. Each of us talking about how early we get up and what we do in those early morning hours. It’s worth noting that none of us do anything much interesting at all at this time of day. We make busy. We putter around, each thinking that our behavior at that hour must be fascinating to others, and we can’t wait to tell them about it. It’s not. As different as we think we are, we’re all remarkably the same at that time of day.

Years back, I saw that when I accomplished something at that time of day it set a precedent for getting stuff done throughout the day. If I could check something off my list first thing in the morning – even something small - then I was likely to accomplish more during the day. This is to avoid staring into my phone as my first action of the day, which leads to a poor beginning to the day. So at night, I cue up my early morning project. It’s simple stuff. I fold laundry, empty the dishwasher, take trash to the street, change a lightbulb, something small done with one eye on the coffee maker. Because when the coffee maker beeps that the coffee is ready, the projects stop, the coffee goes into my cup, and it’s go-time for the day, but in that short amount of time the coffee is brewing, I’ve made progress on having a good day.

It’s unfair that the first fifteen minutes of each day has such great influence over the following sixteen hours. I’m more like a child protecting its pacifier than any sort of adult doing adult things, but I’ve learned, so goes my morning, so goes my day. A more mentally disciplined person would never allow that to happen. They can set a positive trajectory by shaping their thoughts anytime of the day. I, however, am vulnerable to those first fifteen minutes. It’s shocking, and, frankly, it disappoints me about myself.

Amazing how beholden we are to our routines, isn’t it? Amazing how we count on them like we do. I can choose to get out of my routine and enjoy it, but knock me out of my routine unwillingly, and I struggle to keep my day from deteriorating, so I protect it, and any parent knows what I know about myself: You don’t mess with the pacifier.

I’m Cam Marston, and I’m just trying to Keep It Real.

Cam Marston is the Keepin' It Real host for Alabama Public Radio.