Time is a funny thing, isn’t it? On Twitter yesterday people were airing out their beliefs about Daylight Savings Time, and someone was musing about how we’d explain it to future alien races: It’s the day when humans reset time to fool themselves into thinking there was more sunlight.
And I thought that was a hilarious way to phrase it. Hilarious mostly because it’s absolutely the most logical thing I’ve ever heard. Of COURSE I want to optimize my days to include more sunlight.
But then I thought, is resetting our clocks to align with the natural rhythms of the Earth MORE out-there than quantifying time? In the book Slow Time , author Waverly Fitzgerald references a book by Jeremy Rifkin called Time Wars. She explains that:
Rifkin compares our practice of quantifying time to our relentless domination and exploitation of the natural world. Our pillaging of the environment can be linked to our artificial sense of time. We can use up resources of the earth faster than they can be replaced and produce waste at a pace too fast for the slower process of recycling. Just as we bought into the spatial myth that ‘bigger is better,’ we have been trained to believe the temporal myth that ‘faster is better.’ Living this way alienates us from our environment and causes physical and spiritual distress.
I really enjoy unraveling my beliefs about time, and one prominent theme that has come up over the past few weeks is that I keep trying to make myself a morning person. I actually remember setting alarms when I was in 2nd grade (age 7) so that I could wake up and shower before school, and since then I have always had an alarm set.
And I have always slept through my alarms, or slept through most of them, or snoozed when they went off, or turned them off and overslept, or relied on a roommate or calls from friends to get me places “on time.” I’m convinced that I never would have gone to crew practice in college if I didn’t have a roommate who excelled at waking up to just one alarm.
I’ve tried phone alarms, alarms that shake my pillow, putting my alarm across the room, setting more than 10 alarms for different “opportunities”, sunrise-simulating alarms, and many more.
But a few weeks ago, my body whispered to me the real truth: I don’t like having to be places in the morning. I want to ease into my day with coffee, comfies, writing, and relaxing.
That’s just all there is to it. I’m not really a morning person, at least not in the structured, achievement sense.
And I also came to the very blatant realization that I didn’t HAVE to be anywhere before noon most days of the week. Why was I forcing myself to adhere to that standard?
I was micromanaging my body, and not honoring its intuitive cycle and needs. I kept trying to force it into the box of Successful People Wake Up Early. And my body tried to reassert its own authority the only way it knew how: by making it easy for me to sleep through alarms.
Because every time I had to shut off another alarm, force myself into a pattern that didn’t serve me, my body intuited the messages that “You do not deserve to sleep any more. Your needs are not more important than this job/appointment/to-do list. This is the sacrifice you need to make in order to be successful, and the fact that you don’t jump out of bed every morning means there is something wrong with you. Suck it up.”
So last week I turned off all my alarms except for one that I reset the night before: the alarm I set was for 1 hour before I needed to LEAVE my house to be somewhere. That gave me enough time for breakfast, showering, makeup, and packing my stuff.
My rule was that if I woke up earlier I could get up if I wanted to. If not, the alarm going off would be the boundary of sleep time and the alarm signified that I had made commitments I wished to keep more than I wished to be asleep. But at least I wouldn’t be disturbing my slumber with alarm sounds.
An amazing thing happened: life went on. Nobody died, I wasn’t exceptionally unproductive, my businesses didn’t collapse. I just slept for 8-9 hours every night. And some days I woke up “early.” Like, early enough to watch the sun rise. Sometimes I got out of bed, sometimes I watched the colors in the window snuggled deeply into my covers.
I’ve loved it. I wake up and record my dreams. I slip into comfies and make some coffee and write. Then I eat. Or whatever. Maybe I check facebook and watch Netflix. Because I’m a badass. I let my mornings be intuitive and filled with ease. And then, generally I leave my house between 11 and 12 for my “day job.”
I recognize that this exact schedule may not be feasible or desirable for many people. But it’s of interest to start to examine your patterns around time: do you force a schedule that doesn’t feel natural and easy? Why? Is it worth it? Are there ways you could tweak it to reclaim a sense of rhythm in your life? If an anthropologist were to observe your behavior and attitude, what conclusions could she draw regarding your beliefs about time?