As hard as I try to reset my body clock, I seem wired to wake up early. Some might envy my vivacious response to the alarm clock, but long-term this high octane approach can be exhausting and I’m realising that it may be limiting my attempts to spontaneously accept any evening invitations (perhaps I dream) that fall later than 7pm.
As a child I had it well under control. Sharing a room with my night owl older sister meant I had it drilled into me that any morning chattiness or opening of the blackout curtains would be unwelcome. A creative nerd, I realised that I could usefully get a couple of books finished before breakfast as long as I read them under the cover of my candlewick quilt, and didn’t expect any book club analysis from my gently snoring sibling. A pink torch giveaway from Bunty magazine was soon fashioned – Heath Robinson style – into an interesting head torch, secured to my forehead with my dressing gown cord.
As an adult, I sometimes now wish that I could recalibrate to enjoy the odd lie in. But no, I’m perky enough to get to early morning church services, bootcamp and pre-work runs which all make me sound like some kale-imbibing sun salutation. The downside is that it stands to reason that the only people that I tend to socialise with are other dawn chorus nutters. By the time the normal world arrives at their desk – ready to be jolted awake by a double expresso – my band of brothers will be exuding that smug glow of energy and chattiness that is the medal worn by those who already bagged their daily step count. By 4pm we’re not looking quite so smug, however.
Believe me, every holiday I try to adjust my body clock. I try setting the alarm clock later, but I just wake repeatedly in the night to check that I haven’t overslept.
Because I also suffer with an obsessive need to be early to any appointment, by default, not only do I gravitate to morning appointments, but I’m also invariably waiting in the car/pub/gutter well before the event starts, impatient for others to arrive/the sun to come up (delete as appropriate). I blame a boss I once had who used to lock the glass door of the board room at the precise moment he had scheduled the meeting to start, so that any late comer had to suffer the ignominy of trying (fruitlessly) to sneak into the room unnoticed. I tried this once with my students, but soon realised that they just welcomed the opportunity to be locked out of my lessons.
On a Sunday, I’ve realised that unless I rein myself in a little, I will be the only person ever chosen to do the bible reading at the early morning service – not because I read well, but because I’m the first one seen (and therefore clobbered) by the vicar. I’ve even taken to sitting in my car and catching up with social media, rather than being the first into church. I can then walk in with the rest of the congregation and pretend I’ve found it as hard as they have to get up and eat breakfast with the Lord.
This too has backfired; now family and friends know that they can readily catch me on text or email first thing, so their messages arrive earlier and earlier and I find myself waking up in the night to deal with correspondence.
I’ve tried switching exercise to the evenings – hoping this will exhaust me and keep me in bed longer in the mornings – but I’m programmed to a 4 pm dip and just can’t drag myself to any evening gym class. Even if I pack gym kit or running shoes so that I can go straight from work, my inner gremlins start telling me that the sofa or supper is calling. It seems to take twice the resolve to nail my marathon training (did I mention that I’m doing the London Marathon?) if I factor it into the evenings.
If you ask me to the cinema in the evening, I’ll find myself looking at the timing of the matinee performance. If you ask me out to dinner (please), I’ll quickly check the restaurant website to see if we can bag an early bird menu. Benjamin Button style, I’m reverting back into a child. At least I’m totally on top of my book list for bookclub.
My 2019 approach is to just keep pushing myself earlier and earlier in the hope that I might eventually push myself back past midnight and see what any night owls are up to. OF is talking about luring me in with the Macmillan Moonwalk and she’s appealing to my childhood Heath Robinson to see if we can adapt our customised ‘over shoulder boulder holders’ to supply expresso and Pro Plus on the go. She’s promised me that if we make it to the finish, I can be the chatty one as the sun comes up.