This was the surprisingly harsh lesson I had to learn when I first started developing a morning routine. I was trying to come up with a routine that really worked for me, that would make me feel energised and have me ready and willing to write. Have me willing to join the day. I experimented a lot, based on things I’d read or heard, or simply thought other people did.
I developed this habit of waking up very early in the morning and preparing strong black coffee. I love the smell of coffee and it’s what I imagine a proper, real-life writer would drink.
I had this fantasy of myself sitting on my kitchen countertop, looking out onto the street as the world woke up, holding a huge cup of black coffee, my hair piled high on top of my head, hanging down in strands like this black and white picture I’d seen of Bridget Bardot. I even considered for the briefest moment taking up smoking. Sultry me, with my soft, big blonde hair, and thick eyelashes, holding black coffee in one hand, a cigarette in the other, posed like an icon …
… hmm … maybe I should look into buying some false lashes … yes, quick little look on Pinterest before I do anything. And I’ll look up some make up tutorials on youtube. I really need to buy a fancy new coffee mug as well. I wonder where I saw that picture of Bridget … better google it. And maybe research coffee machines too while I’m at it. I’m sure I can find a good deal on … etc. etc. etc.
And so I began my routine of waking up early every morning to wash and blow dry my hair, then apply a full face of make up with ridiculous sixties eyes, and sampled various coffee beans from around the globe. If I could just find the right blend I thought.
But I never did. Coffee just doesn’t agree with me. It makes my body jittery, and my mind chaotic. And I could never get my hair to look like Bridget’s. My face wasn’t pretty enough, and my hair wasn’t thick enough, and lips weren’t pouty enough … And screw it, I’m going back to bed. I’ll trying rewashing my hair tomorrow and write something then.
My fantasy of waking up a beautiful sex symbol, some famous writer who drinks coffee in the mornings and words just spill out of her, sentences spun into best sellers, to be studied in schools for decades to come, like Rumpelstiltskin spinning straw into gold just didn’t come into fruition.
Damn. Why couldn’t I just wake up and look like Bridget Bardot and be able to write with ease like Stephen King, and finish novels as insightful and moving as Zadie Smith. If I could just wake up like that, then everything would be fine.
If I could just wake up and not be depressed anymore.
My problem was, throughout all those months of trialling various morning routines, I had missed the point of the exercise completely.
I didn’t want to change; I wanted to be changed.
I wanted to wake up fixed and the morning routines I was experimenting with were the routines that belonged to that magically fixed person. They were not the routines of me, a person in a state of change, a broken person who was still piecing herself back together.
“I hate to break it to you, kiddo,” I thought to myself one morning after inserting the millionth bobby pin into my sagging beehive, “but Bridget Bardot you ain’t.”
My body weakened with despair. “Back to bed,” it pleaded, “so tired.” It was the truth though. I wasn’t really looking at myself when I fixed my hair in the mirror each morning. I was still in denial, still not accepting myself.
I needed to truly look at myself, my real self, the one who existed now in this moment and ask “What does this person need to do in order to mend?”
Unfortunately, what I need to do is rather dull and un-sex-symbolly. It involves waking up, lying still and meditating for ten minutes or so to give myself time to fully become conscious, to notice any lurking moods or anxieties, so I’m aware of whether this is a day when I’m feeling ok, or if it’s a day when I need to be a bit more careful with myself.
This is boring and unglamorous, but I can’t argue with my rationality while my ego still jumps up and down begging for coffee in a cool cup and a new lacey nightdress to drink it in, that this simple act of lying still does make me feel better. It makes me feel stronger, and more calm, and in control of myself.
Then I get up and stretch my body, performing three sun salutations. That’s all – three. Another fantasy routine I had developed when I decided to scrap the Bridget Bardot project, was that I would be a super lean, clean eating yoga chick and obsessively watched yoga videos of these very advanced yoga practitioners who could bend back to place their feet on their heads, and move from handstand into plank in one motion.
Turns out, I am not a sexy yoga babe any more than I am Bridget Bardot.
I perform three sun salutations, and I don’t do them well. I don’t perform them in tiny shorts either, exposing long limber tanned legs. Instead, I will be found performing them in the scabby black leggings and sweaty t-shirt I slept in. My hair will often be greasy and tied, not in a neat ballerina’s bun, but in one giant knotty mess.
This is the reality of me. It’s not as cool as I would like, and I am trying to wash my hair more often. But this is the person I am right now. And as graceless, and as lame as she is, she is more alive and functioning than any other version of myself that I have ever been before.
I write everyday. I exercise (definition of the word is open to interpretation but basically I define it as at least leaving the house and going for a brief walk). I work hard to be kind to myself, and kind to those around me.
And I now go to sleep, scabby t-shirt and all, feeling proud for having accomplished a great many things that day.