Today’s post comes from Steve Grooms
When I worked as a writer for Democrats in the House of Representatives, our radio man was a fascinating guy named John. During a lunch break, John once announced to the gathered staff that a recent study discovered that most fatal heart attacks occur early in the morning. We wondered: Why?
“First, people brush their teeth when they get up. We have toxins in our teeth. Brushing loosens them and sends them into the blood stream. Bingo! We drop dead still clutching our toothbrush!”
“The other thing,” John added, “is people use the toilet in the morning. A lot of people die of heart attacks while sitting on the toilet.”
The lunchroom went silent. “You can thank me later,” said John with a broad smile.
“Now there are two things you won’t be doing each morning. I just freed up a lot of precious time for you.”
In spite of John, I continue to have morning rituals. Older people find that rituals are comforting and they help us organize our lives. My rituals probably differ from yours.
Unlike most baboons, I am retired, I live alone and I have no pets.
Morning begins when I fire up my desktop computer. I don’t sleep much, so I’m often on the computer by 4 or 5 AM. The world outside my windows is dark, and no birds are yet filling the air with their tunes. I enjoy the radio while I’m at the computer, usually music on Folk Alley or NPR’s Morning Edition. I wear headphones to avoid disturbing the sleep of my upstairs neighbors.
As I drink black coffee I study my internet browser (Google’s Chrome). I’ve set Chrome up to display 16 web sites that I have “bookmarked” for easy access. I always begin with the site on the far left side of the bookmark bar. That’s NBC News, which I use as my basic source of national and international news.
After reading interesting stories there I move to the next site to the right, which is the online version of the Washington Post. That’s a great site. I can easily spend an hour reading all the news, op/ed and lifestyle stories in this (paperless) paper.
The last thing I read on the Post site is my favorite: Carolyn Hax’s column of personal advice. I never used to read advice columns. Carolyn’s column starts with letters in which readers describe their screwed up lives and dilemmas. Then Carolyn speaks up to analyze the situation and propose solutions. Damn, she’s good!
Next comes the online version of the Star Tribune. I read that closely. While my body is in Oregon much of my heart is in Minnesota. Following that, I read the online version of The Oregonian. That paper delivers weak writing in a frustrating format. I rarely waste much time with it.
Having read news stories for maybe two hours, I move right again to the link for Trail Baboon. That’s my treat after studying so many depressing news items.
Next comes the NPR site, a highly varied compendium of stories running on NPR. After that I read MinnPost. Next is Politico, a political news magazine that is often boring but not always. I finish my computer time by indulging my weakness for news about the Minnesota Vikings. I blush to confess I read five web sites that talk about nothing but the team. There are, I suppose, worse vices.
All that computer time accounts for maybe three hours of my morning. Then I move to the second big event of the day: writing my letter. Since I’ve mentioned this often before, I won’t say much here. In 1999 two things happened at about the same time. An old friend lost her husband to cancer. My marriage ended.
The two events merged in an odd way. My friend was living in a valley outside a tiny town in extreme southeastern Minnesota. While she had a few friends, she was an outsider living in a highly conservative corner of the state. I began writing daily email letters to her to soften her grief and chat about progressive politics. What I didn’t understand for many years was that my friend was handling being a widow well, but I needed the correspondence as a way of processing my own grief. I write a letter each morning, even on days when I can barely stand thinking about my life. Writing those letters is healthy for me. Knowing I “have” to write them encourages me to think more about events in my life, living a little more completely.
My letters give me a reason to reflect on each passing day and to seek meaning in the mundane events of my life. I often roam the back alleys of my history, relishing old memories and rediscovering myself. Just as singers need to sing and athletes need to exercise, writers need to write. The daily letters have become a crucial connection with that part of me.
Do you have a morning ritual?