For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an early bird with an incredibly sensitive body clock. One on hand, this is a gift—it’s not hard for me to get up before dawn. I relish the quiet mornings while everyone in my house, and even the house itself, is still asleep. I love the way the stairs groan as I tiptoe down each one, creaking to life after a night of sleep (so long as the creaking doesn’t wake Selah). I love flicking on just the one lamp next to my favorite armchair, leaving the rest of the house in darkness, kindling the sensation of being the only one in the world awake. I love pouring freshly brewed coffee into the coconut milk I’ve heated and frothed, the foam lingering on my top lip as I take a sip.
But that darn body clock. After a few days of waking up at 5:00 am, I can’t sleep past that time anymore. It is nearly impossible for me to sleep in when I want to because my body clock is so sensitive. Often, I get up early for a few days in a row, get frustrated when I can’t keep sleeping when I need to, finally beak the cycle and sleep until 6:30, and then start the process all over again a few weeks later when my resolve returns. It’s been hard to get any creative traction in the morning with this pattern.
About a month ago, I was looking down the line at my next big writing goal: 10,000 words toward a single project. For the sake of submission, I had to finish it within 3 weeks. And as I ticked off what I could do if I devoted every single weekend nap time to it (reserving my weekday lunches for blogging), I would finish it in . . . 2.5 months. So I asked myself, What do I want more? Do I want to sleep until 6:30? Or do I want to this creative project?
I wanted the project.
So I set my alarm for 5:00 every day, wrote 500 words each morning, and ticked the little box on my Powersheets goal tracker, which is surprisingly satisfying. I wrote during Saturday and Sunday nap times too, as usual, and I knocked out that creative work—all 10,000 words of it—in less than 2 weeks.
Now, this may or may not be a sustainable habit in the long term. I’m not sure yet. But for now, I’m still getting up between 5:00 and 5:30 every day because I’m enjoying it. For too long I said, “I don’t have time to take on such a long project. That will have to wait for a different season.” But now I’m finding that this season isn’t the right one because I suddenly have more free time. This season is the right one because I decided this goal was important to me now.
And hear me clearly on this: some seasons are genuinely not the right ones. Babies don’t sleep through the night, sick relatives need to be cared for, and sometimes the best thing you can do for your own body is sleep as late as you possibly can. But sometimes, we can choose another way.
It thrills me to see those words and pages add up. It fills me to do work as holy as creating something from nothing in the darkness of the morning. It stills me to know that whatever else happens today, I made time for myself.
Whether you can make 30 minutes in the morning or 2 minutes at night, how might you carve out some time and use it for good?
Here’s more about what I learned, loved, and read in February.
What I Learned
- Our smartphone usage is a bigger problem than we ever could have imagined. For a long time, I’ve been “trying” (not very hard) to get my phone usage under control. But because I didn’t see it as a legit problem/addiction (vs. just a harmless habit), I didn’t make any lasting changes. After reading this article, though, I was so horrified that I temporarily quit social media and kept my phone out of reach for 90% of the day. Well, it worked. I’m still being very careful with the apps I keep on my phone (I uninstall IG every single time I’m done with it to prevent mindless scrolling), but I feel free and present and connected instead of being a slave to the tiny device in my pocket.
- I’m not powerless. This month there was another school shooting, this time in Parkland, Florida. (You can read my thoughts about this here.) I spent some time feeling pretty hopeless and powerless about our ability as private citizens to change the tide of this horrifying reality. But last week I attended a local meeting of Moms Demand Action (part of Everytown for Gun Safety), and it felt so good to actually do something and not just talk about it. The leader of the group said they usually have 3-5 people at monthly meetings, but that night, there were well over 150 people packed into a church basement. I know it’s been said many times—and I have said it too—that if people didn’t care after Sandy Hook, nothing will make them care. Well, maybe Congress still doesn’t care, but there is a sea-change happening in the general public, and I am here for it and a part of it. Want to call your reps and be part of the change? The Everytown for Gun Safety website makes it unbelievably easy—just enter your address to pull up all your reps and scripts for asking them to vote for common-sense gun regulations.
- Snow on the ground makes for a perfect light reflector, even when taking photos indoors. But I can’t say this is enough for me to wish for an early-spring snowstorm.
What I Loved
- Comedy specials. Dan and I have been loving watching comedy specials lately, and it seems like we have better access than ever thanks to streaming! Here are some of my recent favorites: Ryan Hamilton, Trevor Noah, Pete Lee (this last one isn’t a special, but I hope he gets one soon!)
- Pilates. I’ve been wanting to join a Pilates reformer gym for a few years, but there weren’t any in my area. Enter Club Pilates! I’ve been going for about two months now, and I’m loving learning the basics, connecting my body and mind, and working muscles I didn’t know I had. Working out now feels like self-care vs. something I have to do.
- The Olympics. Okay, I know the Olympics are rife with problems and probably corruption but GOODNESS it’s so fun to watch those incredible athletes. (How about Chloe Kim on the halfpipe and Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot in pairs skating?) I love knowing that other people all over the country are tuning in to cheer on USA, and I think we could all use a little dose of that unity.
- This hat. My best friend, Erin, knitted it for me, and I’m obsessed with the details and that perfect periwinkle color! She bowls me over with her talent every time she sends me something new. You can find her work on Instagram @cedarchestknits.
What I Read
For the month of February, I was inspired by Erin (the same friend as above!) to read books about racial justice and/or written by people of color. I did finish up the mystery novel and the parenting book I was working on at the beginning of the month, but after that I started on our shared project. I didn’t get through as many titles as I wanted to, so I’ll be continuing into March.
- A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny: This is book four in the Inspector Gamache series and definitely my favorite so far. This story set at a picturesque waterfront inn in the woods of Quebec, and I was guessing who the murderer was until the very last minute. There were threads of unrequited love and companionship, which made this one even more human and realistic. 4 stars.
- No-Drama Discipline by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson: This book saved my parenting, my sanity, maybe even my whole life (there’s no drama to see here, folks). To be totally honest, I picked up this after trying to read Shepherding a Child’s Heart and all but throwing it across the room. I hoped there was something better out there—something written by child-development experts, for example. The methods in No-Drama Discipline (all based on neuroscience and brain development in children) made so much sense to me, although it has been a little tricky to distill it down to a toddler level. (To that end, I’m currently reading No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline without Shame, which is super compatible with this book.) Basically, this is a non-punitive, respectful method of discipline that has lowered my blood pressure and given me the tools (and the mindset) to help Selah build emotional and cognitive skills, which has in turn strengthened our relationship. (We’re both melting down far less frequently too.) 4 stars.
- Divided by Faith by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith: This is a must-read for every white evangelical Christian in America. It’s a wake-up call, a reality check, a mic drop—pick your descriptor. The Goodreads description does this book far more justice than I can: “[The authors] found that despite recent efforts by the [evangelical] movement’s leaders to address the problem of racial discrimination, evangelicals themselves seem to be preserving America’s racial chasm. In fact, most white evangelicals see no systematic discrimination against blacks. But the authors contend that it is not active racism that prevents evangelicals from recognizing ongoing problems in American society. Instead, it is the evangelical movement’s emphasis on individualism, free will, and personal relationships that makes invisible the pervasive injustice that perpetuates racial inequality.” If you’ve ever wondered what people mean when they talk about “systemic racism,” this book is an approachable and compelling way into the conversation. 4 stars.
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: This book fooled me: it is small in its trim size and only 150 pages, but it packs so many punches. My friend Lindsey said she was struck by the hopelessness in this book, though not necessarily in a bad way, and I have to agree. This is an unflinching, unapologetic look at the exploitation of black bodies written as a letter from the author to his son. There were parts I struggled to understand, and I attribute this 100% to the fact that I am a white female. I pushed through those parts by reminding myself that the goal here was to see through a lens that is different from mine, and I’m so glad I did. 4 stars.
- Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward: Heavy, heavy, heavy. The book opens with a descriptive scene detailing the slaughter of a goat, and it only gets more difficult from there. Despite how hard parts of it are to read, the language is gorgeous and lyrical. In fact, the main thing that bothered me about this book was that the writing was almost too lyrical in some parts. Much of the language felt like it was the author’s, not the narrator’s, and it took me out of the story. Overall, this was a haunting, stunning novel about the ghosts of our past and how bearing witness to their stories is the only way we can really be free. 4 stars.
What I Clicked
- “Matt Mayberry, who works at a California startup called Dopamine Labs, says it’s common knowledge in the industry that Instagram exploits this craving by strategically withholding ‘likes’ from certain users. If the photo-sharing app decides you need to use the service more often, it’ll show only a fraction of the likes you’ve received on a given post at first, hoping you’ll be disappointed with your haul and check back again in a minute or two. ‘They’re tying in to your greatest insecurities,’ Mr. Mayberry said.” (Your smartphone is making you stupid, antisocial and unhealthy. So why can’t you put it down? by Eric Andrew-Gee)
- “This is the great fear, isn’t it? That we have our babies and though we love them fiercely, we’re also so tired, drained, empty, pulled, and we fear it’ll never change. That we’re stuck in a perpetual cycle of naps and snacks and bath times. Our hearts sit with the tension that we wanted this motherhood, but we’re also captive to it.” (It Gets Better by Sonya Spillman)
- “Friend, I know there is a LOT of crap on Facebook vying for your attention. Cute videos of cats and clever listicles; memes and gifs galore. Add in a few click-bait political articles and this is what people are sharing on Facebook 24/7. . . . The sad truth is: content like this takes up so much space that there’s hardly any room left for anything meaningful.” (How To Support The Writers + Artists You Love by Ashlee Gadd)
- “I want to find the pregnant writer just now buying it. I want to hold my novel beneath her nose. Smell it, I would say. See my name on the spine. It’s okay to want your name here. You can want this too.” (The Baby, the Book, and the Bathwater by Heather Abel)
What I Wrote
- Who I Could Have Been
- My 3 Guiding Words for 2018
- Armchair Chats // 2017 Wrap-Up and About 1,000 Book Recommendations