Or, “How not to trash the day before it starts.”
I haven’t always hated mornings.
In fact, I remember, back in the day, actually liking them: a nice cup of coffee or tea, listening to CBC Radio, a bit of reading (the newspaper or a book), and then into the shower and on with the day. As long as someone wasn’t getting in my face (e.g., the roommate who used to think 7 a.m. was a great time to have a lively discussion about household finances), I was good to go.
But in the last year or so, I’ve noticed that my love of mornings has moved down the list to slightly below my love of invasive rectal procedures.
Worse, for the very first time in my life, I was lying in bed in the mornings, dreading getting up, dreading the treadmill of “URGENT! ASAP! Do it now!” that awaited me.
And finally, one day last week, as I was yet again stomping from the shower to my closet to my desk and angrily flinging open my laptop to a chorus of juicy expletives, I stopped cold and realized, “Oh my god. I hate mornings so much.”
And that made me sad. It also concerned me greatly, for two reasons.
First, as an Aspie, I work very hard to keep the “Angry Meltdown Monster” at bay, and yet somehow it was now a major part of every morning. What a colossal waste of time, starting every day wanting to punch things. The less the negative aspects of Asperger’s creep into my life, the better.
Second, and related, chronic anger can lead to serious health problems like heart attacks and strokes. As I get older, I am realizing the urgency of keeping this response controlled if I don’t want to end up in the ER — or a hearse.
I vowed to get to the bottom of it, and it didn’t take long: the culprit was my iPad.
I bought it last Christmas as (ironically) a means of relaxing and releasing stress. To that end, I do enjoy many of the online games (quizzes and word games, in particular), and the little chat functions in some of them that help me feel connected to my chums. The news apps are good too, and cheaper than paper subscriptions.
But on the downside, the iPad has an email app, and that, for me, was the rub: even when I opened the iPad over breakfast to read the news or play my turn at WordFeud, the little email icon would be lit up. “Look at me,” it would taunt. “Look at all the urgent, annoying things that await you!” And invariably, despite my best intentions, I would open the thing.
So in other words, before I had even taken my second sip of coffee, before the work day had even begun, I was inviting all of my project managers and bosses into my living room to clamour for my attention. I had become one of those people who are unable to unplug from work, ever.
This growing phenomenon (and its attendant mental and physical woes) is largely thanks to the ubiquity of Blackberrys, iPhones, etc., which has led to increased expectations that workers be available 24/7. And of course the reverse is true, turning the whole thing into an infinite loop: having a Blackberry or iPhone or iPad means you actually ARE available 24/7, and if you are available, work will present itself. Managers will call or email or text, and you ignore these at your peril. And around and around it goes.
(Even in the days before “electronics creep,” however, there were people who simply couldn’t leave the office behind; my former father-in-law always had his briefcase open somewhere in the house and spent chunks of every weekend creating the impression that he was indispensable to somebody, somewhere.)
This is a mushrooming global phenomenon, and as such is way beyond the scope of this blog. But the short version is that, for the most part, we are doing this to ourselves. Europeans, for example, generally have a much better work/life balance (ironically, despite enjoying far better and cheaper internet connections and rates for their many e-toys).
Anyway, long story short, in a world where so many things are beyond our control, I realized that this, at least, was one tiny thing I actually could change. So two days ago, on Sunday evening, I made myself a new rule: “No opening the iPad before start of business. Period.”
I even put a little sticky note on its cover to remind myself, in case I’m on autopilot in the morning — “For a peaceful morning: Do not open until start of work!”
I turn the sound off (or turn the device off completely) and there it sits, until I’m darn good and ready to open it.
Instead, I eat my breakfast, sit peacefully with the cat and a cup of coffee, and read whatever book I’ve got on the go (right now it’s Hero: The Buzz Beurling Story, by Brian Nolan), listen to CBC Radio, and maybe write in my journal a bit.
The emails will still be waiting there, and all the problems and stresses they contain. But until the work-day has actually begun, they’re simply not my problem.
So far so good. I’ll keep you posted.