I’ve never been a morning person.
Then I went to Iceland for three weeks.
And everything changed.
Iceland is seven hours ahead of Seattle. During the summer, they have what they call the “midnight sun” where there’s only about two hours of darkness (not complete darkness) between 2AM and 4AM. For days, I would stay up until 2am or 3am and then sleep until noon. Marcus and I often wouldn’t leave our apartment until 3 PM.
So, while I loved all the amazing natural wonders that we saw, and appreciated the life lessons that reappeared for me while traversing this magical island, after three weeks of varying degrees of jet lag, I was ready to come home.
I wanted to get back to a regular sleep routine. Even more, I hoped that flying west to Seattle would cause me to have reverse jet lag, and that it would do something miraculous.
I hoped that it would turn me into a morning person.
I have not been a morning person since the day I was born.
As a kid, I used to sleep until noon on weekends and it felt perfectly normal to me. It was not, however, normal to the rest of my family, who would prod, chide, nag me to just get up. In college, I slept a lot. In graduate school, I slept a little less but still more than the average person. When I started working full time, I had to be at work at 8 AM or 8:30 AM, so for about 14 years, I felt sleep deprived. Then in 2010, I quit my job, opened up my own law school admissions consulting business, and because I had a flexible schedule, I caught up on my sleep for the next six years.
When I stopped consulting to write full time at the beginning of this year, I thought things would change. I thought that once I was doing what I always dreamed of doing–writing full time–that I would have loads more energy and would sleep less. I thought I’d bound out of bed to write for hours and hours. It would be bliss!
It was nothing like that. If you’ve been reading past posts like this one, you know this. I still slept at least 9-10 hours a night, sometimes more. And the writing was hard to do, far from feeling natural or easy or blissful.
But then things changed.
A few days before we left Iceland, I wrote out a “Perfect Day” schedule for myself. Mind you, I’ve done this Perfect Day exercise many times over the years. It never quite works out. I’ve come to view it as a lot of wishful thinking, though that doesn’t stop me from doing it over and over. But this time, I allowed myself to get crazy and make it really perfect for me. So I wrote out a schedule that involved doing everything I really wanted to do–shower, eat breakfast, read, meditate, exercise, and write–before lunch. To do this, I needed to get up by 6AM.
The day we flew back to Seattle, Marcus and I were both so tired we ended up in bed by 8PM. I woke up at 3:30AM that night and realized it was too early to get up. I tried to fall back asleep and lay there and rested until it was 6AM.
Then I got up.
This was on Tuesday.
Same thing happened on Wednesday.
And again on Thursday.
And again on Friday.
It happened again today, Saturday.
I have been a morning person, out of choice and natural desire, not forced desire (like when I worked in an office and had to get up to go to work so I wouldn’t lose my job), for the LAST FIVE DAYS!
This may seem like nothing to some people, but to me, it is LIFE CHANGING.
Not only do I feel good when I get up at 6AM, I feel even better when I finish all my important things before lunch. I love having the rest of the day to do whatever I want to do and need to do.
I am finally, happily, a morning person!!!
It only took 44 years, a trip to Iceland, jet lag, and some wishful thinking.
Peg Cheng is the author of The Contenders, a middle-grade novel centered on the question, can enemies become friends? She is currently writing another novel that is a re-imagining of the Snow White fairy tale set in 1980s Seattle.
Art by Sveta Dorosheva.
So, it’s been about 5 days since your post. Are you still getting up with the birds? It’s intriguing–I would have thought something like jet lag would wear off (as it always has for me). Do you think there’s some other factor, some internal change that happened in Iceland? Or is it just desire and a hard reboot?
“I went to Iceland and the best thing I got was transformative jet lag.” There’s a t-shirt, or maybe a novel tour business lurking in this affair. Only you, Cubby.
Peg Cheng says
Ha ha! Yes, and only you would come up with the idea of turning my transformative jet lag experience into a startup business for novelists! I love it.
Except for last Sunday and today when I got up at 7am, I have been getting up every day for the past 11 days between 6 and 6:30am. In fact, I still wake up every night between 2 and 4am and have a hard time getting back to sleep. Unbelievably, this leads me to believe that I’m STILL on Icelandic time because during the last few weeks when I was there, I would get up between 9 and 11am (they are 7 hours ahead of PST).
But you’re right to ask if it was more than just jet lag. It was. Spending 3 weeks in a strange and beautiful place far from home helped me realize what was most important. And one of those things was writing. So, I hoped that the reverse jet lag would help me when we flew back to Seattle, but even if it didn’t, I was determined to start a new routine that would better support my creativity and my writing. Thanks for asking, Edgy.