The alarm goes off at 4:45. For a split second, my brain whispers “Shh, shh. It’s only a dream. Go back to sleep.” Then my higher brain asserts itself: “Um, sorry, but no. You actually must get up. You must get up and you must go to work.” (In case anyone is wondering, my higher brain has a lovely, posh British accent—weirdly enough, it’s a British man.)(Possibly a Gay British man.) Thus prodded, I swing my legs out of bed and put my feet on the floor. I sit there for several minutes, trying to remember what it is I do next. Right, clothes. Throw on sweats and a t-shirt and stumble to the hall. My big Golden, Amber, follows me, wagging her whole butt in her happiness at being awake. If you are a naturally cranky person, a Golden Retriever is either the very best or the very worst dog you can have. They are unnaturally cheerful animals.
I make coffee and take my vitamins, then head to the shower. I feel sluggish and disconnected from myself, and so very tired. Did I sleep poorly last night? I don’t recall any periods of wakefulness, and I know I fell asleep quickly. Still, I don’t feel like someone who had a full night’s sleep. I’m starting to wonder if I should be worried about this constant state of exhaustion I’m operating in. I feel tired all the time now, and there’s really no reason for it. I think about a friend of mine with a seven month old and a four year old, neither of whom sleep through the night. I wonder if she would smack me if I told her I was tired. I decide she probably would—we’re not as close as we once were, so it wouldn’t be like smacking a real friend.
I’m caught in two vicious circles. I get up way too early, so I’m tired. But because I’m tired, I move slowly in the morning, so I have to get up earlier than a quicker person would. Also, I’m tired because I’m not getting enough exercise; I don’t exercise enough because I’m too tired most nights. I try to get to bed between 9 and 10, to support the 4:45 wake-up. I don’t get home until 6 most nights, and fitting in a dog walk, dinner, socializing with my daughter, and exercise is nearly impossible. It’s better in the summer, when dog-walking and exercising can be combined, but at this time of year it’s too dark, wet, and cold to even consider being out there longer than is strictly necessary.
I rummage through the fridge, looking for lunch stuff. We are out of apples, and nearly out of peanut butter, two items that are necessary for life in this house. I’m annoyed, realizing this means a mid-week stop at the grocery store, at the busiest possible time of day. Also, this adds another item to the after work to-do list, and almost guarantees that I will skip exercise again. My higher brain butts in to point out that I could still exercise, if I dash into the store, grab apples and peanut butter and dash out again, but subsides, feelings hurt, as my low brain snorts derisively. The store that’s on the way home is not my regular store—it will take more time to find what I need, plus Husband will be with me, and will think of at least two items he needs, which will have to be hunted down as well. I can feel myself getting crankier by the second, and force myself to take a deep breath, and give Amber, who as usual is positioned directly behind my right heel, a few scritches, knowing that her excitement will make me smile. It does.
Rain is pouring down when I take Amber out for her walk, and I feel my mood souring again. My umbrella leaks, and Amber stepped on my foot with her heavy-ass paws and brushed against me at the same time, so now my shoe and one pant leg are wet. Amber is taking her time this morning, because OF COURSE SHE IS, why would she hurry up and crap when it’s raining? I tip my head back for a moment, trying to ease the tension in my neck, and let out my breath with an irritated sigh. I open my eyes, and see that the clouds to the east have parted slightly, just enough for me to glimpse Venus, gleaming so gorgeously that my breath catches in surprise at this unexpected stroke of luck. Amber’s bowels choose this moment to cooperate, so we are finally on our way home.
Traffic is surprisingly light, given how hard it’s raining. Husband and I chat about our Christmas shopping, and how totally lost I am this year. I not only have no idea what to get anyone, there’s nothing that I want, so I can’t give the people who shop for me any ideas. He is reassuring, pointing out that we already took care of toughest people on our list. He reminds me that the kids were already given the gift of life, and therefore wouldn't dare show ingratitude of any kind in the matter of extra gifts. This has the desired effect of making me laugh, and we spend the rest of the ride to his workplace bouncing ideas off each other.
I kiss him goodbye, and for a moment, I don’t want to let go. I don’t want to go about our separate days. I want to run off with him, hide out in a bookstore until lunchtime, then find a dark and quiet pub, where we can eat burgers and chicken wings and drink beers and read books until we’re ready to go home. But I step out of the warm circle of his hug, wish him a good day and drive away. It hits me then, that this is perhaps the saddest thing about life: It’s so short, and we spend so much of it not doing what we want to do. I want to turn around and insist that he skip out of work and go barhopping with me, and in a movie, that’s what I would do, but this is real life, so I turn the corner and merge into traffic, heading to my workplace. I will work, and I will pick him up tonight, and we will shop, and I WILL walk on that damn treadmill for at least 20 minutes, and when this weekend comes, I will insist on the bookstore and pub lunch, and I will be glad I had a job to go to today, and that we can afford to do fun things together without worrying about the rent. I will remember that I really am a very lucky woman, and this thought, this little glimpse into my immediate future, buoys my mood, and I pull into the parking lot at work with a cheerful mien, and vow that I will not let people make me cranky today.