Nobody has ever asked me this question, but I’ll answer it anyway. After all, I need something to write about.
My typical morning starts with me deciding how long I can remain in bed and not stress myself out. I know I have my alarm set to a time that will allow me plenty of room for preparing my morning. If I feel particularly calm I can push the snooze five or six times and still leave for work on time, everytime. If, however, I’m feeling anxious or stressed, I’ll get up after one snooze hit, or maybe immediately. If I’m stressed I’ll make mistakes and I know it’ll take me longer to get my shit together. Plus I’ll need the extra time to brace myself.
Brace myself against what, you ask? Monotony. Tedium. Responsibility. Effort. All those lovely things we face every single day as an adult.
Do what you love as your job and your job won’t feel like work. That’s fabulous if what you love to do is something you can make a living at. But very few people can make a living as a video game player, a movie watcher, or even as a writer. Oh, yes, there are some people who do make a living at those things. Professional gamers exist, believe it or not. There are, of course, many movie critics, and some of them even get paid for their work. And, as always, there are millions of writers. The one thing all of these particular interests have in common? Unless you’re at the very top you’re never going to make enough money to live off of.
In other words, while it’s all wonderful and fine to do what you love for work, unless what you do is inherently profitable you’re going to have to do the same thing the rest of us do: get a day job to support what you actually like doing.
So, the Real World mantra is actually: get a day job you can endure and pursue your interests when you can.
Of course the Big Problem with that is that most day jobs take enough out of you that additional pursuits are pretty much a pipe dream. Right now I get home with just enough energy to put together a bowl of cereal and set myself up on the couch for the rest of the evening hoping my feet will stop hurting enough to let me endure the next day.
So mornings are a challenge. Motivation has to be constructed, a little like a jenga tower, one piece at a time until I finally have enough to swing my legs over the edge and haul my ass up.
These days I have a few extra morning duties to prepare for. First thing I do upon sitting up is grab my compression stockings, gloves, and slip-on tube. The tube helps me drag the tight compression rubber over and around my heel. Without it I’d be fighting against the fifty pounds of compression just to get the damned thing on. I can do it, but trust me it’s not easy.
I get the compression stocking onto my right leg first thing. If I don’t my leg begins to swell within minutes and the scar tissue begins to ache with the pain of being stretched. Scar tissue doesn’t stretch well. I hate the ache in my leg enough to wrestle with a compression stocking before even going to the bathroom. If the leg swells enough it can take hours for it to compress back down, aching all the while. So… yeah, compression stocking first.
I have new appreciation for people with third degree burns. Their scar tissue doesn’t stretch at all and they can experience excrutiating pain just from breathing. Read the book “Gargoyle” for a vivid and disturbing look at that particular torture. The character in the book spends much of his physiotherapy time planning an elaborate suicide guaranteed to kill him fifteen times over. After a chapter or two you begin to hope he succeeds.
With the compression stocking on my right leg (the left one is much less vital as the leg hardly swells at all and doesn’t hurt even if it does) I go into the kitchen to start the kettle. As it brings the water to a boil I take care of the usual bodily demands, along with shaving. I have to shave with an electric razor while my neck is dry or I’m guaranteed to get ingrown hairs that itch like crazy. So, shave before shower.
Once the water has boiled I set up the tea pot with three (count them, three) tea bags of Tetley Extra Bold. So far it’s the only affordable tea I’ve found that comes close to the British tea I loved so much on my trip there nearly twenty years ago. I fill the pot to the brim with boiling hot water, place the top back onto the teapot, and cover the whole thing with a small towel.
From there I head to the shower. I make sure the water is the right temperature before taking the compression stocking off. I do my best to minimize the amount of time I have the thing off my leg and I still love my showers. Having my leg bandaged up such that I couldn’t take a shower for more than six weeks has made me appreciate them even more. So, down the last second, I strip the stocking off, lay it out on the counter where it won’t get wet (if it gets wet I can’t wear it until it’s dry again) and into the shower for a quick but thorough wash. On the days I switch to the other set of compression stockings I’ll wear the stocking into the shower itself. It’s going to get hand washed anyway and I have a dry one waiting. On those mornings I get to take a long, luxuriant shower.
From the shower I dry myself off and head straight for the bedroom with my right leg stocking. I take some time to sit on the edge of my bed and examine my feet. I take very careful care of my feet these days as any cracks or blisters can lead to another infection. I grind down calouses, trim the nails short, and moisturize every night. The irony is that if I’d done thise from the begining I might not have had my subsequent infections. Take care of your feet. It’s amazing the amount of trouble neglecting them can cause.
I then use my gloves and slide to put both compression stockings on my legs. Fifty pounds of compression on the right leg, thirty on the left. Again, this takes some particular attention. If I get the stockings on incorrectly they can wind up restricting blood flow, constricting toes, or simply chafing at the wrong point and causing blisters. It’s difficult to adjust them once they’re on so I do my best to get it right the first time.
From there the morning gets simpler. Finish dressing. Get food.
If it’s a good week I’ve prepared my lunches in advance, giving me a good extra ten minutes each morning. I pack my lunch into my backpack, get my breakfast ready with a massive glass of orange juice (can’t start the day right without it) and possibly a cup of coffee. Not always, but any morning I wake up tired I figure I need it.
With all that done I finally pour my tea. I fill one very sturdy and seal-able thermal cup and one rather dented thermos I bought at Ikea more years ago than I can remember. Best ten bucks I ever spent.
The tea has been steeping for at least an hour, with three tea bags. It’s as close to British tea I’ve been able to get without making it bitter. I still need to find a better brand that will produce the right flavor without as many tea bags or as much steeping. Tetley does the job for now though.
At this point I sit down to breakfast and my morning officially begins. I either read a book or surf the web. Delete a bunch of e-mails, catch up on those few friends struggling with sleep, and get in a chapter or two of reading. I like to have at least half an hour for breakfast. It gives me a reason to get up. I try to avoid looking at the time too often as that can start to stress me out. I’ve become pretty good at guessing the time anyway so by the time I go looking for it I usually find I have five minutes left.
Then it’s a matter of brushing the teeth, dressing for the weather, and getting my music ready for the walk. My music is my last reward for getting up on time. I can lose myself in music for my twenty five minute walk before having to actually face work.
From the moment I arrive at work it’s a twisted variation on the Buddhist statement of “We are dying from the moment we are born”. My version is “I am leaving from the moment I arrive”. While I do my best to not watch the clock my daily goal is to leave. I know freedom will arrive at the same time every day, and I can’t change that. The only thing I can change is my perception of the time between arriving and leaving. Luckily for my employers I have found that the best way to make time pass quickly is to keep busy. Nothing makes the clock grind slower than having nothing to do.
Stumble home, put up aching feet, rub pained ankles, distract myself with entertainment of some sort, then sleep.
Sleep is the best and most reliable escape. There are few things better than sleep. I look forward to falling asleep more now that I have my CPAP machine to help. I even get dreams on occasion.
Then… morning, and rebuilding that jenga tower of motivation to keep moving.