Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Snooze Button

For as long as I can remember, I have been in the midst of a winner-take-all struggle with my alarm clock.  Every night, when I reset my alarm for the next day, I vow not to allow the fourteen year old clock-radio to win.  I look into its oversized face, daring the glaring red letters to tempt me into hitting snooze again.  Sure, at night I am bold and resilient, ready to resist the temptation of six more minutes of sleep, but, when morning arrives, my hand acts of its own accord, bridging the yawning void between my nightstand and bed, drawn like a buzzing bee to the freshly opened flowers of spring.  It hits snooze, and I slip fitfully back into the kind of slight sleep which brings no true rest.
Unfortunately, this is my daily battle.  It seems like the only time I ever win this one is when my wake up time is earlier than 5am (which is extremely rare), or when I circumvent the alarm completely and choose to wake up when I wake up (this is rare as well).  So, instead of keeping my head up high, strong in the knowledge I determine my own destiny, I trod along, burdened by the fetters slapped on every morning by my snooze button.
Sure, the snooze button appears harmless.  After all, I have managed to adapt my lifestyle and morning routine to accommodate its unwanted gifts.  What is six minutes here, six minutes there?  Six minutes tend to add up.  The most frustrating aspect of my dilemma stems from two bits of knowledge I frequently use to beat myself over the head.  
First, I never feel more rested after hitting the snooze button multiple times.  Does six minutes really make a difference in my day?  Does twelve?  The answer is no.  Most mornings, I actually feel more rested the first time my alarm goes off.  After I hit snooze a couple of times before I emerge from my warm, fluffy cocoon, my body feels like I ran a marathon the day before and then went on a ten hour bender, mixing every possible liquor before slumping my way into the sack, exhausted and near death.  Does it change anything?  Never.  I still succumb to the intermittent siren call of my alarm.  Beep-beep.  Beep-beep.  Hit-snooze.  Hit-snooze.
Second, I miss out on the things I would prefer to do in the morning before I start my day out in the world.  I know my writing productivity would blossom if I would just get up on time.  I also enjoy a freshly cooked breakfast, and while I don’t despise a microwaved oatmeal or a bowl of granola, when compared with three eggs over-easy accompanied by crisp bacon and some breakfast potatoes, the easy, quick option quickly loses its luster.
How much time have you lost?
Think about it.  If you are a snooze addict like me, consider the time you spend in bed, barely sleeping, wasting away your day, all because of this vile button.  Think back on last week.  How many times did you hit snooze each day?  Two?  Three?  I think I hit snooze an average of three times a day - eighteen minutes.  I did that five days last week.  I lost an hour and a half of my life to the snooze button last week alone.  Now multiply that out over your entire life.  In the last year, I have lost more than three complete days to the snooze button.
For me, the idea of hitting snooze extrapolates out into the rest of life.  Hitting the snooze button is simply a way to avoid moving forward into your day.  By granting ourselves six more minutes each time we give our alarm a soft pat, we delay the beginning of the daily journey.  We drift back into our dreams for a few minutes more and push reality back.  
But, reality is where our dreams come true.
How many of us hit the snooze button in our waking life?  When the universe triggers an alarm, urging you to take a step forward to seize your dreams, do you do it?  Or do you hit the snooze button?
Instead of allowing ourselves a few more minutes of dreaming like we do in the morning, our waking snooze button pushes our true dreams further away.  Dreaming about your future can be daunting, and I understand not wanting to take the first step towards making your dreams come true, but every moment wasted by not pursuing our dreams only increases the possibility they will never come true.
Do you want to live your life trapped in the mediocre purgatory of snooze inspired drowsing, or do you want to wake up when called, taking the leap and emerging fully awake into the possibilities your life has to offer?  Do you want your life experience shortened six little minutes at a time, or do you want to give yourself the gift or more life every day?
I think, when put plainly, the answer is simple.  Now, all you have to do is get out of bed and start dreaming.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Best Time of the Year

The best time of the year has arrived here in Houston - spring time.  Our coastal city has shrugged off the vestiges of winter, welcoming the green accouterments common to this portion of the seasonal cycle.  Our fields explode with color, the bare skeletons of trees are once again filled in with verdant life, and birds sing invitations to emerge from our hovels to enjoy the renewed earth.
Spring began early this year, if a little fitfully (as I referenced a couple of months ago in a political leaning post Wildflowers, Flip-Flops, and the GOP).  Warm weather briefly pushed through the mild winter, thoroughly confusing the circadian rhythms found in our ecosystem.  Some trees budded early, wildflowers burst from the soil with a fervor typically reserved for March and April, warm-weather clothing made an escape from the backs of drawers.  For a while, we seemed to have a battle between seasons - a week of winter here, a week of spring there - and neither could seem to overcome the other.  
Until now.
Appropriately enough, Spring Break 2012 heralded the true coming of Spring 2012.  The warm weather was ushered in with an outpouring of rain, adding to our particularly wet year.  Though we still fly towards the Vernal Equinox, the calendar beginning of the spring season, our climate is already there.
Spring time for me is a time for shorts and flip-flops, a time to put away the coats, sweaters, and scarves.  It is a time of warm sun and cool breezes, of sitting on the patio and enjoying a beverage or two.  It is a time of balance.
Spring time also brings birds to the limbs of trees, singing songs of the earth’s beauty.  Slow bees buzz amongst the flowers, collecting and distributing pollen to ensure next year’s spring time floral explosion.  Green pushes through muddled brown bark as fresh new growth stretches towards the sun.
While I usually do some precursor work in my flowerbeds and yard in February - pruning the roses and crepe myrtles, fertilizing the yard - most of my work is done during Spring Break.  On Wednesday, after the rain settled down, I finally got into the yard for some good, hard work.  I dug holes and filled them with plants, removed overgrown bushes and weeds, dead-headed the roses, excavated a failed drainage project, built a base for my sinking outdoor storage cabinet, and cleared out winter junk from the flower beds.  I finished my day happy, stinky, and sporting a red shade on my shoulders a lobster would be proud of.
Despite the burning pain, I loved every minute of it.  I worked again on Friday and Samantha joined in with me Saturday.  Now my yard is just about finished, needing only a few more bags of mulch and a little bit of top soil.
Now, I get to relax and enjoy the fruits of my labors.  As we delve further into the seasonal cycle, I hope that spring will fend off summer as long as it can, maintaining the beautiful feeling the combination of springtime delights delivers to my joyful heart.  If not, and the heat of summer comes when called, I am certain to find a slew of summer characteristics in which I can find a similar joy.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


The other night, I was talking to Samantha on my cell.  I was at home relaxing and she was on her way back from a Mary Kay appointment.  We usually call each other when we are on our way home, beginning our time together a little earlier.  Yeah, I know, it’s sweet.  Anyway, nature called, so I got up from the couch and headed to the bathroom.  I tucked the phone between my ear and my shoulder, leaned over and lifted the lid and seat on the toilet.  The next thing I know - KERPLUNK!  My phone slipped from its cradle and gravity did the rest, aiming my phone straight at the toilet bowl.
I snatched the phone from the bowl, grabbed a towel, and dashed for the kitchen, wiping as I went.  I ripped open the pantry door, grabbed a zip-lock sandwich bag, and snatched an open bag of jasmine rice from the shelf.  The outside now dry, my phone went into the bag, followed by as much of the rice as would fit.  I only hoped everything I had read on the internet about using rice to save a phone from an unfortunate encounter with water would work.
With my phone now buried in a bag of rice, I immediately felt gratitude I hadn’t yet started to pee before my phone took its swan dive.  That might have been a mess rice couldn’t have solved.
Now, a few days later, I am happy to report that my phone still holds a charge, makes all the necessary sounds, reacts to swipes on the screen, and appears dry.  Unfortunately, I can’t see anything on the screen.  It has managed to not run out of a charge even though the last time it was plugged in was two days ago.  It remains sequestered in a bag of rice on my kitchen counter.
So, since Thursday night, I have been phoneless, unconnected, and untethered to the world.
In this age of instant connectability, living life without a cell phone has been odd.  When I went to teach Friday, I told Samantha I would call her to meet for lunch.  She asked if I even knew her phone number.  I am happy to report that after ten years, I confidently have it memorized.  But, I am not sure I have many others memorized.  I tried to recall friends’ numbers, family numbers, and other important numbers.  I got nothing.  I know mine, Samantha’s, 911, and a smattering of useless numbers from my pre-cell phone childhood.  Awesome, huh.
The next trouble I encountered was red lights.  I hadn’t realized how much I depended on my iPhone to get me through the red lights I encounter during my day.  I don’t use my phone while driving, except for directions or to talk.  When stopped though, the story changes.  I think I read most of Stephen King’s latest thriller 11/22/63 at stop lights through my Kindle app.  I check the weather, as if I need digital confirmation for what I can see right outside my car window.  I check my email.  I text.  I pay bills, reload my starbucks card, learn french.
Now that I don’t have my phone, what the hell am I supposed to do with red lights?
I can look at the wildflowers outside my window.  I can acknowledge the other people around me (if they weren’t all on their cell phones).  I can look up at the sky and experience the beauty of the planet on which we live.  I can take a moment and let my mind be still.
In a way, I find it slightly ironic, and a bit pleasing, that this happened at the beginning of Spring Break.  I get a vacation from my normal weekly life and at the same time, I get a vacation from my digital shackles.  I appreciate being unavailable.  I can only be reached if I want to be reached.  I am free to sit here, writing my blog, without the distraction of text messages, facebook notifications, myfitnesspal bothering me about entering my breakfast, or any other distractions my phone thinks up.  It is nice.
Try it.  Try a day or two without your phone.  Let people know you are disconnecting so they don’t worry - because they will.  You know they will.  Then put the phone away.  Turn it off.  Open yourself to the world out there.  
Just don’t go about it the way I did.  Water and phones don’t mix.  Let’s hope the rice works.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Six Months to Live

This week was just another tumult filled week in the history of our planet, but it brought me back to a topic I occasionally ponder - would I live my life any differently if I knew exactly how much time I had remaining in this existence?
Given this question, I think most of us would quickly make some sort of bucket list and try to check off our most prized experiences before we expired.  We would make sure to do all the things we ever imagined doing in our life, see all the places we had hoped to see.  I am sure I would do the same exact thing.
I always consider how differently we might treat other people were our time limited.  Would we be nicer?  Would we show more love?  Would we apologize more?  Would we live as better people?  
I am fairly confident the answer is yes.  We would live our lives expressing the joy we feel in every moment remaining in our limited life.  I think we would cherish the people we meet more heartily.  I think we would give thanks to those around us for simply being.  At least, this is my optimistic hope.
Invariably, my mind drives forward to the next question - how much time is required for a change in our behavior to take effect?
If you were told you had three months to live today, how would your behavior change?  What if you were told six months?  A year?  Two years?  Is there a limit on when your impending mortality affects you?  What if your doctor called you into the office today, sat you down, and explained to you that you only had fifty more years to live?  Would you change?
See, we all have an expiration date of some sort.  As of now, we only have a limited amount of time on this planet before we leave.  The time we spend amongst the rest of the human race is measured.  If you said you would love more, you would be nicer, and you would live as a better person if your time was short, then I applaud you.  But, regardless of how much time each of us might have left, my last question is always this - why would we act any different towards our fellow man whether we had six months or sixty years?