I’m in one of those seasons of life where tiredness, and even exhaustion, is more than something felt more than at certain points of the day… it’s more of a permanent state of mind. A big part of it, I’m sure, is the “role” I’ve taken on as “family-member-with-the-1AM-to-6AM-feeding-shift.” Add to that some significant focus on planning and changing my business model, a coaching role that can easily take up 1-2 hours a day, and then all the other stuff that comes with being a man, husband, and father. Oh, and then all those things that tug at my heart with signifance beyond my own little world.
But that’s not what’s captured my attention.
What’s captured my attention is that even though I’m averaging 4-6 hours of sleep a night, almost guaranteed to be interupted at some point… when that moment of interuption comes, I’m up, awake, and ready to go. But a few months ago, before the baby was born and my sleep was only stopped by an alarm clock or a body finally rested enough to wake up on it’s own, I’d have a terrible time waking up. I’ve felt more energy, more drive, and even more satisfaction with these long, tiring days than I’ve felt in a long time.
What’s the difference? What’s my motivation?
I’ve often looked at people of old whose stories I love and how they would only get a few hours of sleep every night. I would long for that to be my own state of mind, that I could power nap for a couple hours and then be ready to hit it again. But I didn’t see that happening. No matter what alarm tone I used, no matter how I tried to get myself up and going early in the morning, it just didn’t happen. And yet, years ago, when I had my paper routes as a teenager, I was routinely up at 5AM every day, and 4AM on Sundays.
What’s the difference? What drives these guys I look up to? What was my motivation back when I used to do that?
Was it just that I “had” to get up that early? I think not. What I’m coming to see is that over the last several years, I really haven’t had that driving force to get me up and moving as if the first hours of the day mattered. Right now, I do. Of course it’s temporary, with the bottle feeding and all, but it’s still time that matters. My daughter’s hungry, my wife’s exhausted and getting rest from a day surrounded by these kids, and this is my time to do something that counts. And so I get up at 2AM, 3AM, or 4AM, and sit with her for half an hour, or two hours, whatever it takes.
I’ve noticed the same thing on Wednesday mornings, when I spend time with some brothers I truly care about, and who I know care about me. It’s worth getting up at 4:30AM, even if I went to bed at midnight the night before. Sure, my day is powered by caffeine and I feel more than ready to crash at the end of the day, but I wouldn’t trade that time for hardly anything in the world.
All this kind of came to a head for me the other day when I cam ehome rom a long day, and while I felt like crashing, I knew there were more important things to be done. In fact, the “important” part fo my day was just starting, now that I was home. But I was plain. wiped. out. I couldn’t get energy from coffee, from pushups, from anything. I even posted on Facebook for some ideas… and got everything from hugs to slushies to coffee to a backrub to a walk in the woods… all great things but all not on the agenda for that night. It just wasn’t going to happen. What I needed was something to remind me that what I was doing mattered.
So I decided to force the issue. I laid down with my 6 week old daughter and played our staring game for a few minutes. She laughed, smiled, and reminded me that I was one cool dad who she liked to spend time with. Then I put my son to bed, talked about his favorite Bible story from our book (Jesus dying on the cross, no less), and sang and prayed with him. And then, I went downstairs, made a cup of coffee, and told Erin, “let’s make some cookies.” (Thanks Jill) We didn’t have time to bake them, but we could at least spend some quality time together mixing ingredients up. And by the time that was all done, and I started getting ready for bed, I reailized… I’m not exhausted anymore! I’d gone from long, hard day to a feeling of accomplishment all around… not anything big, but a feeling of “this day was a success.” I didn’t cave when I got home, even though I felt like that was the next natural step.
As I drove into town the next morning listening to my Bible reading for the day, I heard this psalm:
I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
Looking up to the hills… reminding ourself of what’s really meaningful… staring into the eyes of a 6 week old baby. When on a journey of the magnitude of life, we need the ability to life our eyes from the footsteps right in front of us from time to time, to be reminded of where we are going, not just of where we are. This brings me more than hope, it brings confidence that all we’re doing is part of something much bigger… that it is worth it.
And that, I think, is where the motivation comes from. From the reminders that what we’re doing is worth it. Will that get me up in the morning? Not if what’s “worth it” is simply exercising to lose weight, or getting to work early, or even making a big sale. What is worth it is how these goals fit into my bigger dreams. The things that make me tick. That’s what I’m on a journey to find, and that’s also what is making this journey such a thrill ride, because I’m starting to see where these puzzle pieces fit.