What’s Your Reason for Getting Up in the Morning?

When I was a young kid, my reason for getting up was to play with my four younger sisters. Then in my tweens and teens, it was to hang out with my friends. In college, it was to get to my classes; in my early 20s, it was to get to work.

Then, in my early 40s, after the untimely deaths of my parents–my dad after a year-long battle with cancer, my mom in an instant after a stroke—it was to distract myself from my grief. Every morning I woke up, got dressed and walked to my neighborhood coffee shop where I followed Julia Cameron’s advice from The Artist’s Way and wrote morning pages. Doing so was definitely my lifeline, one thing I could control and a way of coming to terms with my grief and guilt, as well as my fears.

Eighteen months later, once my grief had ebbed, work once again became my reason for getting up. Somedays I was so driven to get started that I turned on my computer on my way to the bathroom.

But now that I no longer work full-time, I’ve been pondering my reason for getting up. Pre-pandemic it might have been to attend a board meeting, enjoy a cup of coffee with a friend or, pre-hip pain, walk the Stone Arch bridge across the Mississippi—all activities that connected me to others and the world in which we live.

Now, my reasons rarely involve connecting with others or the outside world, especially because COVID means doing it in front of a screen rather than in person. It’s hard to get excited about more screen time. As a result, getting up can sometimes be the most challenging part of my day.

That’s why, while writing my recent Aging with Gusto post, I was excited to discover the concept of ikigai (ee-kee-gahy). According to the authors of the book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, ikigai is a Japanese concept that combines the terms iki, meaning “alive” or “life,” and gai, meaning “benefit” or “worth.” When combined, the term means “that which gives your life purpose, meaning or worth.”

Minnesotan Dan Buettner talks a lot about purpose in his book, The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons From the World’s Happiest People. So does fellow Minnesotan Richard Leider whose newest book is Who Do You Want to Be When You Grow Old?: The Path of Purposeful Aging.

While I’ve been tempted to pooh-pooh the power of purpose, data shows that having one can make a difference, not only to the quality of our lives, but also their length.

So, now that I’m of a certain age (only six years away from the age both my parents were when they died, I’ve become determined to do all I can to extend not only the length of my life but also the quality of it.  

That’s meant turning inward by once again writing morning pages. At first, they were filled with recriminations, accusations, reprimands and wouldas, couldas and shouldas, all of which undermined my ability to identify—and perhaps more importantly—fulfill my purpose.

But slowly, over the past 18 months, my pages have begun to fill with more positive thoughts (the sun shining on the bright white snow is beautiful) and simple delights (this cup of coffee tastes great). And while COVID is still interfering with many of my hopes and dreams, I am—morning by morning and page by page—finding new reasons to get up each day.

13 thoughts on “What’s Your Reason for Getting Up in the Morning?

  1. Sometimes I’ve struggled to find a reason to climb out of bed, too….especially when the plans for that day aren’t particularly something I want to do. And Covid of course has made it worse, with all the isolation and restrictions. Thanks for sharing your journey and giving some practical advice on how to find the joy again!

  2. Love this! As the secondary income-producer in the family for the first time in my adult life, I get up to make sure that my partner heads off to his teaching job on time, toting a healthy lunch, before I give in to the tug of my own to-do list. Preparing a creative new twist on a sandwich in the semi-dawn while brewing a fresh pot of coffee is a satisfying ritual for me. I shop for groceries with lunchmaking in mind. Every meal must involve at least three colors—the more, the tastier—and must deliver both comfort and crunch. These are my standards, not my partner’s. He’d be happy with a daily dose of ham and mayonnaise. As I shuffle down the stairs in my bathrobe and slippers, I make the decisions: bread (12-grain, bolillo, tortilla, croissant), filling (tuna salad, chicken milanesa, no-salt deli ham, scrambled eggs, various cheeses), veggies (purple onion, yellow pepper, curly lettuce, fresh spinach, roma tomato, sliced cucumber), and dressing (mayonnaise with lime or with a drizzle of chipotle sauce from a can of chiles, creamy hummus, dijon mustard, peanut satay, barbecue sauce, herb butter). If I’ve forgotten to buy bread, he’ll get a colorful salad topped with chicken or tuna, and a cute little container of honey mustard dressing on the side. Then I fill a baggie with two handfuls of sweet baby carrots, chop a lime in half for him to squeeze over them, and toss in a miniature shaker of tajín to spice them up. Or the baggie might contain cubed cantaloupe, or seedless grapes or an apple halved and cored and tightly plastic-wrapped so it doesn’t turn brown. I can make any of these lunches in 10 minutes, and I always add a little something different (fresh cilantro! mixed nuts and raisins! a hard-boiled egg and mini salt shaker!). Every day I tell myself I’ll go back to bed for an hour right after I finish my coffee and check the day’s email, but then I get sucked in and it’s actually fine. I would never know what morning looked like otherwise. Thanks for helping me to identify my ikigai!

    • As always, fun to see your enthusiasm for life. Love all the sights, sounds and smells packed into your response…and all the small decisions you make each morning in order to brighten Aaron’s day. And your own. Hugs and gratitude for your four decades of friendship.

  3. Great post! I think purpose matters, but for me, it isn’t always capital P Purpose, which often looks like accomplishing something others consider noteworthy. Instead, it might be small p purpose, which may be something meaningful to me but no one else.

    BTW, your last blog inspired me to set concrete goals for a writing project I’d been dawdling over—thought you’d like to know!

    • Love that you were inspired to write some goal for your writing project. Look forward to seeing/reading it when the time is right. And if you need/want a goal buddy along the way, reach out…I’m here for you.

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