I believe in waking up happy.
I’ve never been a person to bound out of bed with a smile, eager to embrace the rays of sunshine caressing my bedroom blinds. When I was in the 7th grade my sister and I had a simple understanding, meritous of certain misery if ever encroached: Don’t talk to me until the bus stop. We rode the bus to school together every morning we lived in that small Kentucky town. Our family lived in what should have been a condemned apartment building, complete with paper-thin walls and sagging floors, so much so that it was almost certain that at any moment we would burst through this façade and surprise our neighbors by landing on their dinner table. I would drag myself out of bed every morning, but only after being first gently coaxed by my ever-patient father to meet the new day. After thirty minutes even this most saintly-figure of a man would wear tired and resort to yanking off the covers from my frozen body, tickling exposed toes, or even occasionally raising his voice to make his point: the day was here regardless of whether or not I wanted it to be.
I hated the world those initial moments of existence each day. I scowled at my cereal, scowled at my tennis shoes, flung my backpack over my shoulder in disgust, and shuffled my feet down the creaking stairs to commute my sentence – to wait for the bus. My sister was present though each of these horrific episodes every morning, barely breathing too deeply near me, lest I lash out in resentment for the way in which she seemed to accept the inevitable so blissfully each day.
Somewhere around 7:34 am we would hear the diesel engine of our yellow limousine arrive to hoist us away into the great unknown. The ice would melt from my fixed stare just long enough to be civil on the way, barely in time to tell her goodbye as she exited at the high school ahead of me. Truth be told I would give anything to undo the doubtless misery I caused my entire household those horrible years of puberty.
I have my own home now just barely on my own for the first time. I got a cat about a month ago and something wonderful happened: I woke up happy. The first morning I heard his delicate purr near my head, I melted into a million pieces. Here was this beautiful creature, completely innocent, completely ignorant of any years of ritual self-inflicted agony that came with each cruel beep of the alarm clock, waiting for me with open arms. I caught myself smiling, stroking his head, wondering what I did to deserve such a faithful, loving friend.
I believe in waking up each morning happy now. I don’t leap out of bed with a profound understanding of life. I don’t escape the snooze button entirely, nor do I believe in spreading my inner peace half-hazzardly through my office each morning, much to the relief of others who have not yet had the privilege of waking up to a purring cat. But I do believe in coming out of my own choice to be miserable, if for no other reason than the sheer waste of energy and lifelessness I perpetuated all those years. At the very least, I owe it to my sister.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.