An Open Letter to 5 AM
Dear 5 AM,
Long before words like “productivity” and “achievement” meant anything to me, I woke up before the school bus came to sneak in a few extra chapters of the latest Dear America book. I remember sitting with you at the top of the stairs on Christmas morning, imagining the magical possibilities awaiting me under the tree once my parents finally climbed out of bed and set me loose. Even as a teenager, I willingly threw off the embrace of my duvet for a rendezvous with you at the gym before class.
These days, you are my only ally in accomplishing much of anything. After the kids wake up, I’m making toast, wiping puddles of milk off the floor, disentangling little arms from around my neck and trying to coax them into jackets and car seats. Other people's wants and needs consume my daylight hours. But when I’m with you, I can work on my personal goals—writing, exercise, meditation and prayer.
So I’m bothered that you’ve been inviting other people to hang out with us.
What I’ve always valued most about our friendship is quality, one-on-one time. If you’re throwing a party, I might as well stay in bed and catch another hour of sleep. If I wanted to hang out in a crowd, I’d make a date with 3 PM.
How am I supposed to write a best-seller or have sculpted abs if you tell the baby, “Sure, come on down” when he wants to tag along, or suggest to my husband that now would be a great time to discuss our weekend plans?
I hate to seem pathetic, but I need you on my side, 5 AM. Without you, I’m a stressed-out, resentful mess, inwardly raging at the fact that I haven’t accomplished anything. I implore you, please stop double-booking and let me have some time with you.
My dear friend,
Please know that I, too, value our friendship. I’ve always been amazed to see what you can squeeze out of our time together. Few seek my company. Most who chance upon it simply lie awake in bed wishing they could avoid me or idle away on their smartphones.
I would love to be mentioned in the acknowledgements of your future novel or essay collection, and I hope if and when you meet those weight loss goals, you’ll remember that I was always by your side. But to be direct with you—you’re not my only friend. That doesn’t mean I don’t love you, but it does mean that you might not get my uninterrupted attention all the time.
I’m sure you don’t remember, but our partnership didn’t start when you were waiting for the bus in elementary school. It started when you were a newborn, demanding to use my time to bond with your mother and eat. And I can tell you that she was certainly not interested in hanging out with me (she’s always preferred 11 PM). So don’t be surprised that your own children are also drawn to me. It may very well be in their genetics.
I hope you’ll continue to spend time with me, but if you feel you are not getting enough attention, I have some pals who are lonely. I’ve noticed the late evening hours are quiet in your household. Like your mother, you could choose to rendezvous with 11 PM or his more dangerous sister, 12 AM—just know you’ll probably be too tired to see me the next day. I advise you to avoid 1 AM and 2 AM. Going out with them is hardly ever productive, at worst resulting in too many shots at a karaoke bar and at best a Netflix binge with Ben and Jerry’s.
7 AM thArough 7 PM will always say yes to you. They love a crowd and never leave anyone out. Granted, because of this, their support isn’t as valuable as mine. But they’re available, and I suggest that since you are with them anyway, you might try to get more out of your relationship. Perhaps you could try to relinquish the hold that silly rectangular phone has on you. If you run a tight ship during the busier hours of the day, we can spend our time together doing the things that really fill your heart and soul. When our time is interrupted (as it inevitably will be, some days), you won’t feel quite as bereft.
You should also realize that your kids do not preclude productivity. Honestly, with our long-standing relationship, can you blame them for wanting to join us? Yes, you are more focused without them, but given the chance, they may develop creative habits of their own as they watch you. Tell your sons you are writing a story, and give them pencil and paper to do the same. In a few years, rather than clamoring for your attention, they may instead reach for a paintbrush or a book, emulating you by making me a friend instead of a stranger.
There will be days when our time together will feel just like any other daytime hour, and I’m sorry for that. Hang in there. We won’t have tiny interlopers every day. For now, make the most of our visits by weeding out the unnecessary and distracting throughout the day, and when we do have one-on-one time together, it will be more productive and fulfilling.
And look, I’m not aiming to get replaced. But if you get really desperate, my buddy 4 AM is super available. He can get a little moody and weird, but you’ll totally have his undivided attention.