Her mind was done sleeping. She hadn’t actually slept, so much as closed her eyes for four hours while her brain kept chipping away at the quarterly budget. Before she opened them, she guessed what time it might be: It felt like 4 AM.
It was 3:59. Shonda smiled, impressed with herself. She could usually feel what time it was within 15 minutes of accuracy, and had no idea how. Thoughts of the impending day rushed into her mind, and she knew sleep was no longer an option. Her mind was already at work. Derrick was still beside her, snoring with the same gentle cadence that lulled her to semi-rest just a few hours ago.
Wrapping her robe around her, Shonda stepped out from the bedroom and gently closed the door. Along the hall were two more bedroom doors from which came not a sound. Slowly she crept down the hall, past the smiling pictures of her young son and two teenage daughters, trying to remain quiet. She tripped, and caught herself on the dresser, rattling Sara’s little league trophies. The dog chose the worst place to leave his bone.
Shonda entered the family room, feeling the walls until – click – she turned on the light, though the dark of night left its impression still. The house seemed familiar, yet strange to her. The unfolded blanket left strewn across the couch, the schoolbooks left open on the coffee table. And over at her desk, the budget in its binder, just as she left it last night. This was an alternate version of her home that existed outside waking hours, where echoes of a busy yesterday remained.
Even the dog was still asleep, curled up on the couch where he wasn’t supposed to be. Six long hours to go until work – and the presentation. If Shonda didn’t get enough rest, surely she’d screw up her budget presentation and sabotage all of last night’s hard efforts. She laid with her head nestled beside her dog, pulled the blanket over herself, and turned on the TV. She flipped through infomercial after infomercial, waiting for sleep to come. It was 4:45 – no, she checked the clock. Only 4:25.
Shonda dug through the cupboards for a box of Pop Tarts. She opened the fridge, and removed the eggs to reach a bottle of coffee creamer. She almost put them back. 4:27. Looking between the fresh eggs and the toaster pastries, she realized she was in no rush. The Pop Tarts went back into the cupboard.
The eggs sizzled on the skillet. Scrambled eggs didn’t seem like a Tuesday morning thing. Evidence throughout her life suggested they ceased to exist outside the weekend, when she had time to make a decent breakfast. This morning was fast becoming her strangest in recent memory. She tried to check the news on her iPad as she ate the eggs. Yesterday’s articles that she already read filled her newsfeed. She set the iPad down and just…chewed.
Time for Herself
Well, she figured, if she couldn’t sleep, she might as well be productive. She checked her email – none yet. Obviously no one would email her at 4:50 in the morning, but still she checked. And then she realized: No one would email her at 4:50 in the morning. In fact, no one would expect anything of her for at least another hour.
That strangeness she felt all morning was clarity. Here at 4:50 in the morning, everyone was still asleep and her life was entirely her own. The last traces of interest in sleep disappeared at the excitement of facing the strangeness head-on.
Jingle-jingle. Bo, the dog, awoke at the sound of his leash rattling in Shonda’s hand. Tomorrow, Shonda thought, maybe she’d jump out of her own bed with such excitement too. Together they headed out the door.
Bo sniffed excitedly along the gravel as Shonda looked around her neighborhood, with cars still in the driveway and only a few lights on in the windows. The morning air convinced her that someone should bottle it in place of energy drinks. Bo pulled this way and that way, but Shonda moved forward with such purpose he eventually looked back to her for direction.
She caught a look in her dog’s eyes, reading it as a challenge. Shonda knew from her running days that she could go a bit faster. Within the next breath, their walk became a jog. She removed her jacket and threw it over her shoulder. As every inch of her awoke, she marveled at what now seemed like a lie she had told herself: the thought that moments ago, she was tired.
Time for Her Family
6:03. Back home, Derrick sat at the dining room table, scraping the last bit of eggs from the frying pan when Shonda and Bo returned. The rising sun seeped in through the door behind them.
“Morning,” said Derrick with his mouth full.
“You ate my leftovers”, said Shonda. “Save any for the kids?”
“They don’t have to know about the eggs, they’ll be fine.”
“Guess I gotta make more tomorrow.”
Before the kids even got out of bed, Shonda took the time to enjoy her morning shower, find exactly what she wanted to wear, and plan the rest of her day. She woke the kids, not with her usual frustrated “Get up!”, but with the smell of fresh pancakes. Never had they been so eager to start their day.
As she stood at the door ready to leave, Derrick tried to give her a quick kiss goodbye, but her lips held onto that kiss just a few seconds longer. Those few seconds would carry him for the rest of the day. As she ushered the kids out the house and off to school, Shonda grabbed the budget.
Walking to the car, she noticed how much the sunrise looked like a sunset. And she thought about how she’d done everything this morning with such energy, when she usually did it in the evening with such distress. She may not have gotten much sleep last night, but she’d get to bed early tonight. Rarely had she felt so fulfilled.
Here’s the rest of the story on how you can take today to fulfill others by fulfilling yourself.
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