For the past 15 years, I've been rising before dawn, typically around 5am. My alarm is set for this time—which is at least two hours before I need to be awake to ensure a productive day for myself, and also before I'm really ready to be awake—to allow me time to prepare breakfast and pack lunch for my husband, Derek.
To me, this has always seemed like a routine part of my day. It’s something I just do. But over the years, I’ve come to realize that this is not a common practice in today’s busy world, and I’ve also learned that people respond to the idea in some very passionate ways.
I am consistently asked “Why?” by nearly everyone I meet who learns about my devotion to feeding the man I married 17 years ago. I’ve received looks of concern, eye rolls, tongue clucks, and outright sneers when I discuss my mornings of darkness, staggering down the hallway and stairs to a cold, farmhouse kitchen to begin the process of dragging out pots and pans, various ingredients, and cooking utensils.
I’ve been asked, “Well, if he can’t do it himself, why not just do it at night so you don’t have to get up?”
I’ve been told, “I would never do that for anyone.”
And finally, the most unsettling question of all has been, “What does he do for you in return?”
In response to all the inquiries and quizzical head tilts, I’ve had to do my own bit of soul searching to come up with the real answers, for myself more than for anyone else.
No, I’m not subservient. He would do it himself or buy lunch if I suddenly refused to crawl out of bed with him in the morning. No, I’m not trying to mimic some long-forgotten image of the perfect housewife. (I have my own career, plus I don’t clean or do laundry nearly well enough to aspire to that role).
So what is it? Why do I feel it’s so important to rise with Derek, prepare healthy, sustaining meals for him while he’s at work, and send him off on a positive note each day?
The answers are, it turns out, rather simple. Beyond a driving desire to ensure he's fueled by fresh, organic produce, oatmeal, fresh breads, eggs from our backyard, and homemade salads and stews, I have found my reasons for this piece of my daily routine are really quite selfish.
First, I love being the wife who does this kind of thing. It makes me feel proud to know that he’s bragging about me to his work buddies (who are eating out every day), and I know that he’s thinking of me when he opens that lunch box to see what I’ve prepared.
Second, I reap the benefits of the extra hour or two I have after he’s left for work and before the rest of my day begins. The house is quiet and I make use of this time to catch up on reading, to exercise, to practice my breathing, to make plans, or to write. It’s become my favorite part of the day, because it's all about whatever I want to do.
Finally (and this is by far not the least of the reasons), I continue to rise before the sun with my hard-working man so that I can see him and offer some loving care before either of us begins our day. The few moments we spend in that cold kitchen set the tone for everything that will transpire throughout the next 24 hours.
The feeling of connectedness and well-being that occurs in our early morning embraces carries into the evening when he returns and we cook dinner together, run our kids to a variety of events, and tend to our household duties. It's a ritual that is ours alone, and that nourishes both of us in very important, fundamental ways.
In a world where everyone is so busy, so distracted, and so focused on where they're headed next and what they're getting out of everything that they do, a few moments in the early morning quiet can go a long way. Mundane rituals such as packing a lunch that doesn’t really need to be packed can help create a habit of taking a breath, looking at what (or who) is in front of you, and being grateful. The satisfaction of doing something for someone else, something that you pour your heart into, is great. Both parties thrive on that type of love.
My challenge to you now is to create your own ritual. Show someone how much you love them and see how it changes your life.