At first five minutes felt like fifty.
I’d lie in bed with my head turned towards my bedside table, clench and unclench my toes to distract me from the sluggish seconds, perhaps even hum whatever tune had flitted serenely into my mind before turning over, reaching for my phone and watching the world burn.
Children dead in Aleppo. Black lives worthless in America. Hurricanes heartless in Haiti.
Like most people, before I brush my teeth, before I completely remember who and what I am, my first order of business is to see who didn’t survive the night.
Open Twitter. Scroll through the international news headlines. Weep tearlessly for the world.
It’s a ruinous ritual. One I have been practicing for many years and which has seen me dealing with the day in a constant state of reaction.
Instead of making up my mind about how I want to feel, how I want to populate precious mental space, I constantly wade into treacherous waters without preparing myself for the current or the cold.
I don’t cut through the chaos to read something uplifting to brace myself against all the horror. I don’t look at sweet scenes from all over the world to remind myself that this planet is beautiful and I don’t give myself a moment to let those fuzzy, morning ideas take root before emotionally throwing myself off cliff.
It’s good to care.
It’s great to educate yourself.
It’s vital to know just how crazily the world is spinning off its moral axis and it’s a compassionate thing to shut your eyes and say a little prayer every time you read about someone murdered in a bar brawl, dead on our roads, killed in so called fits of passion.
But if you read every story, close your eyes to pray for everyone senselessly robbed of their lives in this world, you’ll live blind.
You’ll miss the majesty of mornings.
The taste of coffee untainted by the blood of headlines. The feeling of dreams lingering as you brush your teeth, look into the mirror or stand outside simply marveling at the complexity of being.
I give myself five minutes.
It’s not much and maybe it’s not enough.
But before I pick up my rude rectangle, I take some time to think about how I want my day to go.
I lie there knowing the world can’t wait to show me just how spectacularly it can burst into flame so I take some time to be water.
To follow the flow of my thoughts not yet influenced by the day’s tragedy and I inevitably find myself sitting on the banks of gratitude.
Thanking God and the universe for working limbs, easy breathing, employment, family, friends and food on the table.
In a few minutes, my joy will be slightly erased by comparison.
I’ll click through to Facebook or Instagram and my breakfast of green tea and a banana will pale in the shadow of perfectly lit bacon and eggs or strawberry smoothies.
But the five minutes I spend not reaching for my phone has become invaluable.
It prepares me for what I know is coming.
It helps me anticipate the feelings of guilt I will feel when I consider how lucky I am to not have been born below a sky raining bombs and it helps angle my efforts and my mind towards being a glimmer of light in a desperately dark world.
At first five minutes felt like fifty.
The withdrawal from the incessant surge of information made me uncomfortable. It made me feel ignorant or uninformed but now it feels a little like saving my own day.
The world needs people who can maintain good moods and good humour even in the face of all that hurts. We need people who can fight against the ceaseless stoking of prejudice, anger, anxiety and depression so they can keep assisting those who can’t.
We need people to claw their way out of constant states of reaction so they can begin to take action. Change the story, highlight the good, help those who tend to dwell in wells.
When you wake up, it can be startling to see the world is already there.
Awake, warring…without you.
That doesn’t mean you have to rush to join the fray.
There are battles enough in one’s own mind.
There is work to be done to be the best you you can be.
There is power to be had in setting the tone for how you perceive the world and choose to face the day.
Every morning presents a choice.
Act or react.
Yes, the information age overwhelms.
Yes, emotions are contagious.
But you can take control.
You can take a minute to gather your thoughts and yourself before the storm.
You can even take five.