Squinting at the darkness, longing for light

I roll over, fighting the tangle of bed sheets, a one-eyed squint all that is needed to satisfy the question in my mind.

It’s 1 a.m. I don’t have to get up yet.

I close my eyes and tuck myself more deeply into the duvet. It’s dark inside my room and outside, too. Sunrise is so far away it doesn’t even register on the horizon of my sleepy brain at this hour of the night. I settle happily back into sleep.

6:30 a.m. The one-eyed squint delivers unsatisfying news as I peer at my alarm clock. I have to get up. I roll over, a sigh heaving through my body, pinning me to the bed like a beached whale. It’s dark inside my room and outside, too.

It’s coming, I remind myself, hang in there for just a few more nights. This will get easier.

I’m waiting for that deliciously stacked hour on top of an hour; that space in a 24-hour day when we snare an extra 60 minutes simply by turning back the hands of a clock.

The return to Standard Time. Falling back. Reversing Daylight Savings Time. Call it what you will. I appreciate it.

I fully realize this means daylight is about to disappear earlier in the evening, causing understandable despair and increased sales of those magic lights that make us think the sun is shining even when it isn’t.

Such lights come in handy as we navigate this next stretch, faced with the dark as we head out of the house to begin our day; faced with it when we return home as well.

But as of Sunday at 2 a.m., time shifts backward. When I squint at my alarm clock at 6:30 a.m. my bedroom will still be dark. But by the time I’ve willed myself out of bed, padded down the hallway and scooped coffee grounds into the perk, the sky will be brightening.

This is what pulls me out of bed in the morning. Sadly, the sun isn’t showing up early enough for me these days.

According to a handy online chart I found at timetable.com, sunrise in Toronto on Saturday, Nov. 3 will be at 7:57 a.m. From my perspective, that’s far too late in the morning for the sun to come up. In fact, it’s not helpful at all.

But one day later, on Sunday, Nov. 4, the charted sunrise is for 6:58 a.m. Ah, blessed Standard Time. I feel like I should thank someone (as well as God) for instituting a November commandment: let there be light. Or at the very least, let there be light a little earlier than the day before.

I know, as the days of November creep into December, that I’ll steadily lose my extra hour of morning sunlight, even as I have been losing it all through October. Day by day, until Jan. 8, 2013, the sun will get lazier and lazier about rising.

This is the more common view when I stumble out of bed each morning these days. Bleary blackness.

But on that January day, the sun will remind itself of the joys of early morning risings. And from then until the far-away fall, I’ll be squinting in the dark less and less. When I wake up at 6:30, 6, or even 5:30 a.m., the sun will already be in my bedroom.

Why does this matter so much to me?

I’m an odd sort of morning person. I do my best work in the morning – once I’m out of bed. But getting out of bed, now that takes a bit of work.

When I moved from the Maritimes to Ontario, my internal clock took a while to readjust. I was waking easily at 5:30 or 6 a.m., simply because my body was still on Atlantic Standard Time. It thought it was an hour later, which it was back in New Brunswick.

I worked this unexpected upset in my internal clock to my advantage. Wide awake at 6: 30 a.m.  and with two hours to spare before I needed to head to work, I accomplished all kinds of tasks.

I thought I’d discovered a whole new rhythm in my life. But then I began to adapt. And mornings weren’t such a draw any more. Seven, even 7:30 began to be my new normal.

I’m fighting it though. I am determined to be an early morning person. So I set the alarm for 6 a.m. and then, after too many mornings of hitting the snooze, coddle myself with a 6:30 compromise.

It’s working. Mostly, I’m up at 6:30, cursing the darkness. Wishing for daybreak. Making coffee and looking at twinkling streetlights rather than a surfacing sun.

And wondering: What is it about light that propels me to life each morning?  And what is it about darkness that pins me to my bed? What is it, in our human psyche that so compellingly draws us toward light?

Lynda MacGibbon is a transplanted Maritimer living in Toronto. Her column appears on Fridays. Contact her at lmacgibbon@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter @lyndamacgibbon

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