Every weekday morning, Ben and I hit the snooze buttons on our respective phone alarms several times before we get up. We finally drag ourselves out of bed, but that’s where the similarities end. Within minutes of waking up, Ben is extremely chipper – singing and making jokes. I, on the other hand, drag for a while. I trudge to the kitchen to make the boys’ breakfasts and lunches. The kids, especially my ten-year-old son Alex, fall more into my camp. At times, Ben’s cheerfulness clashes with Alex’s unhappiness about getting up and going to school. `I’ve tried to explain to Ben that not all of us are like him. In fact, some of us don’t understand how he can be so happy that early in the morning. His response: “If you’re awake, you might as well be happy.” Much easier said than done.
I don’t think I’ll ever come close to the speed with which Ben goes from sleep to joviality. But I’ve learned to give myself some grace in the mornings because I’ve come to know who I am and what I can and cannot do in the early AM hours. I walk through the routine of preparing the kids for school, but I don’t make any real decisions until I’ve been awake for a while. I don’t immediately think about how many things I must do that day because I’ll feel overwhelmed. I watch the same morning show every day to learn the news and occupy my mind. I tell myself that it won’t be long until I feel more alive and then I can get on with my day. I used to become frustrated with myself in the mornings because I was groggy, allowed the world to crowd in too quickly, and let my anxiety run amuck. Now, I know that if I take my time to acclimate to the day, I’ll eventually be just fine.
I’m taking an online class in which we’re discussing effective listening from a Christian centered perspective. One of the main components to listening well to others is to know oneself. To be aware of the biases and world views we bring to the conversation that might get in the way of truly listening to another person’s experience. To know our weaknesses that might impede relationships but also to celebrate our positive traits that can enhance communication. When we know our anxieties and triggers, we can better listen to another’s problems without inserting ourselves into their narrative or making the conversation about ourselves when others are in need. When we believe in our strengths, we can feel confident in being with others as they struggle. In caring for ourselves, we can more effectively care for others. In knowing ourselves, we can know others more fully.
Taking time and making space to understand and accept ourselves is important, essential even, to live authentically and be present with others in their struggles. Let us embrace the process of knowing ourselves so we can be awake in our lives and in the lives of others.