It’s not that I hate mornings. In fact, I can be quite a happy person, even during pre-dawn hours, as long as I have had a decent night’s sleep. When I was in high school and traveled with my church youth group, a few of the other kids specifically asked that I not speak to them in the morning. I was too cheerful, which just made them angrier. And, since they really did like me, they hoped to taper their rage as much as possible before engaging in any conversation.
This deployment has skewed time in many ways. Most of us stay in the office until nine or ten at night, sometimes working and sometimes just hanging out because there isn’t much else to do or many other places to go. Even though this is the Army, in a deployed environment there is no morning reveille. Rarely do I start my day before eight, and that’s only when I have a special event on my calendar. I try my best to avoid that scenario. So, the other day when our unit had an early morning run scheduled, I was shocked to discover that the sun is up at 0500 hours during Afghanistan’s late spring and summer months.
Admittedly, I have never loved waking up before the sun. When I used to work out regularly in the morning, not only would I dread the sound of my alarm, but also I would cringe at setting the alarm in the first place-- it was almost a visceral response to seeing such an ungodly time. By the time the day had broken fully, and we were back from our run, all of my regret of the early wake up call was forgotten. The repose of dawn is different than any other moment of the day. Stillness covers the earth like a blanket. The quiet of the lingering night continues to rock back and forth as more and more light creeps and then eventually begins to overflow into the new day. Whenever I do wake up in time to witness and breathe in the beginning of a day, I am never disappointed.
It’s just that I can never seem to get to bed at a reasonable hour. As long as there are people awake and willing to have conversation, I hate to miss out. Most of the guys can’t believe that I can spend over an hour talking to someone in the bathroom, but it happens on a regular basis. There are certain people who I look forward to seeing there, as odd as that may sound, and it’s midnight before we realize just how much time has passed. It’s easier to put the place to bed rather than to wake it up the next morning.
Almost eight months into this deployment, I have discovered that one of my biggest challenges is knowing when to give it a rest. My extroversion has saved me on many a long, jam-packed day, but over weeks and months, it adds up. I never realized how much I appreciated space until I came to a place where there was none. And, of course, we make the best of it. I steal a moment on the balcony of our little building, as I wait for a friend, or I sit in the darkness of my room a few minutes more than I normally would, especially if my roommate happens to be working a different shift. There are plenty of creative ways to make space, but what I have learned is that when a window of opportunity arrises for a quiet moment, I can’t let it pass me by. Another one may not be in the cards for some time.
I hope I don’t see 0500 again any time soon, but in a way, those few hours were some of the most peaceful I have experienced in Afghanistan. When it happens again, I will remember how grateful I am for a reason to set the alarm and enjoy momentary respite from the fullness of my life in this little fish bowl we call home.