Friday, July 10, 2015

Can you see the real me?

People often ask me, "John, what is the secret of your success and happiness?" Well, one secret to my success and happiness is my morning routine.  I'd like to share it with you.

I wake up each day at 5:00 a.m. I change into loose fitting comfortable work-out clothes then head downstairs to the kitchen. I drink 16 ounces of filtered water, take a multi-vitamin, then heat up the water (tea-kettle filled the night before) for my green tea. While the tea is steeping, I take 5 minutes to log my dreams in a journal I've been keeping for over five years. Then I press the tea (I use loose leaves in a tea pot with a incorporated filter with a plunger). After a sip or too of the fresh-brewed tea, my head is clear and I feel focused. I take my mug of tea, the one with the Sanskrit for "peace" written on it,  (and some more filtered water) to the back porch for some stretching, simple yoga posses, and light resistance work for 30 minutes. I've adapted the workout from several sources that I'll share later. What I particularly like about this routine is that it creates for me a sense of the seasons. In the winter the chill on the back porch and darkness create one reality, in the summer, like this morning, the gray of the dawn along with the heaviness of the air signal thunderstorms later in the day.

After my workout it's 5:45 a.m. and that's when I head to my home office for 15 minutes of journaling (important - write in long hand not on the computer!), followed by 60 minutes of writing and editing for my current project.

It's now 7 a.m. and the kids will be up soon for summer camp and I move to the kitchen to prep breakfast. Some mornings its a simple homemade muesli or granola cereal and cut fruit. This morning I'll make my from-scratch whole grain vegan pancakes (yes they are delicious!) and some scrambled eggs for the non-vegans in the house. By 7:45 a.m. I am wrapping up breakfast and we double-check the gear for today's summer camps (older son: music camp; younger son: swimming). From 8:00am until we need to leave at 8:30 a.m. I give the boys some screen time as a reward for being ready promptly. I use my last 30 minutes to answer a couple email and clear a few pieces of paper from my desk (some to filing, some to recycling) thus keeping my desk, and my mind, clutter free.

It's now 8:30 a.m., the kids are ready to go, as am I, and we pile in the minivan to camp. I kiss Lori goodbye and check if there is anything we need while I am out. I know when I get back in 30 minutes I'll feel a sense of accomplishment and with the sense of a strong body, a clear mind, and clutter free desk, I can have a productive day. Since I reviewed my calendar and action list the night before I know I have until 11 a.m. before my first meeting. It will be a good day.

And that is how I start every morning. At least that is how I start every morning on my alternative fantasy planet called "John Feels Really Good, Every Day." I couldn't find a suitable ancient Roman or Greek god or even mortal to give my alternate fantasy planet a proper name, so I use the long name. Meanwhile, back on reality planet "Earth," which is also not named for an ancient Roman or Greek god or even mortal, my day actually started thanks to a meowing cat at the top of the stairs. I am pretty good with cat meow interpretation and this particular cat meow translates to this:

"Hey! Hey you! Yes, that's right you! Guess what? Your alarm is set to go off in 30 minutes! Only 30 more minutes of sleep left! Just thought you should know!"

I should be thankful for the 30 extra minutes of day I'll get. Maybe a third cup of coffee will bring me that joy.

My fantasy morning schedule is just part of a larger fantasy world of who I am. Productive and reliable. Clean desk. Organized. Magical as a father and always one-step ahead of the children and their needs. Ready with Band-Aids and sage advice. I play music and write poetry and my wife thinks only of me and my amazing toned and athletic body. She notices other women, younger women in particular, giving me "that look" as we pass them in public. She just smiles because she knows what she has and the others never will. Professionally I am successful in all things, never doubting myself. Sometimes difficult situations arise and that is when I shine the most. Danger and risk are everywhere but I am confident in my choices and know that true leaders, like myself, are differentiated by our ability to see through the turmoil and envision a new world. As a result I am admired and people follow me.  Because of this ability I am sought out professionally. It's a good life I have here on planet John Feels Really Good, Every Day.

Meanwhile, back here on so-called Earth, my desk is a mess, I'm way behind on several assignments, and I think older son will just have a glass of milk for breakfast and we will call that a meal. I still think I'm a pretty good parent, and spouse, and a productive member of society, but there is still this tension with who I really am and who I think I "should" be or "want" to be. I'm not sure the precise wording and if I were seeing my shrink today she'd have a field day with this.

I wonder how many of us walk around with this notion of who we are and who we ought to be? Maybe that tension is a good thing. It keeps us moving and changing as humans towards some more idealized person. There are whole shelves of self-help books at the book store (if we still had book stores) that offer different strategies for living better, fuller, happier lives. Why is that so? It's a strange thing if you think about it. There really could be just one book titled, "Just Chill the Fuck Out and Be Yourself!" If you open that book up to its one page and read it, it would say, "I told you to just chill the fuck out and be yourself!"

I'm guessing one of you readers schooled in Freudian psychology could help me out with the concepts of id, super-ego, and ego and how these three selves are in conflict or mediate with each other.  Perhaps there is a more contemporary model that explains it. But I wonder if there is a simpler way to think of who we are and about being honest about whom we are, warts and all.

There is the "me" I want to be: The aspirational me. There is the "me" I present to the world: The facade me. Then there is the "me" I really am: The real me.

But we can't see the real me, can we? (Yeah, you had to read this far to get to a bad Who pun). There may be a fourth "me" distinct from the real me: That is, the real "me" I think I am but am not. This is different from the aspirational me and facade me in that we truly believe it is who we are, but since our self-observation powers are limited our view of self is limited too. And, no, I am not going to make an Austin Powers reference to "Mini Me." Sorry about that.

I wonder if great people in history like the Buddha, or Jesus, or Ghandi had the introspective abilities to align those distinct "Me's" such that the inner-conflict from them was reduced or eliminated. I wonder. Or maybe they were filled with self-doubt too and just dealt with it better.

Anywho, if you got this far in this essay, thanks for sticking with it. I'd appreciate your thoughts and comments below. And have a great day, regardless of which planet you are on.


  1. I think if you were the fantasy you and reviewed your past dreams and journal entries, presumably a major break in your routine, you would discover each daily entry is identical to every other daily entry. Now that I'm retired, I have even more time to make random comments.

  2. I'd like to believe that the real me and the fantasy me both show up during the day, that they do some kind of tag team dance that allows me to be awesome and less-than awesome enough to keep me humble and grounded in reality.

    1. Oh, this is Monette. Not sure why I'm listed as "Unknown". Wait, what does that mean?

  3. Thanks for telling my current story so well.

  4. I feel so much better. ..for awhile I thought I knew a saint. And that scared me. Personally, I think people are more interesting with all the warts....and easier to hang out with...who wants to hang out with a saint

  5. Thanks for the comments - I'm glad my misery has plenty of company!