Tony Leighton is a Canadian writer happily retired and attempting to help others feel the same.

Reliable Renewal


I'm trying to write this one so it doesn't sound like I'm on fairy dust.

For most of my life, older people seemed to relish mornings. They got out of bed many hours before me and the other reluctant young people. I wondered if that was based on the desire not to miss out on what was left of life, or if they just had trouble sleeping.

Now that I'm an early rising junior senior, I see a more powerful inducement: renewal.

You know renewal. It's the difference between the tiredness at the end of a day and the energy at the beginning of a new one. Tiredness for me — which comes sooner these days than it used to — can sap my enthusiasm. Bed seems the obvious place to be. I like to go to bed early. (I realize that inveterate night owls do not share this desire. They are wired differently. Power to them.)

The impact of renewal multiplies. There's a cumulative effect. When you are free from the stresses of having to go to work every day and face a task-heavy agenda, the renewal becomes reliable. It shows up every morning. There's an abiding sense of peace that lingers. You get addicted. At least, I have.

Quality sleep is the prime engine of restoration, but unrushed mornings are the icing on the cake. In those first hours, I'm more alert, more creative, usually more optimistic, full of ideas, purpose, and promise, infused with patience, and able to experience the elusive granularity of simply being.

I'm a different man.

To be able to sit with that while others endure the daily commute is an incredible gift.

In my work years, with their teeming obligations of making a living and raising children, reliable renewal was not even on the table. I experienced occasional renewal, half-baked renewal, and perhaps fleeting renewal. But nothing I could rely on.

Now I do. As a daily renewer, I get grounded every morning and usually glide into the day rather than feel pushed. I'm able to stay inside a kind of meditative positivity that, with luck, lasts through the day. Renewal, consciously experienced, sets me up, sets the stage.

I know I say this a lot, but I want to make it clear to anyone who fears the post-career life: this too, daily renewal, is a tremendous privilege granted to retirees. It's almost — almost — reason enough to retire if you have the option and are hovering around the edges. For those unable yet to retire, you have this, among other luxuries, to look forward to.

Skeptics will protest. "What are you talking about? A morning is a morning is a morning. It's time to get moving. You must be on fairy dust."

Try it for a few weeks. Cool the jets. Clear the agenda. Smell the coffee. Stay with it for an hour or more each morning. Savor the quiet and calm. Be purposefully gradual. Imagine that every day is Saturday, but without a to-do list. Imagine this being the way you get to live.

Then return to rushing out the door, and observe the difference. It's jarring. If I now had to enter the world through the portal of my mid-life mornings, I'd be perpetually jarred.

And maybe I was.

Reliable renewal is why morning, for me, is the best time of every day.

Which is just what the older people have said all along.

On your behalf, I rooted through one of the big quote sites for wisdom about mornings. Here are eight evocative quotes from people who said it better than I can:

When I am working on a book or a story, I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you, and it is cool or cold, and you come to your work and warm as you write.

— Ernest Hemingway

Remember that creating a successful marriage is like farming: you have to start over again every morning.

— H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

I've always said it: God changes all the paths from morning to evening.

— Yoel Romero

I wake up some mornings and sit and have my coffee and look out at my beautiful garden, and I go, 'Remember how good this is. Because you can lose it.'

— Jim Carrey

My grandmother lived to 104 years old, and part of her success was she woke up every morning to a brand new day. She said every morning is a new gift. Her favorite hobby was collecting birthdays.

— George Takei

Editing is a lot about patience and discipline and just banging away at something, turning off the machine and going home at night because you're frustrated and depressed, and then coming back in the morning to try again.

— Thelma Schoonmaker

It is a good morning exercise for a research scientist to discard a pet hypothesis every day before breakfast. It keeps him young.

— Konrad Lorenz

I wake up every morning at nine and grab for the morning paper. Then I look at the obituary page. If my name is not on it, I get up.

— Benjamin Franklin

And whew... this from the poetic brain of Kafka:

It is not necessary that you leave the house. Remain at your table and listen. Do not even listen, only wait. Do not even wait, be wholly still and alone. The world will present itself to you for its unmasking, it can do no other, in ecstasy it will writhe at your feet.

— Franz Kafka, The Zürau Aphorisms


Replay: The Cultivation of Opposites

"Infinity is a trap."