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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 4-30-21 A Wake Up

Daybreak,' he said, looking out at it. 'I always thought it was funny that dawn should be called daybreak. This is when the day is made - it's the beginning. It’s the best part: you've got all the potential of the day to come, and you haven't wasted it yet. When it gets dark, that should be daybreak. When the day is broken. When it turns into nighttime, that's when it all start's to go wrong.” ― Erin Kelly, The Poison Tree

Grateful I woke up this morning, full stop.

It was not a given, and for many reasons very much against the odds since my very birth. In 1965 and came into this world with a fairly rare condition called Hyaline Membrane Disease. It was one that a Kennedy Child died of hours after his birth in 1963. I am alive today probably because of this tragic loss to this famous family. That death created interest in the condition and medical intervention strategies were developed in the months following the loss of the First Family’s newborn son. Had I been born a handful of months earlier, I would probably have died in my first hours too.

Premature and underweight, I was flown from Allentown to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in a helicopter (probably one like this early contraption) which must have also been rare in that era. Waiting for me in Philadelphia was a physician - C Everett Koop, who later became the US Surgeon General. He knew what to do to save my life. I made it through that early life crisis as a newborn. He would not have been enthusiastic that I ended up being a heavy smoker as tobacco use was a major focus for him in later life as surgeon general. I have 3 decades without a cigarette. That could have taken me out by now had I not gotten into tobacco recovery in 1990. Yet another thing to be grateful for.

On a humorous note, my older brothers told me when I was young that I was adopted because there were no baby pictures of me. This was because I was in the hospital in Philadelphia a lot of that first year. It was usually mentioned when they hung me out the window by my feet. If anyone reading has older brothers, you may understand such familial dynamics. A fall from a bedroom window could have been bad. Grateful they did not lose their grip on my ankles.

Obviously, it was not my last brush with death as addiction led to a number of near-death experiences. Beyond that, how many of us would have reached 20, 30 or even 40 without some element of medical intervention? Consider that 200 years ago, dental infections were the leading cause of death in the United States. Thank you, antibiotics. Starting with such considerations, most of us are in an extra inning.

So my eyes fluttered open this morning and I rolled out of bed around 3:44 AM. This is my normal wake up time, 365 days a year. I am an extreme early bird or what are called early larks, apparently about 1 in every 300 people are like me, they are the ones seen queuing up at the Starbucks as the doors open. I am usually first in line on out-of-town travel. My internal clock may have gotten set when I delivered newspapers starting at around age 12. I was always up well before the sun cleared the horizon.

I agree with this FORBES article that this sleep wake cycle has a myriad of advantages. I have time to concentrate and write and be creative. It is also true that as a program administrator, I have learned it makes sense to get an early start. It is the only time I can predictably get anything done. I find that whatever plan I have for a day starts to fall apart after 9 AM when the other 299 people get to work.

The obvious recovery connection to this piece is the focus on living one day at a time. I am a work in progress. There is a saying, “yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not promised, live today.” This focus on starting fresh each day has been vital. It helped me rebuild my life and get through a myriad of challenges. It has also helped me recognize that yesterday’s travesty is todays teaching moment. Learning in this way helps me to be a better version of myself.

I recharge by spending time in nature. A morning walkabout in the woods typically starts before sunrise. I enjoy birdwatching and taking pictures, and it is not uncommon for me to capture the sun cresting the horizon at sunrise. I have a camera in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. I watch the world wake up. Nature is my healer and the first rays of the sun in a marsh, by a river or on the crest of a mountain have great powers of revitalization for me.

Grateful for the wake up and the day in hand. Grateful to be a morning person, grateful for the early hours and the creative time spent with a keyboard and a cup of coffee. Grateful for Julie Miller (tomorrow is our 28th wedding anniversary). Grateful for all the extra chances I got that led to today. I am a lottery winner of life, just being here.

What are you grateful for today?

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