*The word mensch in German means person/human (nothing more and nothing less). It is often used in Yiddish to describe a person of honor, integrity, and having a good character.
I don’t think it’s weird that I am up at 5am-ish every day. I also don’t think it’s weird that I am out the door in running gear most mornings at 5.30ish, and I also don’t think it’s weird, that I sometimes will be the first one in the open water whenever time allows. I’ve been asked countless times why and recently, how… And the only explanation I can give you is that it is a coping mechanism. Both the physical act of being out and about and being active in the early hours of the day.
The thing is, I sometimes get sad. I sometimes get lonely. I sometimes get overwhelmed. And sometimes I just stop, crawl under a blanket, pretend the world doesn’t exist, and ignore anything that reminds me of the world out there. Deliberately – I look for the dark corners in my mind and try to crawl into them as deep as I possibly can and I sit there in the darkness, in the loneliness, in the world that breaks me – just a little bit. I honestly think that sometimes I want to make myself feel really bad and horrible, and let all the negativity rush over me and let it consume me.
The first time I felt like this was nearly 20 years ago. I remember the moment exactly, because I don’t think I’ve ever felt this before – a sensation that made me realize I am not in control, and that can be very scary for a 14 year old kid. The reality was, it was my first heartbreak – one of many, and I wasn’t equipped for someone to tell me that they didn’t want to be part of my life anymore. In hindsight, I can think of a million different scenarios that would be infinitely more horrible than that, but I had a sheltered childhood, so that too me was the worst thing ever… So, don’t judge – it is, however, what happened. I didn’t sleep well, I didn’t eat well, I was just a kid that felt like I wasn’t worthy of anything… I couldn’t function properly for a while.
Because I couldn’t sleep, I was awake all the time and I would stare out the window every single day and I would not get up, just stare out. In a time pre proper cell phones, pre tablets, pre social media, pre anything that we so easily turn to for distraction now. All I had were the dark corners of my mind, and all these thoughts to myself. But that is when it started – my love for sunrises.
The breaking of the night, the breaking of the darkness, the breaking of the evil doubts in my mind that maybe – just maybe – I could let go of the thought that I wasn’t good enough for anything. All that was gone with the first glimpse of the sun. Whenever the sun came up and those first warm morning sunrays would peek through the window, it felt life-affirming. Gone were the demons of the night, gone was the the sorrow and the sadness and with every sunrise came hope, And new opportunities. New adventures. New ideas and new energy.
I’ve thought much about this (mostly when I’m out running when the sun is barely coming up). And the only reason I can come up with why I sometimes marvel in my own dark corners and love sunrises is that for a split second I may be one step closer to understanding what depression feels like and maybe, just maybe I can be that tiny step closer to someone else, when they need it… So really, the only reason I like the darkness and loneliness, is so that I can understand and see the signs if I see someone else in distress.
I am wired that way – getting up at the crack of dawn, exercising early, and always making sure that everyone around me feels as safe as I do (most of the time), those are parts of me – traits of my Menschlichkeit (which is German for humanness), if you will. Just as much as the dark corners that sometimes incapacitate every ounce of my being. That is what it means to be human – fragile and strong, breaking through the darkness to come through the other end in a glorious spectacle of colors, to vow the spectators and give warmth and light to nature and people around…
So, if I ever ask you to come join me on my morning runs/walks/swims – it is not because I want to torture you, it is because I love the idea of new days and mornings, new beginnings so much and I am so ecstatic and delighted that we get to enjoy this and that we get to emerge stronger every day… And maybe, just maybe, you too fall in love with sunrises and maybe – just maybe – you discover that you are a Morgenmensch (someone who loves mornings).