Who wakes early and feels anxious? How could the places where we live help us deal with these feelings?
Maybe they are just feelings; sit with them, and they will pass. Perhaps I should meditate for 10 minutes, focus on my breathing, be aware of these thoughts and let them pass and refocus on breathing. Jeez, I sound like every lifestyle podcast out there. I’ve listened and tried the morning green tea, mantra-chanting and press-ups. But it’s not for me. I’ve had more therapy in the last ten years than I’d have imagined in the first session when talking about myself was more painful than the pain itself.
So f**k it, I will check my email and get on with work. Oh cr*p another day has gone, and here I am again at 5 am, awake, feeling like sh*t – that faint vibe of the ‘just a bit more’ whisky last night hanging on me. A pint of water and I feel better, the anxiety lifts, and I get up for another day. I used to go out and run. Nowadays, I’m not focused on the next Ironman. The goal of the World Champs was achieved. I needed to race (against myself mostly). Now I probably need a place of quietude, but I’m just on with the next (non-athletic) race. I can’t stop until the race is over. It never is.
There’s a painting, Nighthawks, by Edward Hopper that grabbed me when I was young and has never let go. I’m the guy on his own on the left, smoking and drinking black coffee. I’ve been there many times, well, most days, in fact. Why are the other two there? Have they been out for dinner or to a show? It’s 5 am. Or maybe it’s 1.30 am, and I’ve not been to bed. I hate going to bed that late. I’ll be awake at five, no matter what. So it’s five am, and I just got up and wandered across the cobbled square in the fresh October air. The couple have been to a casino and are listening to the conversation between Phil and me behind the bar. He’s a great guy, never does the small talk thing, with me, at least. He knows I can’t be bothered with it.
We’re deep into how the places where we live impact our mood and how lighting and the height of a windowsill can change how a room works. Floor-to-ceiling glazing is not so good, it misses the opportunity for a built-in window seat that creates a nice place to watch the world. We talk about why he opens so early. He wanted to create a place in the town, open to all, where people could come at the end or start of their day. I often tell Phil to turn the lights down in this place. It’s too bright, just too yellow. The couple left at 5.20 am. “Your bloody awful lights made that redhead look so pasty. It’s not 1942 anymore. Change the fluorescent lights!” I tell him.
My friend Charles was sitting opposite me when I first got here. He was a nightlife street pastor, among many other things. A generous guy who was always interested in what people had to say. He listened – a rare skill. I’d known him for years but knew very little about him.
Ironically, Nighthawks is a painting that speaks of loneliness in a city. But it feels like a place where the few people awake at this hour have come to be together. Perhaps not to talk, but to be among others. It’s for people who tried meditating but realised it wasn’t for them, and if they don’t get out, they’ll check their email and boom – the moment to be quiet and reflect, to see a friendly face and have a good coffee has gone. Worse, the entire day’s gone.
So, in my town, a bar like Phil’s will open at 5 am for all the nighthawks – or the larks. The lighting will be perfect and your anxiety will ease. Maybe I’ll see you there.
Any comments or suggestions you can get me at email@example.com
All the best
This Week’s Links
Well, I’ve got to link to Nighthawks
Another artist I admire and he’s still going strong
Here are some mood lighting ideas
My favourite ‘average’ whiskey is Canadian Club
Main image credit: Nighthawks by Edward Hopper. Friends of American Art Collection