Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: A morning jolt

Opinion by Leslie Brian
Sept. 29, 2011, 12:29 a.m.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: A morning joltFor most of us, the sound of an alarm clock is tantamount to impending doom. Who doesn’t shudder at the thought of the synthesized marimba chime of an iPhone? — or at the alarm clock that grins obnoxiously and chirps “Good morning!” when all you want to do is beat its little electric cogs into a pile of scrap metal? Sure, it can smile; you’re still the one who has to face the day.

It’s a hot mess: you stumble or trip out of bed and over your book bag, pull on a pair of Nike running shorts and a Stanford sweatshirt, grab an apple if you’re lucky and bike to class, where you sit in a stupor until you can spare a moment to buy coffee. The mess, of course, gets even hotter if special dinner from the night before resulted in your waking up and rolling into a Stats class still wearing your Scooby Doo costume from CarToyon Network, but let’s not go there.

That said, I’m going to make a heretical statement.

I’m a recent morning convert. Nothing grounds me better than the serene sense of calm that washes over me in the still, crisp morning air. I have come to cherish my morning ritual. After six months abroad, I spent the past month at home indulging in much-needed recuperation. Every morning, I’d wake up early, put in my iPod earbuds and walk over to my neighborhood cafe for a cup of their vanilla nut coffee. Now, I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who takes her coffee black. I mean, think about it: black coffee drinkers just radiate the kind of super intense, no nonsense, go-getter energy that I thrive on. Cream and sugar were for wusses; survivors drank black coffee. It was sort of a I’m-hardcore-therefore-my-coffee-must-also-be-a-symbol-of-my-intensity mentality.

But after almost five years of enduring the foul bitter liquid, I want to make something very clear: I do not like my coffee black. In fact, there is nothing better than a cup of vanilla nut or hazelnut coffee with whole milk (gasp!) or — dare I say it? — half and half with Splenda (okay, I haven’t quite gotten to using real sugar yet, but I’m taking baby steps.) I realize my coffee doesn’t scream “intense,” but to me, it is perfect. I like the blend so much that I brought a huge bag of it with me back to Stanford. From the feeling of the French press as it yields ever so gently to the firm push of my palm, to the aroma that accompanies its preparation, to the tendrils of white that unfurl in the mug as I pour just enough creamer to turn the coffee that wonderful shade of milky brown, to the rich, hint-of-sweet, nutty taste, it is perfection in a mug. I close my eyes and exhale deeply. That very first sip warms me with the comfort that — no matter what has happened before — it’s a new day with new opportunities just waiting to be explored. Life goes on, as beautiful and abundant as ever.

Sure, I make sacrifices. For a Stanford senior, waking up at 7:30 AM is not exactly the recipe for a wild night on the town.  But even with the craziness that comes with fall classes and activities, I’m fighting to keep those mornings.

So here’s a challenge for the rest of you: consecrate mornings to yourself. Maybe you’re not a coffee person, but find your favorite blend of tea and cherish the process of making and enjoying it. Prepare and savor a good breakfast, whatever that may be for you — truly, being a breakfast person is awesome. Take that time to set a wonderful tone for your day.

But more importantly, pause. Look around, if only for a few short seconds, to see how unbelievably amazing this world is, and how beauty can be found in everything if we take the time to notice and appreciate it. Trust me, ten or fifteen minutes in the morning can put a smile on your face for the rest of the day.

That’s the kind of little moment I cherish. Those small perfections of life that remind you just how amazing the world is and cause the corners of your mouth to turn up ever so slightly. The sights, smells, sounds, tastes, noises and experiences that make you pause and go, “God, life is just too good, isn’t it?”

This column is dedicated to those moments. To the little things in life. To taking the time to recognize them and appreciate them throughout the day. To that perfect cup of coffee in the morning. Or to how the gentle, crisp morning sunlight differs from the harsher heat of the afternoon. To the moment when the pace of my feet match the rhythm of my favorite song as I walk along the tree-lined avenue back to my home. In that moment, I know that everything will be okay, that I’m okay and that the world is okay. And that life, for all its ups and downs, is still beautiful. Those are the moments I live for.

Leslie wants to know if you enjoy the little things, so email her at labrian”at”

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