COLUMN — Waking up to a New Year

Published 11:14 am Thursday, December 31, 2020

I am not a morning person.

My husband can go from asleep to awake in an instant, but my journey between those two states involves a lengthy process.

This slow transition applies at both ends of the day. At night, I linger in wakefulness, energized by the deep quiet of star-filled hours. But, when the sun breaches the eastern horizon, my consciousness longs to remain adrift in dreamland.

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The first step of my morning routine, opening eyes, can take several minutes as I test my ability to lift each eyelid. When I reach a stage where I can lift both eyelids at the same time, I know I’m ready to attempt sitting up on the edge of the bed. Sometimes, I make it on the first try. Other times, my blanket reaches out and pulls me back down.

If I need to get up by a specific time, I set an alarm on my phone. It offers an assortment of sounds. I opt for the loudest and most obnoxious because it creates an urgent need to turn it off. My husband affectionately calls this alarm setting, “abandon ship!”

One of the first tasks I undertake in the morning is to prepare a cup of coffee. Theoretically, this should be easy. In our household, we use a cold brew system. My husband makes concentrated coffee in a special carafe, which we keep in the refrigerator. All I have to do to produce a fresh, steaming cup of coffee is pour one-third cup of the concentrate into a mug, add water, and pop it in the microwave oven for one-and-a-half minutes.

That’s the theory. I have been known to fill the mug to the brim with water and stare perplexed, wondering what to do with the liquid in the coffee carafe. On other occasions, I have filled the mug entirely with the concentrated coffee, completely forgetting the water. This blunder makes a cup of coffee so strong it could probably dissolve a spoon. When I get the coffee and water proportions just right, failure can still occur if I forget to put it in the microwave (yielding cold coffee, which is not too bad in the summer), or if I put it in the microwave long enough to cook a casserole (which boils the coffee out of the mug and makes a mess).

Fortunately, as the minutes tick by, my mental processes and physical coordination increase. I can utter single-word responses to direct questions after about 15 minutes. By 30 minutes, I can speak in simple sentences. Conversations of substance or complicated tasks usually turn out for the best if I wait until I’ve been awake a full hour. I’m glad my husband is patient.

When my schedule presents a full slate of demands, it can be vexing, because I know I won’t be up to full speed during morning’s first hour. But, when there’s no need to rush, the process of easing gently into each new day is a luxury I relish. My faltering forays into increasing consciousness provide an opportunity to relinquish the previous night’s dreams, to discover what awaits as a new day slowly comes into focus, and to embrace the possibilities as they unfold.

The dawning of a new year has much in common with the arrival of a new day. The night before bursts with energy. Then the departing moment bids adieu, and a new one slips in under the cover of darkness. Winter’s chill lends added allure to warm blankets, and the sun peeks over the horizon ever so quietly. The freshly minted year materializes full of splendor and potential. I try to wipe the sleepy dust out of my eyes.

Some people jump right in. They’re eager to seize every moment with resolution, plans and goals. Their checklists are ready. They’re off and running.

Me? I’m still waking up, wandering along the boundary between dreams and reality. I’m clinging to last year’s hopes, and I haven’t yet figured out what to do with the months ahead. But don’t worry. You can go on ahead. I’ll catch up eventually. I just need a second cup of coffee.

KAREN BELLENIR has been writing for The Farmville Herald since 2009. Her book, Happy to Be Here: A Transplant Takes Root in Farmville, Virginia features a compilation of her columns. It is available from You can contact Karen at