Sunday, November 20, 2011

Why Alarm Clocks are the Root of All Evil

OK, at the risk of sounding like a broken record (does that metaphor even work these days?)... well, anyhow, I'll just say it again: I AM NOT A MORNING PERSON!

My hatred of mornings dates back just about as far as I can remember. Even as a small child, dragging my little body out from under the covers was tantamount to torture. BTW - for those of you who are parents... if your child has trouble getting out of bed in the mornings, tearing off the covers and throwing ice down their pajamas is probably not the best method for waking them... just sayin'...

At any rate... it seemed that throughout my childhood I was always dogged by the morning demons...

My parents divorced when I was quite young and my mother went back to work full time when I was in the first grade. Aside from all the other implications, this meant that summer vacations for me were not a time for relaxing and sleeping in... oh no. My brother and I had to be carted off to summer day camp... which, of course, meant that we had to get up an hour earlier during summer vacation than during the school year. I HATED summer vacation.

When I got older, one of my neighborhood buddies and I were always full of "get rich quick" schemes. One of these was the infamous paper route. It seemed like such a good idea. At the time the Denver Post was an evening paper, so it was a nice, fun little after school job riding my bike around delivering papers.

Of course, within months of my getting the paper route, the Post switched to being a morning paper. AAAARRRRGGGGHHH!

This meant that I had to drag my sorry ass out of bed at around 4:30 every morning. Oh, how I hated it. If I'd had any sense I would have just quit... but that didn't jive with my uber-achiever mentality, so I suffered through. At the time I had a clock-radio type alarm clock. When the alarm would go off it would make a loud click before the radio came on. Oh how I grew to dread that little click. I even got to the point where I would wake up in a panic about a minute before the dreaded click so I could shut it off before it assaulted my poor little sensibilities.

Sooo... as I got older I decided that there had to be a better way... so in my infinite teenage wisdom I decided to take a fast food job working for Jack-in-the-Box.

Despite the grease and the disgusting food, things were OK until.... Apparently I did such a good job impressing my supervisor that she decided I was the only one capable of working the "one worker" shifts... which mainly occurred at... get this 4:00 in the friggin morning!

AAAARRRRRGGGHHHH! But did I quit, noooo... still too caught up in being a good little achiever for that. So once again I suffered through.

OK... I fear this post is degenerating into a bitch session about my sleep deprived youth, which may be satisfying, but doesn't really get my point across...

So here's the deal. Aside from the fact that being tired all the time really sucks, I believe that forcing your body to awaken before it's ready, really does us all a profound disservice. It's not just that most Americans don't get nearly as much sleep as they should... which leads to untold health problems, it's that using an alarm clock teaches you to override one of your body's most basic signals.

We live in a culture that teaches us that if you don't pop out of bed first thing every morning, you are lazy. What is the message here? Seems to me that any way you slice it, the message ends up being: if you honor your body's needs, you are a slacker.

And truly, alarm clocks are only the tip of the anti-human iceberg in this culture. I mean really... we are systematically taught to deny, control, ignore, or otherwise override pretty much everything that our bodies are telling us.

Just think about it for a minute... We routinely teach our children that they're not supposed to express their emotions. You're not supposed to cry, especially if you're male, and you're not supposed to get angry, especially if you're female, and don't EVEN get me started about all of the normal sexual feelings that we're all not supposed to have.

We're assaulted from day one by artificial flavorings which override our taste buds' natural signals about what is and isn't good to eat.
Our bodies are pumped full of sugar which sets us up for a roller coaster ride of high and low blood sugar, which totally messes with our body's natural mechanism for regulating hunger.

We spend the vast majority of our lives chained to desks of one variety or another, and children are routinely scolded for not sitting still. 

The media has us all convinced that danger lurks at every turn, so most kids aren't even allowed the simple pleasures of playing outside by themselves, or walking to school anymore. I mean, how crazy does a culture have to be for it to require a national campaign in order to get our children to go outside and play for an hour every day?

Is it any wonder that we have issues with exercise in this country when all of the natural movement has been systematically disciplined out of us?

And then there are the time issues. The schedule of the modern American is nothing less than dizzying. Seriously, most people live their lives rushing from one commitment to another, constantly being assaulted by beeping little devices of one sort or another. Is it any wonder that we can't listen to our own bodies? How on earth can our natural signals ever hope to make it through the background noise that constantly surrounds us?

So, you might ask... what is the problem with all of this? I mean is it really so terrible that we as a culture have decided that we know better than our bodies... what's the big deal?

The thing is... our bodies' signals aren't just random annoying things put there to make our lives inconvenient, they serve a purpose. They keep us healthy, they keep us safe, the allow us to distinguish between that which will do us well and that which will do us harm. Really, truly, our natural state is health, and our bodies already know what we need.

And aside from the whole health aspect, look at the emotional side. If I had a nickle for every person I meet who is spending their adult life acting out childhood emotions, I would be a rich woman indeed. I mean, just because you don't want to feel something, doesn't mean that it goes away. It often seems to me that we live in a culture full or people who are all walking around with a huge pile of festering unexpressed feelings of one sort or another.
While this sort of emotional denial often only harms us personally, or those closest to us, it also creates people who feel justified in amassing huge amounts of power, wealth and privileged at the expense of their fellow human beings. It doesn't take a genius to see that Adolf Hitler was a dude with some seriously unresolved pent up feelings. And while I know it's not kosher to drop the Hitler card at every turn, I think there are lots of little Nazis inhabiting all of us these days.

I once read an article by a woman who was struggling with many of these issues. She was trying really hard to treat her body as sacred. So she decided that she would imagine a sacred being inhabiting her body and then try to treat herself the way she would treat that sacred being. So, the most sacred person she could think of was the Dali Lama. I don't remember the whole article but the part that stuck with me went something like this: "If the Dali Lama really were living inside of me, would I really refuse to let him pee because I had too much work to do?"
So what's the answer? Well aside from a complete culture transplant, I don't think there are any easy ones. My solution has basically been to tell society to go jump in a lake.

Of course I realize that not everybody wants to live my nouveau-hippie lifestyle, but I do think that we'd all be much healthier and happier if we paid less attention to the chaos around us and focused more on listening to our own bodies, and honoring our own selves. On some level, you already know what you need.

So honor your inner Dali Lama, I say...

and never, EVER forget where the true evil lurks...


  1. I love it! And you're absolutely right on the topic of messing up our bodies natural signals with artificial "foods". It definitely makes it more difficult to listen when there's all that other noise interfering...

    ...It's amazing what you notice when the noise quiets down.

  2. Kristin - It's amazing to me some of the things I used to eat... they all tasted good to me at the time. I used to LOVE sugarless gum... especially the fruit flavors. I gave it up after reading how artificial sweeteners mess up your metabolism. But every once in a while I'll get a hankering for a piece... BIG mistake. I can't figure out how I used to think it tasted good, because now it just tastes like a toxic waste dump!

  3. Hi Eco Cat Lady, just wanted you to know I've reviewed your blog as part of a series on eco blogging

    Love your blog, keep up the good work

  4. Preach it sister.

    I hate alarm clocks too, even though I have to use one five days a week. I usually countdown the days to my cats every morning "only four more early wake ups this week guys!"

    And on the glorious two mornings I can sleep in, on of the damn cats usually wake me up because they are used to getting breakfast at 6am. Bastards.

    Weekends however I can go back to bed and I get pretty grumpy if anyone expects me to be some where before noon.

    Only one more annoying early morning wake up for me this week! Yay!!

  5. Joddle - Awwww... thanks so much! I've never considered myself review-worthy. I'll go check it out right now!

    Candi - Bastards indeed! Back in my paper route days, I'd often awake laying flat on my back with a cat staring into my face... guess they knew who fed them at the crack of dawn! One of them was quite insistent too... If standing on my chest didn't work he'd start licking my face, and if that didn't work he'd bite my nose! He generally went from being my "cute sweetie pie" to being "that damned cat" rather quickly under those circumstances!

  6. Yanno, since all of what you mentioned hurts us ALL, I really wish we would collectively stand up to some of the idiocy in our culture. Why must the work day (remember when it was 9-5? Now it's 8-5 for most folks I know) be so regimented? Why can't more places move to a results-only environment? Ok. I need to shut up or I am going to start ranting about my lunatic boss. I'm just saying--we could, as a culture, embrace a healthier way of life outside of just barking at people to "eat better." We could make those choices easier. We could offer flex time, job sharing, more telecommuting. It seems to me that all of this boils down to placing "the economy" above everything else, which is bullshit.

    I will stop ranting now. :) As usual, loved this post!

  7. Demandra - I sure wish I had those answers. Shortly after I quit my "real job" I volunteered to sit on the hiring committee which was conducting interviews for a new executive director. The folks on the board of directors kept pushing how this was not a standard 9-5 job and how the person chosen would be expected to come to events and meetings at a variety of times outside of the normal work week.

    One of the candidates said that she would be happy to maintain a flexible schedule in order to accommodate all of those needs, but was not willing to work more than 40 hours per week, nor was she willing to demand that from her employees, because she felt that it created an unhealthy work environment. In my book that shot her to the top if the list, but they dropped her from consideration immediately. This despite the fact that she was WAY more qualified than many of the other candidates.

    That whole little episode still just pisses me off. It did remove any lingering doubts that I might have had about my decision to leave the organization though. When did martyrdom become a job requirement in this country? Why do people think that having a staff of burnt out and resentful employees is a good way to run a business?

    It all starts with those damned alarm clocks... they are evil, I say, EVIL!!!!

  8. "When did martyrdom become a job requirement in this country? Why do people think that having a staff of burnt out and resentful employees is a good way to run a business?" You blame alarm clocks, I blame the Puritans. ;)

  9. Ha! I think the Puritans probably invented the damned things... or sure would have if they'd had the opportunity!

  10. I'm a morning person, and I still don't like alarm clocks. Being jarred awake at a random point in the sleep cycle is just an unpleasant way to start the day.

    "We could make those choices easier. We could offer flex time, job sharing, more telecommuting."

    Demandra - Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

    EcoCatLady - I'm afraid your experience on the hiring committee is pretty illustrative of our society today. Sad.

  11. Hi there. Having just gotten up because the sun was staring directly into my eyes, I wanted to say "hello." I've been following the discussion over at Raptitude, and wanted to read more about you; it turns out that, apart from my non-red hair, we are the same person.


  12. I could write an intelligent response to this, but right now I'm tired:-)

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  13. Melissa - Morning people are such a mystery to me. I am so heartened to learn that at least some of you hate alarm clocks too.

    Duck - Thanks so much for stopping by. I fear I may have gone a bit overboard over on Raptitude, but the whole concept of supporting policies that favor the rich because you think you'll be a millionaire "some day" really pushes my buttons!

  14. Janeen - Ha! Happy Thanksgiving to you too! Hope it's nice and RESTFUL!

  15. Sing it, Sister. This is how people act (and vote) against their own interests. They're pretty sure they are the potential 1%. And, they have to step on the 99% to not be rich, too, so be it.

  16. Oh, and (probably not really) coincidentally, I'm engaged in a thread on an RV forum, which started because someone was interviewed about full-timing on less than $1000/month. To me, the logical responses are:
    1) I didn't think that could be done, by golly!
    2) I want to do that, by golly!
    3) I don't want to do that, by golly!

    but, no. People are mad that someone is doing that. Someone living out voluntary simplicity is to blame for the state of our economy. Someone practicing frugality is living small because 'they don't eat dinner at country clubs.' Seriously, this was the argument.

    Did you ask? No. [Sorry about that.]

  17. You've posted a better worded version of my rant to myself and the cats the other morning of "Owwwww,nooooo, alarm bad! Buggeritbuggeritbuggerit. Me have no body clock any more, wah, need sleep"

  18. Duck - Holy Kazoli! I guess some folks have really drunk the kool-aid. Of course, you know... it was all of those hippie bastards who wrecked the economy by failing to live by our country's guiding principle... life, liberty and the pursuit of cheap plastic crap made in China. Just makes me want to shake them and shout: Come forth... free thyself from the hive mind... cast off the cloak of darkness and step into the light... rage, RAGE against the dying of the light!!! Guess that would probably only serve to reinforce their beliefs, but it would sure be fun!

    Blueberry - I dunno... your rant does sound quite satisfying. "Buggeritbuggeritbuggerit" we Americans don't have such aurally satisfying curse words. :)

  19. Love the post. Hate the alarm. I will allow as how I am a morning person, whether I want to be or I grew up on a farm and 5:30 a.m. was the time to be up and at the day. Now 40mufflemum years later? I still rise at that hour fairly regularly. HOWEVER, I do not think it is at all natural to rise to greet the glorious dawn at the sound of some screeching squawk box.

    I homeschooled my kids but I refused to wake them up in the mornings. People's bodies have their own natural rythmns that seem to work out pretty similarly for most in my household. Being shaken awake seems just as bad as being blared awake to me. I've found that I have a fairly accurate internal clock and wake w/i 5 to 10 minutes of whatever time I tell myself I have to get up the next day.

    For particularly important meetings and such I generally wake on the hour and half hour ages ahead of time just to make sure I don't miss my rising time. Gotta get up at 5:00 a.m.? I'm usually up at 3:00 and 3:30 and 4:00 and 4:30 and then right on time at 4:58 I'm outta that bed if I haven't already risen at 4:00 to put on the coffee and have some quiet time to read.

    The early bird internal alarm? It can be a real pain in the patumpkus/freaking awesome at others but not sure if other people have that gift/curse or if it could be cultivated/turned off? There are plenty of times now that we are retired that I would love to sleep til 9:00 or 10:00 a.m. but it never happens.

    1. Holy Moly! You must go to bed much earlier than I do. I'm doing really well if I'm in bed before 2am, so getting up at 4 sounds sort of like cruel and inhuman punishment to me. Too many years of keeping "musician's hours" I fear!

      I keep trying to reform, but since CatMan is also an incurable night owl, I don't really see it on the horizon. I sort of have a fantasy that someday I'll shun all non-natural light and learn to sleep and wake with the sun. I somehow imagine that if one did that one would never feel tired during the day... that may be a fantasy too.

      I just have to keep reminding myself that the number of hours in the day is a fixed quantity, and neither staying up late nor getting up early actually creates more time. That should be totally obvious, but for some reason I've been bashing my head against that particular brick wall for most of my life! Sigh.

  20. Awesome, I share the same sentiments about having our natural state of beings suppressed and disciplined out of us.
    I harp about this very thing regularly. The fact that we apparently can't even establish the difference between hungry and

    1. I know, it's crazy isn't it? I suffered through years of eating disorders when I was younger, and I remember what a revelation it was when I finally realized that the gnawing feeling in my stomach wasn't hunger.


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