The exhausted early bird

By Howard Feldman

This Friday morning, in the dead of winter, was when my wife decided that it is time to become an early riser. She most likely watched a TED talk on how successful people began the day before the day began and decided that there was no better time than the present to become that which the TED talker suggested she should.

The present in her case was 4:30am.

As a morning talk-show host, whose show begins at 6am, my alarm sounds at 4am each morning. Five days of a week, I am downstairs soon after that and spend an hour scouring the news, going over the notes from my producer and trying to make sense of some of the more complicated stories. By 5am I am back upstairs, where I hastily get ready to leave for the studio. I am mindful to not wake up the household and use the torch on my cell-phone as a precaution.

Friday morning was different. When I came back upstairs all the lights were on, the bathroom was steamed, and my wife was fully dressed. I was more than a little confused and asked her what was going on. She explained that she had made the decision to face life head on by leaping out of bed and doing all the things she wanted to in the day. Turns out she had meditated and exercised, showered and was dressed. It 5:05am.

The children are on school holidays and she doesn’t work.

Not intending to rob of her of her zest I enquired if maybe it would have been a little more sensible to have started this process at 6am or even 5am. She might have considered at least waiting until spring, or Monday if need be. And then asked her how she anticipates the afternoon going, given that she has now had around 5 hours of sleep and that she will have been awake for 15 hours by 7pm Friday evening. I further asked what she anticipates fighting with me about at 8pm tonight when there no doubt that I would have done (or not done) something horrific.

Sleep is important in a marriage. It so happens that one of the biggest arguments that we have had in our 27 years took place around 15 years ago. And my wife doesn’t even remember what we fought about. We had travelled overseas on an overnight flight. We had used the day to its fullest and then dizzy with jet-lag had tried to settle into the apartment we had rented.  That’s when I did whatever it was that I did. Or didn’t. As a result, she wasn’t just unhappy about it, she was livid. Furious. White rage angry.

For some reason I managed to remain level headed and made the following suggestion, “Why don’t you go to bed, even though you are very upset, and I promise you we will have this discussion in the morning.” I gave her my word and despite her anger, she managed to sleep.

When she woke up the next morning she recalled how angry she was with me but had zero recollection of what terrible thing had done (or hadn’t). Fifteen years later she still wonders, and I continue to not remember.

I am enormously fond of giving unsolicited advice. One could even say that it’s like a hobby. One suggestion that I like to give to new parents is that as wonderful and as heart warming and as special it is for both mom and dad to be up together in the middle of the night with the cherub, it’s also fantastically stupid. Because whereas it might be a magnificent example of togetherness for the first few days, by day 6 when both parents are sleep deprived and consequently irrational, someone is going to die. Rather,  I advise, let that someone sleep for a few nights so that the other can step in when the tether reaches its end, in which case everyone, including the marriage stands a greater chance of survival.

Latest research shows that its good to be an early riser. And I get that. I am fortunate to have always loved the early mornings. It is at that time that the world sparkles with infinite possibility. The rising sun, even in the winter is reflects off all it touches. It is glorious, and it is hopeful, and the best part is that the world is silent in anticipation of the beauty that can be.

But that doesn’t mean that pre-dawn rising is for everyone. I am certain that there is beauty in sunset and in late nights as well (I am just asleep by then). And just because the experts keep telling us that early is the new black, doesn’t mean that every marriage will survive it.


ABOUT Howard Feldman

Howard Feldman is one of South Africa’s leading entrepreneurs. His experience is global and extensive, spanning more than 20 years of working as a businessman, philanthropist and social commentator. Feldman was the chairperson of the Board of the South African Jewish Report, the only weekly Jewish newspaper in Africa, and he is a global keynote speaker, business strategist, author and morning drive show host. Regularly published in local and global publications, Feldman provides insights into strategic thinking, motivation, facilitating solutions and addressing organisational challenges.

Feldman has used his experience and innate understanding of markets and business to also take his career into the fields of writing and radio. He is the author of two successful books – Carry on Baggage and Tightrope: Musings of Circus South Africa – and is the Morning Mayhem host on ChaiFM from 6am-9am, Mondays to Fridays.

With this vast repertoire of skills and talent, Feldman is committed to providing individuals and organisations with the tools they need to thrive within a mercurial and challenging business world. His own life experience has allowed him to recognise the value of people and relationships without compromising on the energy of entrepreneurship and career growth. Feldman delivers thoughtful, humorous and insightful commentary that organisations can use to unravel complexities and unlock talent and potential. Thanks to his experience working across various markets, the legal profession and commodities markets to name a few, his skills lie in his ability to challenge, educate and engage.

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