By Christine Baker
Clinton, CT, USA
I write this sitting on the beach in Cape Cod. It's cold, but it feels good to be on the beach, hearing the waves and smelling the salt air. It's been a long, long winter, with sub-zero temperatures and snow frozen like mounds of ice in every direction. That endless cold does something to a person, and I'm not entirely sure it's a good thing. It shuts us down and closes us off to the beauty of life. But today, on this cold beach with my dogs, I walk and talk aloud to the sand and the sea, and I feel plugged in for the first time in a long time.
When I was in my twenties, I felt the need to expose myself to art, to culture, to different people and places. I wanted to be outside of my comfort zone so I could accurately learn what my comfort zone really was. Everything was new and all-night conversations with friends about the meaning of life were only eclipsed by the sudden need to dance around, free and easy in the coming dawn. I saw my share of sunrises and sunsets, but I viewed them as markers, as badges of honor to be won or etched into my memories.
In my thirties, I put my head down and I worked. It was about climbing the ladder, one laborious rung at a time. It was about building and pushing and gaining. I made few new friends during this period of my life and lost touch with those closest to me. I stopped having all night conversations about anything and usually fell into bed too exhausted to utter another word. I'm not sure I would choose to go back to this decade of my life if I could choose. It was filled with sleepless nights and projects that in hindsight made no difference in the whole scheme of things at all. I'm not even sure I marked anything with a sunrise or a sunset, except I might have noticed that a bunch had passed without me even really noticing them.
Now, I believe I've learned something. At 41, I take it all in. I've learned that it's less important to make new friends, as it is to spend quality time with the friends who know me best. I've learned to walk away from those who don't fill my soul with joy, and leave those behind who don't value the gift of my friendship and reciprocate it.
It's taken me a while to realize this, but I've also determined that most of us fall into one of two main categories: we are either sunrise people or sunset people. There are, of course, the few who don't fit into any categories at all, but they are few and far between.
Sunrise people wake early in the grey light of day – eyes wide open, bolting upright to launch themselves headfirst into their lives. They are energetic people who are most productive early in the morning, who see life as a roller-coaster and who want to talk about everything – even if it means chatting away at the crack of dawn. Sunrise people stand and look at the sunrise with a smile on their faces and joy in their hearts that they want to spread as quickly as possible. They view the sunrise as a beacon of hope. They are most at peace as the sun breaks over the horizon. Sunrise people cannot understand how slow sunset people are in the mornings and they feel that a good breakfast and a brisk walk or workout will help guide them through the busy day ahead. Sunrise people rarely are able to stay awake past 9 pm. Important warning: never give a sunrise person too much caffeine early in the morning (yikes!).
Sunset people are more methodical. They wake slowly. Like warming up a car in the garage on a cold day, they need some time, and coffee, to rev up the engines. Nothing is so important that they need talk before they've had a chance to settle into the day. But once they settle into the day, look out. They will roll through the day with reckless abandon and check off everything on their lengthy to-do lists. By sunset, they are tired, but proud of what they've accomplished. They see sunset as a gift for their hard work and they savor the coming darkness as a time to relax and recharge before another day stands before them. Sunset people often work out late in the day and are sometimes found toiling over their creative projects late into the night because it is the only time they can find true peace and quiet. While the sunrise people are fast asleep, they are up and doing our best thinking. But then again, when the sunrise folks are popping awake, sunset people are doing our best sleeping and having the best dreams.
I am most definitely a sunset person. I have always warmed more to the end of the day rather than the start of one. Of all the photos I have archived, I have many more sunsets than sunrises.
Pets also fall into one of these two categories. For example, my dog Jessie is definitely a sunset dog. She and I are remarkably similar in this way. She rises slowly and usually takes her first walk of the day with sleep in her eyes. After breakfast, she finds a quiet spot away from anyone and sleeps until 9 am. She is my kind of dog.
My other dog, Maggie is the total opposite. Maggie wakes at 5:30 am, tail wagging, body wiggling with an overwhelming joy that she is going to go outside, eat and get her share of love and affection. She is the happiest soul I know, period. She is definitely a sunrise dog.
Which type are you? The world cannot survive with just one or the other. It takes both kinds of people to make a full day. Like yin and yang, like true north and true south, we balance each other out.
How many of us hit the snooze button for our entire lives? I think the snooze button is the worst invention ever. It allows, no, it condones people eeking their lives away nine minutes at a time. As winter tries to lull us all into a final nap before spring, resist the urge. Pick your moment – either sunrise or sunset – and make the most of those precious moments at the beginning or the end of the day to make your mark. It is said that sunrise and sunset are the moments in a day when angels walk among us, and when angels receive their messages from God. We should take a page out of the angels' playbook and we should stop what we are doing and recognize that with each rising sun and with each setting sun, we are here, on this earth, given the wondrous gift of life. So why waste a minute of it.