It’s all about motivation, said the cab driver, explaining how he had (to his friends’ astonishment) gone from being the lazy one in his group of friends, to getting up at 4 am to go to work and picking up extra shifts whenever he could, as soon as he knew he was getting married.

It had started with a throwaway comment that I was a late riser, which he refused point-blank to accept. “You are not a late riser, you are a person who chooses to get up late”, he told me, and instead of the superficial, uninteresting (and frankly slightly whiny) conversation about work (too demanding) and the weather (too wet) that usually accompanies the ride back from the airport, we were suddenly knee deep in an honest, genuinely interesting discussion about values and choices.

I had to concede that yes I could choose to go to bed earlier and yes I do quite easily drag myself out of bed at 3.30 if I have a transatlantic flight waiting, but, I argued, that is different from the day in day out slog of getting up to go to work. It’s not that I dislike my job (I actually have great coworkers and work I mostly enjoy), it’s just the every day-ness of it. How do you manage to stay excited to get up for that every day?

He asked me if I knew the arabic word for human, and when I said the only arabic I knew was shukraan (thank you), he went on to explain that arabic is a very rich language, and it has all these nuances and intricate etymological connections that can be quite interesting. For example the word for human is “al’iinsan”, which is etymologically related to the word “nansaa” (forget), because humans always have to be reminded.

We constantly forget what is most important to us, we lose track of it in the routine of everyday life and before we know it we’ve spent the better part of a month/year/decade worrying about a petty disagreement with a neighbor or losing 30 lbs or whether we’ll get a promotion. We forget that most of life is made up of weekdays, and are prone to be distracted by the shiny newness of vacations and the distraction that weekends present until finally we’re so out of touch that we live for the weekend, spending 5 out of 7 precious days in a kind of dazed auto pilot mode.

All of which is to say that I unexpectedly woke up at 5.40 this morning and instead of reading or going back to sleep, I sat down to write the first post of a blog I’ve contemplated for years.

– Liv

Photo by (Mick Baker)rooster via Flickr (CC License)

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