What I ate for breakfast
For breakfast, I ate cottage cheese with a bit of sliced apple, pistachios, and some granola-type stuff on it. Actually, the granola was from the crumbs left over in a bag of these nut cluster things that are super tasty, which means they probably have too much sugar, but otherwise, I think they’re good for me. My wife Allison is a Registered Dietitian, which means what I eat is usually healthy-ish—certainly healthier than if I was left to my own devices. It also typically makes things easy for me because she loves feeding our family. (Is that one of the love languages?) I rarely have to think about what I’m eating, which is great for me, but I’m sure also annoying for her sometimes. Like, “Wait, I married a guy who can’t think for himself? Uhhh, hi, yes, customer service? How do I return this one for a better model?”
Anyway, the cottage cheese mix thing is standard breakfast fare for me. Actually, technically more like late-morning fare since I’m also doing the 12-hour intermittent fasting thing. Not a 16-hour fast, because that’s bonkers. That would mean I couldn’t eat a late-night snack, which is a McKeany family tradition passed down through the years—and through the cushions of the couches we’ve owned. I wouldn’t want my dad and his dad to both roll over in their graves, even though that’s not a real thing and also not possible since my dad was cremated and I can’t imagine there’s much left of my grandfather—who I’m named after—besides maybe some bone fragments—but also memories.
There aren’t many memories of him left either. At least not in my brain. I mean, I sort of have some memories of him. I remember him seeming really old when I was a kid. Yet I honestly don’t recall how old he was in those morsels of memories still hanging out in my hippocampus. But I also know he abused his body quite a bit throughout his adult life with cigarettes and alcohol. Like, a lot of them. That couldn’t have done wonders for his skin or whatever. It makes me thankful that I somehow didn’t catch the alcoholism gene.
Grandpa Lyle was a navigator on a B-29 bomber (if I recall correctly) during WWII (if I recall correctly). Later in life, he ran a tax preparation business out of his tobacco-stained house and dabbled in real estate. The details are fuzzy and pieced together from stories and conversations with my mom and dad and other family members. Who knows if the details they remember are at all accurate. Memory is messy like that. And stories are wont to be embellished. I’m sure he would be mortified to hear that I mostly remember him as a guy who helped fly a plane in a war (maybe), did taxes for people, smoked like a chimney, and got blitzed on the regular.
I wonder if he ever worried about his morning routine and what he ate for breakfast and when he ate it. He lived in a time before the existence of blogs and podcasts filled with privileged people peddling overly optimized morning routines. I listen to these people and think they must 1) have no kids or other humans they need to care for and 2) be independently wealthy. I mean, how else can they spend 3+ hours doing their no phone → meditation → morning pages → exercise → cold plunge → breakfast routine? And then they finally turn on their phones and somehow don’t freak out because they have roughly 10,000 emails and Slack notifications vying for their attention.
Meanwhile, I start my morning routine off like most red-blooded Americans: by checking my phone. After 10-15 minutes of catching up on things, I get up, make my bed, and finally give in to what my body has been telling me I need to do ever since I woke up: take a poop. And it’s during that sacred time of day when I cross off my most essential daily task: play Wordle.
Now I shift into the putting-myself-together-so-I-look-presentable-enough-and-can-face-the-day-and-other-humans mode.
If I have time to take a morning shower, I do, but I end up skipping more days than I probably should. The go/no-go shower decision is largely dictated by how badly I need a shave. I wear a—progressively graying—goatee and deftly shave around it in the shower without a mirror because I’ve done it for so long that I have the muscle memory down pat. If I remember to, and I’m feeling motivated enough, I’ll finish my shower by turning the water almost all the way cold and attempt to withstand it for 30 seconds or more. It’s a great way to instantly not feel groggy anymore.
On no-shower days, I jump straight to brushing my teeth. Yes, I brush them before I eat in the morning, which some people—like Allison’s uncle Mark—think is weird, and oddly enough I agree with them, in theory. Why brush them when I’m about to get them dirty again when I eat breakfast? But I’ve always brushed first and I’m not changing, so deal with it. Next up is my eyewash (which is one of my favorite morning things that I wrote about here), followed by some Flonase if it’s allergy season, and some lotion for my face and hands.
At this point, I slap on my Apple Watch to glance at the weather for the day since that informs what I’m going to wear. I’ve narrowed down my outfits into a somewhat small selection. Not because I’m trying to save my decision-making energy like Mark Zuckerberg does by filling his closet with like 20 identical outfits. No, I do it because I’m frugal and have worn the same handful of t-shirts, shorts, and pants for years on end. I did splurge and buy a few new things recently, but that’s because I was replacing items with holes precisely because I wore them so often.
With my self-care routine done, I open the bedroom door and start the day with my family. My daughter Em is usually in her bedroom, so I say good morning to her first. Allison is usually in the kitchen, so I go say good morning to her next. When my stepdaughter Sara is with us she’s usually doing her own self-care morning routine, so I say good morning to her whenever she emerges from the hall bathroom.
Weekday mornings are filled with frenetic energy in our household. Allison flies around getting Em’s feeding tube supplies (formula, syringes, meds, etc.) ready and packed in her bag for summer school. Meanwhile, she also keeps Sara on track so they’re not late getting her out the door for her summer camp counselor volunteer gig. I assemble my aforementioned breakfast concoction into a plastic receptacle of some sort so I can eat it on the road during the 35-minute trek to Em’s school.
Portability is an important factor in my breakfast choice on those days. But I love the taste too. The cold cottage cheese along with the mix of crunchy, salty, and a hint of sugary is something I look forward to each day. I can choose different toppings to change it up here and there so it’s not exactly the same each day. And it has enough protein to keep me full until lunchtime. It’s dietitian/wife-approved, which might mean it’s the most optimized part of my morning routine.
Could my morning routine be more optimized? Sure, I could get up earlier and fit more in. I could resist the urge to check my phone first-thing. I could wait to look at all the emails and the Slack messages and the world won’t end. I could play Wordle some other time of day.
But part of me likes my morning routine. Stressing about it too much because it’s not 100% ideal isn’t helpful either, because stress is bad and adds even more gray hair to my goatee and to the side parts of my head, which is a somewhat new development I’m not sure how I feel about yet. I’m okay with the trade-offs that come with a non-optimized morning routine. I might change some things in the future. But I’m choosing not to be overly critical about it and judge myself. Because there are so many other more important things going on in my life—family, work, my recently rekindled relationship with the game of golf, etc.
Not everything has to be perfectly optimized in all aspects of your life. You can do whatever you want. There are no rules. But being mindful of them is probably a good place to start first. Too many things you do are default mindless behaviors. You instinctively grab your phone when you’re bored, lonely, or unsure. It’s a habit.
There’s even some evidence that addictive behaviors like smoking are largely driven by habit. There was this study I read about once where flight attendants who were smokers wouldn’t get nicotine cravings while on a flight—since they’re not allowed to smoke at 30,000 feet—no matter how long the flight was. A regional one-hour flight was the same as a 16-hour international one. But when they landed, they all craved a cigarette.
You can change your habits if you want to. Or leave them be if you don’t. It’s up to you.
Maybe you start off your Saturday mornings by waking up around 8 am Pacific Time. You grab your phone and start checking all the various things you usually check—notifications, emails, social media, etc. And then at 8:08 am you see an email newsletter arrive in your inbox.
You open the email and start reading about what some guy eats for breakfast, but then you realize that it’s not really about his breakfast, it’s about his morning routine, and at that moment you start to question your own morning routine, and whether or not you should’ve even opened the very email you’re reading right now, but since you’ve made it this far you think you might as well finish reading it because it’s looking like you’re nearing the end of it once you get through this run-on sentence, and then you scroll down and hit the heart button because you want to show the writer that you appreciate his work and you consider how that’s the easiest way to do so outside of becoming a paid subscriber, which you might consider becoming at some point in the future, maybe.
If you liked this piece, could you please let me know by giving the heart button a tap?