Hadley Free­man

Four hours’ sleep, yoga at dawn – are to­day’s in­flu­encers re­ally liv­ing their best lives?

The Guardian - Weekend - - Front Contents -

Are you liv­ing your best life? Do you glow with good health? Are you spring­ing out of bed ev­ery morn­ing? Are you mind­ful of ev­ery mo­ment? Feel­ing like each day is truly #blessed?

You may feel you are deal­ing with quite enough ques­tions th­ese days, from “Should I start build­ing a nu­clear bunker in the gar­den?” to “Wait, how long do we have to save the Earth from global warm­ing?” But the ques­tion of whether w you are liv­ing your best life, in which you feel amaz­ing, look amaz­ing, do amaz­ing things and all in a – cru­cially – pho­to­genic way, has be­come a mod­ern pre­oc­cu­pa­tion. Face­book and in par­tic­u­lar In­sta­gram ex­ist solely so we can demon­strate to our friends that we are liv­ing our very best lives, and I be­lieve those apps are quite pop­u­lar th­ese days. Yes­ter­day I read an ar­ti­cle about how get­ting at least eight hours’ sleep will make me feel my ab­so­lute best, only then to read an­other ar­ti­cle about how ev­ery suc­cess­ful per­son wakes up at 5am, and the in­her­ent con­tra­dic­tion gave me in­som­nia.

This fas­ci­na­tion has led to the rise of what is def­i­nitely my new favourite jour­nal­ism genre: the daily rou­tine di­ary. Some­one de­scribes ev­ery minute of their day so that – it is heav­ily im­plied – we can learn from them, be­cause noth­ing helps you live your best life bet­ter than liv­ing some­one else’s. “I wake at 5am and do some shadow yoga for 45 min­utes be­fore drink­ing a cup of tea made from gin­ger root and mush­room ex­tract, which I make my­self in a pewter bowl I bought while trekking in Ti­bet. I like to drink it while lis­ten­ing to bird­song,” is the gen­eral tone. Mark Wahlberg got stick a few months back when he posted his daily rou­tine on In­sta­gram, which in­volves wak­ing at 2.30am to fit in three hours of prayer and ex­er­cise be­fore dawn; an A-list star liv­ing the life of a pen­i­tent monk. But it was only a slight ex­ag­ger­a­tion of what th­ese di­aries are like, be­cause like most things that are pre­sented as as­pi­ra­tional, they make ev­ery­one in­volved look in­sane.

Last month, Busi­ness In­sider web­site pub­lished the rou­tine di­ary of a twen­tysome­thing HSBC ex­ec­u­tive called Me­la­nia Ed­wards in Cal­i­for­nia, who turned out to be liv­ing such a per­fect life that some doubted ei­ther she or her life ex­isted at all. Ed­wards wakes at 5.30am (lazy­bones) to med­i­tate, play ten­nis, drink green sludge (“break­fast”) and “catch up with friends across Eu­rope, Asia and the US”. She per­haps pushed it too far with the de­scrip­tion of her evenings, in which she takes a course at Stan­ford, does yoga and works to help women in Pa­pua New Guinea. “In my spare time, I try to give back,” she ex­plained. Sadly for Pa­pua New Guinea, ever since the ar­ti­cle was pub­lished, Ed­wards has been forced to spend her free time giv­ing in­ter­views to scep­ti­cal pub­li­ca­tions, in which she plain­tively in­sists that, “I am a real per­son.”

Me­la­nia, I never doubted it. But I did puz­zle over who would want to live like her – or any of her fel­low daily rou­tine di­arists. From fash­ion blog­ger Le­an­dra Me­dine telling this mag­a­zine that she so­cialises be­tween 5pm and 7pm so as to be in bed by 8.30pm, to Barack Obama’s wild night-time snack of seven al­monds, th­ese peo­ple may be liv­ing their best lives but they never sound like they’re liv­ing fun lives.

“Max­i­mal­is­ing po­ten­tial” is the aim, although that po­ten­tial is in­vari­ably code for work pro­duc­tiv­ity or ex­er­cise. Max­i­mal­is­ing one’s po­ten­tial to lie on the sofa and watch Frasier re­runs is, sadly, less ad­vo­cated. Liv­ing life to the full now means ex­haust­ing amounts of achieve­ment, as­ceti­cism, ex­pen­sive good health, un­struc­tured jobs and very struc­tured fun. It is a life of out­ward show as op­posed to one of in­ner con­tent­ment.

It’s a shame, not least be­cause the great­est rou­tine di­aries de­scribe a very dif­fer­ent ap­proach – such as Hunter S Thomp­son’s, in which he wakes at 3pm, and at 6am en­joys cham­pagne, ice-cream and fet­tuc­cine al­fredo in a hot tub. A 1978 di­ary shared by the Doc­tor Who ac­tor Tom Baker be­gins with him wak­ing in a strange house at 5.15am and ends with him knock­ing back Val­ium in a Soho club.

We’ve gone from one ex­treme to the other, which is hu­man na­ture. But to give all of you some­thing per­haps a lit­tle eas­ier to aim for, here is my very own day-in-the-life.

6.30am Wo­ken up by two tod­dlers jump­ing on my head.

6.31am Pre­tend to be asleep while si­mul­ta­ne­ously star­ing at my phone. 7am Get up, give tod­dlers break­fast, eat half a loaf of bread to wake my­self up. 7.35–8.45am Wash and dress my­self, do the same to one tod­dler, re­peat. 8.45am–noon Drop them off at their nurs­ery, drop my­self off at my nurs­ery, AKA the of­fice. Stare at the in­ter­net. Noon Lunch. Carb load at Pret. 12.30-5pm Stare at in­ter­net.

5.30-8pm Feed, bathe, bed tod­dlers. Eat the burnt crust from their mac­a­roni cheese for din­ner. 8-11pm Con­sider call­ing my friends. Stare at Net­flix in­stead. Drink wine. 11.30pm Lie awake hav­ing a panic at­tack about the time I for­got a friend’s child’s name in 2013. 1.30am Pass out.

Live your best life, peo­ple

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