But of course the greatest indignity of all is that you just. keep. having to. get up in the morning. Being awake isn’t so bad. There are books to read, songs to butcher, slavering dogs to pet -- at least after you let them scan your hands for traces of food. But that terrible moment..knees bending, hips resuming the awful weight of your torso, head clearing to admit thoughts longer and more complex than “Bladder” and “Coffee.” Ugh.
Some choose to fling themselves headlong into their morning routine within the first minute of consciousness, groggily resuming control of their physical faculties and leaving the mental ones for later, the equivalent of ripping off a band-aid in one go rather than peeling it off hair by agonizing hair. And then there are the hair-by-hair types -- the ones who choose to remain in bed until they have achieved some semblance of mental alertness. While this second strategy has its advantages, adherents run the risk of finding that all that lies between blissful unconsciousness and the demands and distractions of yet another day is not the contemplation of a pleasant dream or the reassuring weight of a warm blanket, but uhtceare, the act of lying awake before dawn and worrying.
Uhtceare, pronounced oot-key-are-a, is Old English and quite rare. According to Mark Forsyth's Horologicon, there is only one recorded usage of it, in a poem entitled "The Wife's Lament," written sometime before the year 1072. "Uht" refers to the hour before dawn; "ceare" means "care and sorrow."