When is routine good for you, and when is it, you know, routine? Noun versus verb. Positive connotation versus negative. I woke up this morning, clear in the knowledge that I was about to set upon my routine for the day: make coffee; read the Los Angeles Times; attend online church; write my blog; exercise; prep for class. I felt defeated. Or maybe weighed down. Which I guess is the same thing if you’re in a wrestling competition for example, which is kind of what these days/weeks/months often feel like. The routines that I have taken on seem to both salvage my days and color them drab. See, routines offer little possibility of happy disruption, yet they are pretty much all I have right now.
I’ll just get out of the way right now that I am sincerely and consistently grateful for all that I can do, and all that I have, to make these routines happen. Healthy body, shelter, access to the internet, leisure time, a job. But I believe we privileged folks are still allowed to express our frustrations during this historic moment, as long as we acknowledge the safe, secure framework within which these looming frustrations live.
Thing is, I like schedules — I have always liked schedules. I find them to be different than routines. We schedule classes, manicure appointments, dates… And who-knows-what might happen during one of these scheduled events. A student might say something transformative; a new shade of orange might appear at the salon; the date ends up treating you to drinks and dinner and you actually have fun. But a routine, now that’s a different story. Routines, the repetition of specific activities, can be good for us; yet implicit in them is little possibility for change. Which is the point, I understand. So many of us routinely exercise, drink water, pray, read, write in journals, cook…. But when the routine becomes routine, should we do something about it?
Right now it feels to me that everything I do, eat, clean, say, and think are under a gigantic magnifying glass. Like all I do is watch myself do things. I don’t even know how I look to others anymore, or if my actions even affect other souls. Sure, I connect with friends online, get to see my daughter regularly, teach online, and work at a food pantry; but for the most part I am still either a masked mystery woman out in the world undercover, or home alone doing those things I do that no one else really knows I do.
I believe I am saying, in my own way, the same thing so many of us are saying right now: Get me out of here!!!! I can’t take this!!! Help!!! For some of us, we arrive at these mildly frantic moments spurred on by lack of movement, inability go to a museum, complicated rules about dining out, spontaneous possibilities thwarted due to the cutting-edge efficiency everyone employs in the outside world now, never tarrying too long in one spot… All those things spur me on. This morning it was routine that got to me. Even this blog is a routine, and maybe even feels like a routine sometimes. But, kind of like government cheese, I feel like ultimately these routines will end up keeping me nourished just enough, until that time where I am able to go shopping freely for that which is my own preference, items outside the presently mandated staples. And so until then I guess I will practice gratitude for my routines, and make Herculean efforts to keep them from feeling routine.
I would love to hear about some of your routines that are either saving you or making you crazy, or both. Leave them in the comments below if you’d like. Peace, love and freedom to all.
One thought on “The Road to Routine”
Love this! So, my routine that is both comforting and paralyzing is going to bed before 8pm most nights. Knowing that there is little else to do and that going to bed is the same thread that pieces together every day of my life, I do it to remind myself of a routine that felt “normal” pre-pandemic. And no mask is required. No social distancing is necessary. No avoidance of crowds is expected. But as a facsimile of normality, it also prevents me from finding value in other activities that I’d would normally do before 11pm, let’s say. In essence, I’m retreating to the familiar while missing out on the potentially exciting/uplifting.
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