Routine is Incompatible with Change
If anyone had asked me a week ago how I felt about routine, I would have climbed up behind my proverbial bloody pulpit and extolled all the reasons my routine is sacrosanct, the thing that keeps me sane in a world gone mad.
I might have been full of shit.
Maybe I’m growing as a human being. Maybe I’m becoming more mature as I barrel down the road towards the ripe age of 36. Maybe I spend way too much time thinking. (Hell, that’s all true.)
Either way, I’m realizing that my need for a strict routine is mostly about control and completely irrelevant to a well-balanced life.
Now, for my Type A, OCD friends who are appalled by such statements, let me clarify something.
I have a routine. I like my routine. But…and here’s the kicker, the routine is amorphous now, instead of rigid.
Back in the day, my philosophy was that if I had a process for everything and a routine/checklist for everything, life would flow smoothly. And, for many years, that was quite true.
In the here and now, my routine is becoming much simpler and (apparently) more flexible. I have a list of what needs to get done each week – and in some cases, each day. I get it done in whatever way works best for that particular day. And sometimes I don’t, and it gets moved to the next day. No specific order, no process for how it should get done. Just get it done as best as I can and move on. Ta-da!
Where did this little epiphany come from?
I think it was the day I cried (yes, cried) when my plans for the day veered off course because John’s sister had an unscheduled doctor’s appointment – and I’m her ride. I could blame the silly tears on stress or fear for her health. That makes me sound like a much better person. I had what amounted to an adult temper tantrum because my perfectly scripted routine was thrown out of whack. (It’s mildly embarrassing to even admit.)
Or, maybe it’s the admission that I’ve tried for a year to create an easy (read: mindless) routine I could simply follow…like I did in the old days…and failed miserably. The old days truly were simple. Wake up at the same time. Leave to drop the boys off/get to work at the same time. Eat the same breakfast/lunch from the same drive-thrus. Come home at the same time. Do the same thing every evening. And let’s not even mention the rigid schedule I created for myself while at work. The routine worked back in the day. I had little time, little help, and a lot on my plate. The routine was a survival mechanism, and it worked. But I don’t have that life anymore so why am I still trying to live like I do??
Routine can cause change to stagnate – if it allows changes at all.
I have said the words, “But this is how I’ve always done it” way too many times to count. I have dug my heels in, quite firmly, thankyouverymuch, when others – well meaning or not – have suggested a change, a new way of doing things, a different outlook. My process and routine gave me comfort, made me feel safe, and granted an appearance of control in a life where I felt like I had very little.
When my routine couldn’t be maintained or even determined, as the case has been recently, I’ve melted down – quietly and not-so-quietly. At some point, I guess I realized I was being ridiculous about it all.
Working from home, being a writer, creating this life has been nothing but change. And change is scary. Trying to have a similar routine from an old life gave me comfort…until the lack thereof stressed me out.
What’s the bottom line?
If I really want a permanent change, a healthier life, and less stress, I need to give up on the idea of a strict routine when it no longer fits my professional or personal goals.
Believing that because I’ve always done something a certain way means I should continue doing it that way – even in the face of overwhelming evidence that tells me it’s no longer viable, is only holding me back. Routine is incompatible with change, no matter how comforting it may feel.
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