Time For Some New Routines
More than a year ago, the city began work on a nearby levee where I ran practically every morning, essentially cutting off almost a mile of my regular 5-mile route. This construction came conveniently at a time when I was feeling kind of lazy, so I just decreased my run by a mile—and sometimes two, when I was feeling super indulgent. This spring, though, when I’m wanting to lose a few pounds, I’m frustrated because it would really help if I ran five instead of four. But here’s the real problem: I could run anywhere. Obviously this is not the only path in town that covers five miles. I could turn right out of my street instead of left, and I would find so many miles ahead of me that I could run for days if I wanted to. But no. I want to run where I like to run, where I’m used to running … where I run. This is where I would put one of those eye-rolling emojis if I were texting.
Maybe now I’m more ready to listen—to loosen up a little, to let some new steps and new routines emerge.
I like routine. I’m kind of addicted to routine. I eat the same thing for breakfast, almost every single day. I vary lunches, but only among two or three different meals. I run five days a week—almost always the same five. And, I do the laundry on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I plan the dinner menus every week and I write the grocery list in the order that the items appear in the store.. When I worked, on Sundays I ironed all five of the outfits I was going to wear during the week. I don’t fall apart if things don’t happen in this configuration, but I much prefer it if they do. It creates structure in my life and, frankly, it keeps me feeling safe and secure. As I’ve written many times, life in my growing-up family was a little chaotic, and I recognized early on that having my own routine helped.
When I think about how hard it’s been to be resilient and flexible about the five-mile run, it’s made it easier to understand my discomfort with retirement. Work is the greatest routine ever created. There is nothing on earth as habitual as getting in your car and driving to your job every day. Although there were frequent unpredictable occurrences at my job, as there are in most workplaces, the general structure remained constant. Certain meetings were held on certain days. Annual programs and reports happened at the same times each year. The same people were sitting at their desks when I walked in each day, and I almost always parked my car in the same lot. I actually liked the variances that did occur in the work routine, particularly because I could always rely on the basic overall framework.
It’s no wonder that open days have made me a little twitchy. On one level, it’s amazing to think about doing whatever I feel like doing whenever I feel like doing it, but it’s almost like if I started eating ice cream for breakfast. It’s really fun and playful, but there’s often this little voice in my head reminding me not to get too carried away. “Without some kind of structure,” the voice whispers, “just imagine what could happen.” Of course I’m kidding, but only a little. It’s hard to go from living a fairly regimented life to one that can change from one hour to the next.
I’m always reminded when I’m whining about things like this, though, that I live an extremely privileged existence. The vagaries of my insecure background are nothing compared to the lives that many people are trying to eke out for themselves and their families. I think of that, too, when I’m wishing to be an easier-going, more happy-go-lucky person—and maybe that’s the key. “Be grateful to be alive and awake and in the world,” that watcher of mine should start urging me. Maybe now I’m more ready to listen—to loosen up a little, to let some new steps and new routines emerge.