Once upon a time, I viewed routine as a scourge. I longed to be one of those free-spirited, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of gal. Even though I naturally wasn't that woman AT ALL, I so wanted to be her. I tried to wing it as much as possible. Then the pandemic happened. Then I moved.
When you change homes and cities, suddenly there is no predictability. Everything is different and unknown. Even down to finding items in the fridge or closet (assuming you've already unpacked) or how to operate the washing machine or dishwasher (assuming you're lucky to have all the mod cons). And when you step out your front door, the entire world is new. What an exciting adventure! Except that you need groceries and have to figure out how to get to the store and once you get to the store, you have to remember then locate each of the items you need. You used to know your route by heart and could navigate the aisles blindfolded. You knew where the chocolate chips were and all was well in the world. Now everything is new. It's exciting. It's horrible.
You need to figure out when to put the garbage out and which items go into your blue recycling box and which goes in your grey one. You need to pick up your mail. You need to find a doctor/dentist/vet/hairdresser - call them all and book appointments then fill out their many, many forms.
All that novelty is exciting, but it's exhausting, too. Mission control is all lit up and its beautiful circuits are firing at once. The trouble is, my brain (and yours, and probably even Steve Jobs's) can't operate at full capacity without eventually crashing or short-circuiting. Everyone has a burn rate, even though that particular rate differs for all of us. Enter the beauty of routine. Routine is the brain's cruise control. Flick the button then let your brain go on autopilot for a while. While it's cruising along, some of the lights on the motherboard dim, allowing it to recover before it goes into hyperdrive again.
Back to Steve Jobs for a second since I mentioned him. He was regarded as an odd duck for a host of reasons, one of them being his sartorial choices. He famously wore a black turtleneck paired with blue jeans EVERY DAMN DAY. No variation as to colour or style. This idea horrifies a good many people. Myself included. But lately I can get behind his thinking. (And anyone who knows me knows I'm partial to a black turtleneck myself. Maybe paired with some black leggings...) Sure, his uniform was boring and lacked creative flair or expression. But can you just imagine for a second the mental energy you could conserve if you didn't have to stand in front of your closet every day thinking, WHAT SHOULD I WEAR? If the choice was removed and you simply covered your body with something functional that kept you warmer than a loincloth. If you got the job done without having to think, wouldn't that be a dream?
My husband—arguably just as odd as Steve Jobs—is a big fan of routine. In olden days, when colleagues still shared physical office spaces, they regularly ribbed him over his lunch. Namely, the fact that he ate the exact same lunch every day: a huge bowl of porridge. Now that he's working at home, with so many options available, it's still the same. Porridge. How drab! How boring! I know. I used to pity his poor tragic taste buds. But now I see the error of my ways. Now I see that perhaps he's more enlightened than I—and his disbelieving colleagues—gave him credit for.
I've never been one for meal planning. What a kitchen killjoy! Now my shiny new weekly menu is tacked to my fridge, and the relief, I tell you, is divine. Thursday - eggs. Friday - fish. Saturday - takeout. Sunday - stir fry. There is still some wiggle room for creativity (will the eggs be poached, scrambled or fried?). But just knowing it's egg night frees up some space in my poor addled brain. Imagine that nice airy room. Think of what you could do with all that space. I might get a nice armchair where I can sit and can get on with some of that higher-level stuff I actually want to think about.
So consider me a changed woman. I'm on the lookout for even more routines that will make this new life of mine easier. Although porridge for lunch will probably never be one of them. I have my limits. How do you feel about routines - any that you cling to? Also, this was the article that got me thinking about routines in the first place. (And no, I still haven't figured out how to enable comments, but maybe once I free up more mental space...)