During times when the whole world seems to be spinning out of control, routines are not only comforting, they are necessary.
This is the latest revelation in a series of “lessons our dog taught me”. Jack, our chihuahua, is a nervous, feisty, loving and fiercely loyal protector. His early life details are unknown, but they caused him to be wary of everyone and everything. He finds comfort and security in daily routines and will often come stare at us expectantly when it is time for potty breaks or bedtime.
My husband and I have a daily routine also, a home-made latte, which we make at about the same time each afternoon. It’s a welcome break from his work and my writing, and we both enjoy the camaraderie of a shared task. On the rare occasions when we have missed our daily routine, I am left feeling a strange sense of loss.
Routines are our way of restoring order. Often, they are the only source of order in our very chaotic lives. When I am stressed, I organize cupboards and closets. My house may still look like a tornado passed through recently, but inside those drawers and cupboards, order reigns supreme. Perhaps that compulsion is genetic. My dad used to alphabetize his canned goods. He was the polar opposite of my mom. She had a filing system that made sense only to her. Finding a name in her address book was something like a scavenger hunt. She’d file my friends under “D” for “Donna’s friend”. A contact she’d met while leading a cub scout troop would be filed under “S” — for “Scouts” of course. I used to joke that she filed a number of names under “N” for “No reason at all”! It was a wonder she and my dad remained married as long as they did.
Everyone has routines they find comforting. Maybe it’s a morning cup of coffee — it’s not just the jolt of caffeine that you depend on the start the day. It’s also the familiar actions of making the coffee, pouring it into your favorite mug and taking that first, warm sip.
Even routines you say you hate are still a source of comfort. Driving the same route to work, seeing familiar cars or the same people waiting at the bus stop. When the virus forced some of us to quarantine familiar routines got disrupted. Everyday chores like shopping changed. Familiar steps were deleted, changed or had added restrictions. Now when we head out, I ask my husband if he has wipes and a mask. The world has changed and with it come new routines. It’s a habit now, to add sanitizer and face masks to our list of items we always grab on our way out the door.
Routines change but the need for them remains the same. Like a clock ticking off the minutes, routines measure our lives into neat increments. They are necessary to our sanity, a way to keep order. a lesson from college has stayed with me all these years. A professor once told us that “familiarity doesn’t breed contempt — familiarity breeds Content.” I find that as profound today as I did so many years ago.
So whether your routine is to clip your toenails every Tuesday, or wash the sheets every Saturday isn’t important. What’s important is that you create your own routines. Take time to notice the routines you already have in place, no matter how minor or mundane. Celebrate them — for they are the adhesive that holds it all together when life seems to be coming unglued.
Here’s to routines!
One of my routines is writing — poetry mostly. Check out my impromptu poetry at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaWylieAuthor