Okay, this blog may be a little different tonight. I’m doing it on my home computer, because I left my iPad at work. Up till now I have used the iPad every time to write it, and I’m wondering if a change to my routine will upset the flow. Hope not.
And that, I think, will be my topic for today – routine. I’ll try not to dwell on the obvious – that routine brings familiarity, safety and security to those who live that way, along with boredom and stagnation for those whose lives are too structured. That much I’m guessing we all know, and it points to the next question. Allowing that some routine is necessary and even critical to some kind of stability (I mean, imagine a life where EVERYTHING each day was different – eg fleeing from a war zone) the question then becomes – how much routine is too much?
I regard myself as a spontaneous kind of guy. I like the idea of doing something on the spur of the moment, though in reality I rarely do. Actually, perhaps a better description is that I am someone who likes to do different things. So “variety” might be the word I am looking for.
I’m hardly a poster boy for living an outrageously different life to others, but I do try a little bit to step outside the box. If I go on holidays I love to take the road less travelled where possible – get off the beaten track, and mingle with the locals (or at least try to go where the locals go). When I listen to music, though I am pretty much a rocker, I love to listen to really different kinds of music (and as a result I have yet to find anyone who shares most of the same musical interests). At restaurants I am tempted to try dishes that I haven’t tried before, drinks that I haven’t tasted yet. When I meet people who come from very different backgrounds and interests, I love to hear their point of view (if they are interested in telling it, or if they tell it in an interesting way). I love films that are not mainstream, but not so quirky that I don’t know what the hell they are on about. Books that expand my awareness fascinate me.
And there’s still plenty of routine, or safety, or boundaries if you will. I don’t want to go to countries where my life is going to be threatened, or where their lifestyle is so alien that I would be in utter confusion. I eat food preety often that is similar – Macca’s (yes I know), or Hungry Jack’s if I can find them, parmas at the local pub, or steak with hollandaise sauce and mashed potato and greens. Some music and some films and some food is just too way out there for me, though if other people have raved about them I will probably check it out to try and see what they see.
I want to live life – I don’t want to miss out (I think I’ve said that before in earlier blogs). And that makes me restless to try things, to venture out. But that would be no good if I didn’t have a sense of the familiar, of the routine to provide a backdrop to all this extra “living”. And really, those routines are ‘living’ as well – of course they are. If we strike the right balance, routine becomes as enriching and enjoyable as the variety that I try to sprinkle throughout. And in my search for variety if I find things that I really like, they tend to become a part of my routine as well.
And maybe that’s another aspect of good routine – that it changes over time. What I do now is not the same as what I did 20 years ago. I live in the same house, am married to the same wife, still play the bass guitar, but apart from that so much is different. I’m in a different job, play in different bands, listen to different music, drive a different car, have different goals now I’m getting closer to retirement age (still a while to go yet though!), my kids are now grown up and I relate to them differently, my wife and I do different things now that we are not raising children, I have different opinions on a range of issues… And the list goes on.
I asked the question near the beginning of this blog – how much routine is too much? And of course, no-one can quantitatively answer that question. We’re all different, and my wife, for example, who is very different from me, is not a fan of change very much. So perhaps we should try to answer it qualitatively. Routine becomes too much when we lose the spark of enjoyment in our lives. Not just momentarily but over a long period of time. When life becomes flat, and our routines seem to bind us rather than bless us.
Immediately the lifestage of raising children comes to mind. Right in the midst of that time of life, our options are limited. We are time poor, most likely cash strapped and exhausted, with kids that require near constant attention. And what’s more, it feels like there is no end in sight. There is light at the end of tunnel (I promise you) but it can still be a long way off.
What to do? You can’t change your circumstances, and I’m guessing you wouldn’t if you could (oh I know there are moments of temptation, but most of us see it for what it is, and we wouldn’t change our lives for anything – well, maybe if we could just a little!).
And that’s where the answer is, in my opinion. Your routine is huge, and you really can’t do much about it. But if you can find little ways to bring variety or spontaneity, take it. I’m no expert, and I’m not going to bore you with examples, but there must be a way for occasionally squeezing in some time away from that routine. If we use the example of raising kids, there must be an opportunity somehow to get away, even if for a very short space of time…
But who am I to say what you ‘must’ be able to do? Maybe for some, right now their options are extremely limited. But I hope that there is something, somehow, you can do to break out of the routine, even momentarily, before plunging back in.
Anyway, that’s about it for this blog. Hey, that’s interesting – it’s a longer blog than I usually do. Maybe that’s because I’m operating outside of my routine….