Thursday, September 11, 2014

What's Routine About Routine?

Not long after the boy was born, his daily routine slowly emerged. 

Two years and four months later that routine has evolved but the central elements remain anchored in place. 


He goes to sleep at about the same time, eats at about the same time, leaves the house at the same time and sees familiar people, every day. At this stage, it's clear that this routine is good for the boy — and Mrs. Blackwell and myself. 

It's interesting and appalling that so little routine has worked its way into how I manage my life. For purposes of this discussion, I'll focus on the morning routine as I think it's the most important; it sets the tone for the day. 

Establishing a morning routine has been a bitter, bitter struggle and one I've yet to win. 

As a kid I remember getting reprimanded by both my parents, my family members and my pedantic grandfather to always, always, always put things back where I got them from. 

And, now firmly in my mid-30's I finally, truly and wholly understand why. 
The President says he only owns blue or gray suits to save time by avoiding
unimportant decisions.  I get to wear jeans to work so, what's my excuse?

Complete command of one's personal effects is the central tenant of routine. One must know where items are placed in order to execute the tasks that comprise a routine. 

Because, when it's 6:27 in the morning and you need to get to work early, you don't need to be wondering — and wandering — in search of a hairbrush. It needs to be there. 

When you are under the impression that you need coffee every morning and you "need" cream in that coffee then you'd better know exactly where you've stashed the cream in the fridge. Ditto for your favorite coffee cup (all the other cups have lids that drip, or spill, or just don't feel right. Aaammigh right?).

Clothing is whole different matter and represents a slate of small decisions that can mount into a minutes-long ordeal that can mean the difference between a drive to work or a ferocious, teeth-gnashing, foul-mouthed race against any commuter or pedestrian misfortunate enough to pass between you and the door to your office. 

Oh and what about breakfast? What is there to eat? ( A quick glance at the clock.) Welp, too late for breakfast. Meh. I'm sure someone at work will have donuts; someone always does. (Wash those sweets down with a heaping helping of guilt and, TAH-DAH! you've got yourself a breakfast fit for chronic depression.) 

Look back at the clock. And, wait, dear God, what's that sound? Is the boy waking up? Couldn't possibly be. Better go check.  

Ninety precious seconds later, you've determined that your kid is still indeed asleep.

Here I'll digress to say that Mrs. Blackwell and I are mostly peas in a pod in that we're both disorganized. But there is one crucial difference. Somehow, some way, the disorganization doesn't bother her — ever. 

She does this primarily by not caring at all and, in some instances, I make it easier for her. For instance, she never brings a debit or credit card when we go out, because I do. And, even if she finds herself in a situation where she needs her purse and she doesn't have it (and I'm not there), she takes it in stride whereas I do not. 

Nope, in this case, what is water off Mrs. Blackwell's back is, for me, cause for self-flagellation and much introspection into all the ways I've derailed and led myself into this debit card-less  state. 

Back to the morning routine. With the clothing dilemma presumably now resolved and breakfast figured out, attention turns to the coffee. 
Taking a cue from the President, the boy saves time with clothes too —
by dressing like dad.

Perhaps the favorite cup has been located and some cream has too. Maybe it's not the cream you were looking for and who knows how old it is but, hey, why not take a chance? What's the worst that can happen with spoiled dairy? 

Now, just grab the car keys and your wallet and hit the road. Ahh, yes. Your keys and your wallet (AKA the crown jewels of every morning gone awry ever). If there are any two items more dependent upon routine I don't know what they are. 

Some might be inclined to put their cell phone into this exclusive category but, to my mind, it loses out because one can call a cell phone to help locate it. 


Lost car keys? Missing wallet? There's no calling them. And, most of the time, if you don't have them, you ain't going anywhere. Women have an advantage here if they keep their wallet in their purse. And, if that purse also has their cell phone in it? Forget about it. That's barely an inconvenience compared to the frantic, frenzied search for a lonely, old wallet. 

At this point, keys and wallet are the only two items I've managed to successfully work into my routine. I'm pretty good at getting coffee ready to be brewed the night before, though I occasionally find myself without a mug. Clothes are always a touch-and-go proposition. Ditto for meal preparation, housework, errands and the general maintenance of daily life. 

As for the boy? His routine remains stable. As for Mrs. Blackwell? Hers remains practically nonexistant. Routine. No routine. Either way, they remain completely calm and cool most mornings. Remind me again how routine makes life so much easier for everyone. 

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