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GENERATIONS: In defense of the ‘routine’

The alarm clock goes off at 6 a.m. In a home where there are two bathrooms, only one with a shower, don’t screw around with the schedule or someone will be banging on the door. If cold water comes out of a shower because someone overstayed their allotted time, it will make anyone grouchy. If you are in a rush, as happens most mornings, the Cheerios, bagels or whole wheat toast better be where it’s supposed to be. Heaven forbid if little Johnny doesn’t get his strawberry-laced cream cheese.

Routine gets a bad rap. In a hyperactive culture, anything that smacks of repetitive, mundane or humdrum, is immediately judged as b-o-r-i-n-g; novel is good, predictable is bad. But there is a fine line between excitement and stimulation and its byproducts, uncertainty and anxiety. If you’re off your game at the start, it can take a long time to get your mojo back. A “normal” start to any day anchors and directs what comes later.

The favorite shirt that goes with your khakis and blue blazer isn’t in its usual place. A quick search of the laundry basket in the basement reveals it didn’t make it into the wash over the weekend. And the tie you counted on to make a good impression at a meeting walks out the door slung over the shoulder of a son who is in the running for Homecoming King. Bye-bye good impression. At least he’s got a chance for his 15 minutes of fame.

Then there is the car keys. Could have sworn they were on the counter when you went to bed last night! Paranoid thinking follows. Did young Juliet sneak out again for a late night rendezvous with her budding Romeo, or were the utensils of independence buried in a pile of sweatshirts in the closet after last night’s yard work? A frantic search and muttered accusations ensue and neither scenario holds sway as they are found under yesterday’s bills in the middle of the dining room table. A mumbled apology and icy stare complicate an already complex relationship.

So when morning plans disintegrate after the hot water heater dies and the bagel sends up a cloud of smoke from the toaster because little Johnny forgets it and becomes involved in a video game, look at it this way, perhaps a cold shower will dampen Juliet’s ardor for a microsecond and Johnny will have to suck it up and drag out the Rice Krispies. He won’t starve.  

Circumstances beyond our control like power outages or lack of attention and its consequences, teach us that we depend on the expected, perhaps a bit too much. We make choices about what is important and plan or fall into habits that ground our hopes about how any day should go. We depend on routine and return to it even amid chaos and the disruption of normal patterns as soon as we can. The mundane and humdrum may not serve as a steady diet, but it anchors and underscores those time when we can really enjoy that hot shower and fresh bagel.  

More of Doug’s writings can be seen at http://www.douglewandowski.com.

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