When Routine Becomes Too Routine

BreakfastPrep

Routine has a certain element of comfort. Even for a retired individual like myself.

But sometimes it gets to be too much.

I don’t mind getting up at 6:30 on weekdays to fix breakfast for my wife. It’s one way to show my gratitude for the many things she does for me. And if I’m extra tired, she encourages me to stay in bed. She’ll settle for instant oatmeal on those rare occasions.

All I have to do is follow a rather harmless series of steps. (Read as “routine.”) Put my breakfast pills at my place at the counter. Put my hearing aids in. Plug the egg poacher in. Get the toaster out and plug it in. Spray the egg container part of the poacher and the ramekin dish I use for my egg. Put sausage crumbles and liquid egg whites in my dish. Break an egg and put it in the poacher’s container. Put just the right amount of water in the poacher. Get out plates and juice  and milk glasses. Get out bread for toast and an English muffin.

Etc.

Am I boring you yet? If so, then you understand where I’m coming from. I left out a lot of the details, all of which are important. Fortunately, not all of those steps have to be done sequentially, so there’s a little bit of variation.

Hmm. When I retired at sixty-two to write full-time, I never anticipated routine becoming a problem. After all, I had been liberated from the bonds of “real work.” As much as I enjoy writing, I expected to fill each and every day making the most of my imagination and my writing skills.

At this stage, I have two novels out, two under contract, and seven that are waiting for some discriminating publisher to fall in love with.

Some of you may have already suspected this, but probably not everyone. With all of the writing I’ve already done, I have a real sense of “What’s the rush? Why push to write something new when only a small percentage of my books have been published or are awaiting publication?”

One thing that helps is I love to edit and revise. That’s what turns a very faulty rough draft into a real novel–or “manuscript” as unpublished novels are called.

On days when I’m busy working on either a rough draft or a revision, I’m not as conscious of the problem of routine. I can still move at my own pace and do as much or as little as I feel like doing that day.

I think the real problem has to do with the limited number of activities I’m apt to do when I’m not busy writing. I do the laundry–light load on Thursday and dark load on Friday. I vacuum–maybe one every couple of weeks.

I cut the grass an average of once a week during the grassy season. I walk–either at the mall or in the neighborhood–five times a week for exercise. I play my guitar and periodically dig an old song out of the notebook to remind myself how it goes.

Oh, and I do read…fiction, of course. And I play Words with Friends with my wife and with a couple of other people.

And let’s not forget the nursing home ministry every Wednesday of the month but one. Or Wednesday night Bible study at church. Or Sunday morning and Sunday evening worship, with choir practice sandwiched in between.

You’d think all of that would keep me from being bothered by a feeling of routine. But it doesn’t. Not always.

Thank goodness for my afternoon nap!

How about you? Are you locked into a routine? How about leaving a comment to share with the rest of us?

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”-check it out here. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list here.

Best regards,
Roger

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6 thoughts on “When Routine Becomes Too Routine

  1. Roger, routine is good and bad. It is good in that you are blessed to be able to perform all of those “mundane” routine tasks. It is bad in that they have become “mundane”. One thing I would hope I would find in my older years is time to reflect on all of my mistakes and spend time teaching the next generation not to make the same ones. I am looking fwd to my time alone with my husband and to retirement where we can travel, enjoy wonderful trips both fun and educational. In the meantime, you might find comfort in mixing it up or adopting a pet to care for and love who needs a companion. My sweet Lily keeps me alive even on the most mundane of days.

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    • Carol, I have a dog and cat both to keep me company, and that helps. Since I’m ten years older than Kathleen, we just hope I’ll still be in good enough health when she’s old enough to retire to be able to do more traveling and other special events. As for my past mistakes…I don’t want to think about them anymore.

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  2. And I SO appreciate the breakfast and other “housework” chores that are part of your routine. It makes working full-time bearable when I have limited things that need my attention at home!

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  3. You can have a routine without letting it be repetitive. In the restaurant I sell the same ingredients every day; the thing is, I change things around so that it won’t be exactly the same every time… I do this more for me than for ”them”. take banna bread for instance: I’ve fiddled with the weight of the bananas I use, the amount of sugar, the use of vanilla vs rum vs other flavorings, heat temperatures, cooking times, amount of stirring versus using a whisk or mixer… Some of the changes were dramatic and the people noticed. I do the same with Lasagna, spice mixes, cookies, pasta… so you can poach eggs every day but play with it, explore the possibilities and who knows… As for past mistakes, I say that’s a misguided point of view: nothing is a mistake because you never perform mistakes on purpose. When you were in school you probably never filled in the wrong answer on a test on purpose. nope. It was a learning experience, no more. Keeping busy intelectually will help you maintain your years more useful and productive and perhaps help stretch out your life. Seems to me you’re doing that…

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    • Great points, Tom. Totally agree about past mistakes. And I do vary my activities as much as possible. Probably the biggest problem is that even though I’m an introvert (defined as someone more energized being by himself than with others), I find that the limited people contact I have in a normal day is, uh, very limited. One reason I often go to the grocery store for only a small item–just to get out into a different environment among different people. For a few minutes, anyhow.

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