Let’s talk routine.

I have a lot of routines. When it comes to life, I’m a calm weather and flat roads kind of woman. I like my time to be thoroughly-scheduled, predictable, and straightforward.

No, that isn’t right. That’s a wicked lie.  I loathe schedules.  I abhor (SUCH A GOOD WORD) pre-planned, calendared-to-the-minute activities, and I hate having to be any given place at exactly any given time. Time Management is right up there on my list of Least Favorite Things.

There’s nothing I love more than a long stretch of unstructured time to enjoy without obligations or commitments hanging over my head. Being able to dive into whatever I feel like doing (WRITING, mostly) for long, unmeasured periods, secure in the knowledge I’m not shirking any responsibility or failing any expectations–that is the purest of pure blisses.

The clock is my enemy.  I am that person who is always late (except when I am ridiculously early because I don’t dare miss out on whatever reason I have to be punctual. Think airline flights, bus & train departures, events that close their doors at the start of shows, etc. Yeah.)

But I digress. Routine is the topic, and the reality is that my life has to be very, very, VERY rigidly structured, because holding fast to processes is the only way I can carve out those huge, juicy blocks of time. I do what I must to get treats I chew up like big wedges of watermelon or a personal fruit pie.

(Me, a full 9-inch cherry pie, a spoon: that is also a real thing)

ANYway. If I don’t cling to all my hated-but-necessary routines, my ability to create…goes *PAF* like a soap bubble. Being interrupted in the middle of my get-up routine can derail my whole day, for example. It LOOKS like I’m aimlessly puttering around the house, but the aimlessness has an aim–it’s settling my synapses and getting clutter out of my space and thus out of my mind. Ditto for coming-home routines, and even the global routine of having daily routines. It’s why I loved regular-schedule retail work: infinite variation & constant novelty bounded within a rigidly structured routine.

I read a lot of Erynn Brook’s blogging and tweeting about ADHD because she gets into the nitty-gritty of living with a brain that works its own way, norms be damned, and I see my life in the stories she tells.

No, seriously. She had a thread about arranging living space to compensate for distraction and sensory overload, and it was like she was walking through my house. Eerie. But also fun. That kind of affirmation is a fleecy blanket of comfort. It reassures me that my many weird quirks about the maintenance of my physical and temporal environment arise from deep places and serve a purpose.

(Purpose: keeping me functional in a world that demands Things Get Done Just So and Right Now, which is NOT how my brain is set up, on top of all the compromises I make to keep my pesky body from breaking down faster. That’s a whole ‘nother post.)

Some folk consider my has-to-be-done-this-way quirks as petty, tyrannical neat-freak tendencies. Others think I’m a judgmental perfectionist who measures their spaces and systems by my own. FULL DISCLAIMER: I neither expect nor want anyone else to live the way I do. Hell, I wouldn’t live this way, given, y’know, a different brain & body. But I work with what I have.

So.  Why am I writing about this? Because blog.

Okay, seriously. It came to mind, and thus is flowing onto the page because I keep getting knocked out of my routine, and that has Consequences. I have a whole set of compensations regarding travel and socializing, two things I love to do, but can only do to certain limits. And since I just got home from travel, those things are on my mind.

When life crashes hard into my routines, like say, when I go on a trip or go out to dinner with friends, my life routines are thrown off not only for the Time Of Upheaval itself but potentially for days afterward. And I didn’t realize that was what was happening for most of my life.

So I’m developing better processes and routines to compensate for getting back to normal. Travel itself is all routine now. 15+ years of business trips. For the other situations, I’m learning it’s easier when people come into my space than when I go out, and the less organized the occasion, the less it winds me up (“let’s hang out for no real reason” is infinitely less stressful than planned dinners, f’rex)

But in every case I am still learning to compensate for just how ridiculously much creative time & emotional stability I have to pay for experiences.

I used to think the brain fog after business trips came from pure physical exhaustion, but the last two years have taught me it’s my brain that needs a variable amount of rebound time and relief from all responsibility.  If I go through my coming-home routines without upheaval and let myself meander without pressure to produce anything, I will predictably get back to normal writing routine in 1 to 5 days.

If I don’t let that process happen naturally, if I push onward attempting all normal routines until the next weekend, I end up physically ill.  Talk about incentive to take it easy, right?

Scheduling, time management and task organization are like living things.  I know from the outside it often looks like they’re my besties, but look closer.

I have harnessed them to my will,  and they serve me well, but they are a troika of wolves, not a team of fast horses. They need more than cooling down after every run.  I have to unharness them and let them go off hunting, or they will turn on me and chew me up.

That’s what I came to write, and there it is.

 

 


Image by reyesdf on Pixabay

 

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