Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tuesday's Reflection: The Routines of Our Life

What a gorgeous day it was! What a shame it would have been to not get out and enjoy it. Minnesotans are always talking about what's ahead of us, as in frigid temperatures and day after day of falling snow and icy roads. We remind ourselves of our dire future, I think, in order to justify our play time. After all, winter is coming and who knows how long it will be before we can put the top down again and wander country roads in warmth and sunshine. (An aside: Minnesotans, myself included, also talk about the coming winter in June, July, and August to show the rest of the world how tough we are!) 

This particular gorgeous fall day was a Wednesday and in the middle of the day, the middle of the week, Bruce and I were in his little car heading to a small town along the St Croix river. Ostensibly, we were in search of pumpkins, but really, we just wanted to do what we wanted to do, instead of doing what we thought we had to do when we thought we had to do it. When we returned home, we did what we said we had to do and nobody was the wiser. And what we said we had to do was still waiting for us. I don't even remember what that left till later task was. I am sure I eventually did it or maybe not.

The next night we went out for dinner with friends, and it wasn't even a weekend. A Thursday night. How decadent is that! We had a leisurely dinner in a fun new place and no one thought about the next day and what might happen because we weren't getting ready for it because we were out doing something fun. 

A New Time
It is slowly dawning on me that we no longer have to maintain the old routines, especially the ones dominated by the week and weekend division. True, Bruce is still working, but part-time, and his work hours are his own. He can work just as easily on an early Saturday morning, if he chooses to do that, as he can working on a Tuesday morning at 10:00. He is no longer on call --a factor in our earlier life that dictated much of what we could do and when or where we chose to do it. 

Still, however, it is easy to live according to past schedules and past demands and obligations. Even though I have not had a regular check-in with the boss kind of job for a long time,  I still divide my time into slots -- "work" during the day and "rest" or "play" on the weekends. Even my playtime is slotted, reserving weekends for time with Bruce and our friends and family, and if I get together with my friends on my own I am much more likely to do that on a weekday. In the past I have not retreated to my office to write on the weekends, designating that as a Monday through Friday assignment. 

A Time to Change
Why is that? Where did all these self-imposed regulations come from? When we were raising our children our schedules were dictated in large measure by school and their activities and trying to manage fitting in the stuff of life. Later, when we became empty-nesters, our work lives still dominated our calendar. Along the way, however, we developed habits and routines which have been reinforced at least to some degree by what we were taught as children about what was appropriate to do at what time. 

At least I don't follow a wash on Monday, iron on Tuesday kind of routine, as previous generations did. I do laundry when the laundry basket is full and I grocery shop when the refrigerator is empty and I don't know what to fix for dinner. I do have a very hard time, however, taking time out in the middle of the day to sit and read. I save my reading time for when I have done everything else on my list for that day--a list, I hasten to add, I create for myself. Often when I finish that list I am too tired to read--or I remember just one more thing I need to do first.  Somehow I still manage to read a great deal, but it is a reward for being a good girl and accomplishing my list. Unfortunately, no one is passing out gold stars for such behavior. This view of priorities in my day often means I don't spend as much time writing as I say I want to do nor do I take as much advantage of these beautiful days. 

The other day when Bruce suggested we take a drive, I hesitated, my mind flipping through everything I had planned for that morning. I asked myself, "What's the worst that could happen if you set aside your list for a few hours?" The better question, it seems to me, is what is the best that can happen by being spontaneous and staying awake to the richness of what is right now at this very moment? 

A Time to Stay Awake
This is a good question at each stage of life, but it is even more crucial as we age and as we set aside our careers and our responsibilities raising our families.  In staying awake to what is possible right now and what is calling us right now we continue to participate in the "grand act of self-creation," a phrase I read in a book about changing habits, This Year I Will… by M. J. Ryan. http://www.mj-ryan.com This is a time to look at our habits and routines in a fresh way and to open to what enhances ongoing growth. Who is it we are meant to be right now? 

We haven't yet gone to a movie in the middle of the day or even on a weekday evening, and I aspire to that, but I am more apt to pick up a book in the middle of the day just because I want to and I have been known to write a blog post on Sunday afternoon because that's what I want to do. I am challenging my view of when I can do something, but at the same time I am compassionate with myself when I slip into former ways of functioning and thinking. 

It looks like another gorgeous day out there, and I wonder how I will decide to live it. My prayer is that whatever choices I make, I will end the day feeling more alive and grateful for the choices I have made. 

An Invitation
What choices, habits, routines are you willing to challenge in your life right now? What is the worst that could happen? What is the best that could happen? I would love to know. 

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