Can Routines be Blissful?

January 2010 Snow Scene

January Snow Scene (Photo credit: ς↑r ĴΛϒκ❂)

It is January. Yes, I have always been one for the obvious. Christmas seems like eons ago, New Year’s resolutions have been (for the most part) forgotten, and we are supposed to get on with our lives. School is back in session; everyone has returned to work. But do you suffer from holiday hangover? Not quite up to getting back into the stream of things? Want to make this year a little different than past years, and rid yourself of drudgery and delight in the things you found no pleasure in before?

Well, sorry – I don’t have a solution, other than the fact that holidays that go on too long are dangerous in and of themselves. At first, we luxuriate in time spent with family and friends. We read the new books we got for Christmas, listen to the new CDs, play our new games, and eat our little hearts out. Then what? Boredom starts to creep in. We get a little antsy. We want to get back to our routines even if we are not all that fussy about some of the things we have to do.

I looked up some quotes about “routine” on brainyquote.com, and out of three pages of quotes I found only a few that were even remotely positive about routine. A quote from Cardinal Henri de Lubac serves to sum up the masses: “Habit and routine have an unbelievable power to waste and destroy.” Rather heavy handed in his assessment I think, he was never-the-less in the majority when it came to thoughts on routine. But I beg to differ with the masses. Routine can be defined in two ways. de Lubac’s definition would have most likely included the words dull, repetitive, tedious, and mundane. And when looked on in this fashion, routine is none too inviting.

But routine has another side. A more pleasant cousin. Routine encompasses the regular, the everyday, the habitual, the scheduled, and the customary. And these attributes, if used wisely, can achieve a lot. Routine does not have to be mindless or boring—it can just be the set of procedures you use to get things done. And is not the everyday what we experience every day on a regular basis. Do we not use schedules to tamper down chaos? And much can be said for the customary, which gives us a bit of a map to either use or reject to forge forward.

One of the four quotes I found that did not skewer routine was from novelist, William Golding who said that: “Novelists do not write as birds sing, by the push of nature. It is part of the job that there be much routine and some daily stuff on the level of a carpenter.” Being a self-proclaimed writer married to a carpenter, I cannot agree with him more. Without deadlines and the rules of the trade, where would any of us be?

Cropped screenshot of Hedy Lamarr from the fil...

Screenshot of Hedy Lamarr from the film Dishonored Lady. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Actress, Hedy Lamarr seemed to be putting routine down, but she really wasn’t when she said, “Some men like a dull life – they like the routine of eating breakfast, going to work, coming home, petting the dog, watching TV, kissing the kids, and going to bed. Stay clear of it – it’s often catching.” Admittedly today’s men are a bit more well-rounded than in Hedy’s day, but a lovely and homey routine is nothing to shake a stick at.

Another champion of routine, actress Andrea Martin says: “For pragmatic reasons, I love…routine. I love the structure of it. I know my life is kind of orderly. I just like that better.”

I am giving the last word to Yale educated actress, Jordana Brewster who says simply: “I like to have a routine, because everything else…is so unpredictable.”

None of us want predictability all the time—we need a little room for magic and miracles, but if you woke up every day not knowing what to expect, it would certainly not be a very productive day. At one time I railed against routine and predictability, the regular and the customary, but now I see the benefits of these little “organizers”. I love a break from routine, from the everyday, from the rules, but though I have not achieved the holy grail of wisdom, I am now more studied in my acceptance of those things I once rejected.

Like many of you, I am ready to get back to work, ready to take on the day, ready to return to routine. But not the routine of the rote or boring, but the routine that keeps chaos at bay. (And who says you cannot include some delights in your routine?)

Can returning to routine be part of a blissful life?

(This is my column for the January 15th edition of  The Kingsville Reporter)

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74 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. My youth was fairly adventurous and often not very pleasant. I now lead a monastic life style with simple routine for which acquaintances ridicule. But I am quite content

  2. I agree that routine is welcome in an unpredictable world. We all like a break from it now and then…..that is why we vacation and I love taking trips but I also like coming back to my life, my routine, it’s comforting.

  3. Some routine with a splash of spontaneity – the perfect recipe.

  4. I like routine as long as it’s as you say…mixed in once in a while with something different…just to keep us from becoming bored…Even visits from friends and loved ones seem to do the trick…Diane

  5. I find alot of bliss in routine. I love the soft,steady flow of my life; the synchronized dance of my day with my husband,work and quiet evenings- pure comfort and peace.
    I guess I am probably the extreme– you know the uptight type that gets totally out of whack when something wonky happens :)

    • I have trouble going with the flow sometimes–and routine keeps me on track

  6. I seek routine. I don’t mean to, but I do. There are no routines in my job, unfortunately, besides my unpacking ritual each morning. And when I have a vacation from work, I find myself falling into a vacation routine. Hedy is right, it is catching.

    • we find what we need – if routines do not show up we go looking for them

      • Exactly.

  7. Nothing wrong with a little ole routine! It makes the unpredictable that much more interesting.

  8. All I can say is don’t mess with my routine – it’s what keeps me sane (ya, I know, that word is kind of funny when used to describe me LOL)!!

    • I know what you mean–too far out of the routine and it is chaos–btw-I think you are very sane for someone who comes from the looneybin

  9. I don’t make schedules or watch a clock, but internally I have a routine built in to my system, I tend to wake at the same time and find myself tired at the same time each night. My morning and evening routines are similar each night and that helps me to wake slowly or relax to fall asleep easily, but if you ask me what my plans are for tomorrow, I will not know what tomorrow will usually bring.

    • a lot of my routines are internal too, as is my writing–I can organize my writing in my head before it hits the page (which may explain some things–but don’t go there)

      • Funny, I can try to organize my writing in my head, but it’s not till it starts to fill the page to I see the direction it will end up going.

  10. You’re right. Christmas seems like it happened ages ago. Routines are wonderful but I do like some excitement thrown in once in a while to shake it up.

  11. Routine, even a busy hectic routine, has it’s restfulness because we don’t have to think too much about it, we don’t have to make too many decisions, we just go through it. If everything was different all the time, we’d constantly be having to think and make decisions and that would be exhausting! I should imagine that there if we went back, there is some kind of survival instinct in seeking out routines.

    • excellent point–if we were having to make decisions constantly how would we get anything done–and it would be exhausting–love this analysis of routine

  12. I definitely take comfort in routines but with little variations from time to time. I might always get breakfast to-go on my way to work but today I might go to the bakery while tomorrow I’ll go to the corner shop next to my work place. Little changes like these help make routines a little bit more interesting to me.

    • you handle routine in a way that makes it work for you and not get boring–I like that

  13. I think one of your quotes said this in different words…I find routines actually freeing. When I have order and some predictability in my life, there is space and room for serendipity. I’m prepared for the unexpected, good or bad. When I’m out of sync with myself and my physical world is in disarray, I am less able to absorb craziness. But routine does not have to equal rut!

    I definitely like getting back to “normal” after the holiday season. I always feel the urge to reset myself with the new year…much like you express! ~ Sheila

    • routines are freeing–they free us up for creativity and for getting the things that have to get done, done. Back to normal is comforting in a way–I like how you express it–resetting yourself

  14. Routines for many people is most likely blissful. They simply can not go through a day unless it is planned. I, on the other hand continue unable of how to go about planning my day. I want to have a routine but it escapes and evades me. However, some things are routine but these are the essential- otherwise- yes I would love to return to a routine-if I had one.

    • I think your world and routine was upset and you are finding your way now–do not be hard on yourself–and you do have routines to build on–life throws us a curve ball every once in awhile.

      • Thanks Lou Ann. I think you understand more than I realized. You are right to mention curves. I have had more than one- Too many in fact. I just can not write about all of it for it does not make for good reading. It causes the blogger to appear as a constant complainer and “woe is me” and it quickly turns people away. And some of it or most of it has concerns family and all that is too personal- but maybe way down the road if I’m not dead by thenm Possibly it would make good reading fodder. Especially the ERs and MD encounters for one of my children.

      • I don’t write much about my personal woes either, but whenever I have I have received great support from my blog friends–I think you are right not to share too much–but you can share a bit, and we will still love you :)

  15. I think routines can be blissful.. it gives our lives some balance, stability which is blissful :-)
    Have a great Tuesday !!

  16. If I don’t get my exercise routine every Mon., Wed., Fri., Sun., I am a mess. I definitely need that in my life. I think if you are in a happy place in your life, routine feels comforting rather than stifling.

    • and even if you are not in a happy place, it can be comforting–something you can count on

  17. I’m actually enjoying getting back into my routine. The holidays are great, but they mess everything up: sleep, exercise, relaxation, and I’m sure there’s other things but I was up late last night and can’t think straight.

    • I have no excuse for not thinking straight–but I was up late last night too–had to attend a municipal council meeting for the newspaper–strangely it was interesting last night

      • Um, I’ll take your word for it, but I’m having a hard time imagining that. We saw Les Mis last nigh–very long movie.

      • It was interesting because someone from the audience called one of the councillors a bitch

      • I do love the passion involved in local politics. Not much manners though.

  18. Funny you wrote about this – I touched on the same topic in my post yesterday.
    Yes, I do think routines can be blissful.

  19. I actually love routine. I like to be productive one way or another, and if I’m just hanging aimlessly around the house, I end up feeling rather frustrated. Now if we can only take the suckiness of Monday out of the equation, I’ll be a very happy camper.

    • the suckiness has been taken care of now–it is Tuesday. routines do help make us productive – aimlessness gets boring

  20. There are stressed-out times when I long for predictability and routine, and a day that stretches out before me like a vast arid desert, with no obligations. I take comfort in the everyday rituals of making coffee, cleaning up after breakfast, reading the New York times, phoning my mom or a friend, taking a walk, planning dinner. But after a few days of just routine I feel restless and bored and start to brood. So I need these little rituals to give a comforting security to my day, but also need some challenges to tackle in between. Striking the right balance between comforting routine and discomfiting challenge is very hard, but you feel such as sense of well-being when you achieve it. Great post.

    • good reply–I like the points you make–we need both routine and challenges to make us well-rounded

  21. [...] of my favorite bloggers “On the Homefront and Beyond” tackles the subject of whether predictable routines are comforting or constraining. “Like many of you, I am ready to get back to work, ready to take on the day, ready to return to [...]

  22. Little rituals are sprinkled throughout my day, but I watch that I don’t become so full of routine that I lose my resilience. Change is such a certainty and I want to continue welcoming good transitions – especially if I have a say in the decision.

    My rituals are portable. They travel with changes of environment or time and don’t affect other people. (E.g. – drinking Yerba Mate in a gourd with a bombilla instead of morning coffee. Another is my morning meditation.) These are a great comfort to me.

    • I like your interesting rituals–those somewhat exotic they are rituals nevertheless
      good transitions–that is a great goal

  23. Hi there!
    Thanks so much for participating in my Interview with a Blogger series.
    I’m also stopping by to nominate you for the Blog of the Year 2012 award and the Super Sweet Blogging award. You can see the details here (http://thedailycreativewriter.com/2013/01/15/they-like-me-they-really-really-like-me/).
    Thanks again and congrats!

  24. It seems the older I get the more I love routine. When I was young I was completely spontaneous, I could pick up at the drop of a hat and be off on a car trip. I even went to England one weekend, very unexpectedly (long story-short trip!). I think when you’re young you have the energy to deal with surprises and changes. Now, if I go shopping, I want to go home and take a nap! haha! I just get pooped.

    • funny how at one time I looked at sleep as a necessary evil, now I enjoy a good nap on occasion
      I love the unexpected, but only in small doses

  25. Having recently ‘quit my day job’ I’m getting into a wonderful routine of setting some time aside every day to write. It’s still on shaky ground and I’m easily distracted – but I’m slowly getting into my bliss ;)

    • it is hard when you have to make your own routine–I know that as a freelance writer–but it is nicer than being bossed around

  26. Aw … Hedy Lamarr … now that’s bliss …

  27. I crave my routines and rituals and really look forward to getting life back into my comfortable rut. :) We’re getting there.

    My new Sunday routine of Downton Abbey is very satisfying too. I’m a new fan of the show. Everything stops for a couple of hours. Except for last Sunday, when they repeated the same show twice for some reason.

    • I have added it to my routine though it is really hard for me to stay up that late — ha ha
      How is the moving going–bet you can’t wait to get back to a routine that does not involve packing and moving

  28. I feel a sense of calmness with routine. But – if everything was routine – I’d go nuts. A little good fun spontaneity is good too :)

    • it is all in the balance isn’t it?

      • Most definitely

  29. This really, really resonated with me. A series of minor disruptions (all pleasant, as it happens) made me realize how much I value routine! Thanks for sharing. I’d also like to thank you for supporting my blog with visits – this means a lot to me. As a small token, I’ve nominated your blog for the Beautiful Blogger Award and the Readership Appreciation Award, and posted about it here http://scribblerbean.com/2013/01/16/awards-season/
    Thank you for the work you do!

    • Thank you so much for the honour of being nominated–it is always wonderful to be appreciated especially by a fellow introvert

  30. What a good point you make. I’ve been trying to set a new, earlier routine after the holidays. I’m not doing too good because my heart isn’t in it. I never knew so many people loved their routines.

  31. YES YES YES!!!! About two weeks into the Christmas holiday I was dying from lack of routine!!! I was so happy to return to the normalcy of it all!I look forward to after Christmas simply to get back into the routine!

  32. [...] Can Routines be Blissful? (onthehomefrontandbeyond.wordpress.com) [...]

  33. […] On the Home Front and Beyond – Louanne writes prolifically and from the heart, and has the most enviably long list of devoted followers and commenters, which she truly deserves.  She is a champion of finding bliss in little everyday things and enjoying life. […]


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