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)