Herrington: A New Routine

Chris Herrington, Contributing Writer

     Life can become routine. We can have a similarity about our days that makes our lives feel like a rut, a trajectory that both keeps and allows us to maintain our present course. And so it becomes a safe place to pass our lives away, to keep from having to live so close to the edge, to keep from having any risks. It is no surprise then that we will have our favorites, make plans that are so very much the same, and that eventually we will become predictable, and thus caricatures of ourselves. What if anything can be done to keep from becoming a joke in our own lives? “Well, you know how Chris is.”

     If you have ever been to a nursing home, they are often populated with those who were under stimulated in their lives. They fell into routines that centered around a pathway of daily activities and mindsets that simply laid the brain’s plasticity to rest, in an under stimulated coma. Eat-sleep-TV-phone-work-chatter-pattern. The interesting thing about these patterns is that they begin with such an innocent nature.

     The call: “Hi, whatcha doing?”

     “Oh, calling you.”

     Where does a conversation like this go from here? If you were to boil down most conversations, they would end up being a sentence that merely revealed that the caller was bored and needed to hear someone’s voice to check and see if he is still alive. To be blunt then, the call is asking, “Is this hell and am I dead?” It may not mean to do that, but with nothing really being said and no real engagement occurring, what is the need for such a call?

     The same is true of work, and the same old ball and chain, and the same old routine, and fact that some things never change, and I’ve heard that story before. We have expressions in our daily lives that really speak to this idea of having habitual patterns of sameness that run so deep that even the patterns of discussion about those patterns are well documented and laid out in stone, fossilized for the human record of samenesses.

     So, how are we going to change our lives so that we can be everyday challenged to unwind the Gordian knot of our patterns of samenesses? We know that we cannot expect things to change if we remain the same, and yet we are in a standoff with the world, and we often ask it to make the first move, which it does, in the form of a crisis. That’s odd, but rather than our doing the home work it takes to investigate the world and find out how we might open ourselves to the other 359 degrees of possibilities, we wait, and the universe is so accommodating. If we will simply travel in any singular direction long enough, a wall will be provided for us to slam into.

     And this is what we do. We have these four novel areas of our lives: the physical, the mental, the emotional, and the spiritual or psychic. If we are unwilling or dispassionate about rooting out these routines and exchanging them for opportunity and growth, the universe will provide for us the stumbling blocks we need to acquire the challenges we need to interrupt our routines for us.

     Our newspapers and TV and music are riddled with the stories of those who were just going along minding their own business and boom they have their own experiences of having themselves shaken to the core. Health issues, break downs, emotional baggage, spiritual identity crisis: the lists of things that can go caddywhompus can fill a shopping cart. SNAFU. Situation normal all fouled up. Cluster mess. Things have gone to hell in a hand basket. I’ve been tore down. He’s busted. The world crashed in around him. We know these situations and yet we allow them to steamboat along until they run us over. But it is not out of laziness. No, it takes a tremendous effort to let things get this far out of hand. “In my long career as a professional, I have never seen one as bad as that.”

     Avoidance of that magnitude takes skill and precision. No one can just walk up and off handedly mess things up so bad they bewilder the experts. They are the experts, and they can handle anything and yet this is something that is beyond their skill set. It’s a profession grade level mess up. And that takes years of steady effort.

     To quote Hank Hill, “I’ll tell you what.” If at every day you do a certain thing like clockwork, just like a heroin addict shoots up at a certain time, then you might look at that analogy. Are you predictable? Are you a caricature of yourself, an avatar without a life? If you made this into a war game and the enemy only had to merely wait until the moment when your routine was set into motion so that he could stalk you and hunt you down and find you at the sludge factory of your sameness, then you need a new routine.

     One of my friends was trying to reason with his teenager one day and the boy was dead set on not washing his truck. He simply would not have it. He reasoned that the truck was fun to drive and was just going to get muddy all over again. In his consummate insight, the father looked at the boy and squared off with a line that lingers with me until this day, “Son, go and get some new dirt.”

     IF nothing else, follow that advice and go and get yourself some new routines, some new samenesses, a few different patterns. Mix it up. Try something novel. Redraw your own cartoon. Adopt a new way of saying things. Otherwise, “I’ll tell you what.”


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