I have some of my best ideas in the shower. I do not mean literally standing in the shower fully clothed, but while I am taking part in my daily showering. As I lather my hair with shampoo and tilt my head back to rinse, it is like a magic motion that gets the wheels in my mind moving. I do not fully understand it nor have any rationale behind it, but it is the one constant thing in my life; great thoughts occurring during my bathing ritual. Two weeks ago, as I was in the shower, I had a thought that really caused me to stop mid lather, “Why do I do what I do?” Let me clarify; why do I have these routines in my life that are not necessary and not mandated by anyone but myself?
Before I lose your attention, let me try to clear this up. On the weekends I have a ritual of going to the coffee shop in the morning to write a little, do some personal work, pay bills, and whatever else needs tended to. I will then grocery shop, clean, and possibly do laundry. When my son is not home and I have no prior commitments, I still find myself getting up early to performs these rituals. My question is, why? Perhaps I feel if I don’t adhere to them I am being lazy and unproductive. What is going to happen if I do not stick to this mental checklist? No one is going to die, no one is going to go hungry, and no one will go without clean laundry. I know I am not the only one who struggles with these same mundane routines, because I certainly hear others discuss these same unappealing plans as we chat about the events of the upcoming weekend.
Well for starters, I think we fall into these routines because we often model after our parents or others we are close with or perhaps it is because it is something we did at one time to keep order in the household. At this point in my life, it is just me and my teenage son who is either at school, working, and or socializing. Depending on his schedule we do see each other daily, but at random times. I may only cook for him a couple time a week. So do I really need a refrigerator full of choices of yogurt and beverages, or a pantry stocked with snacks and canned goods? Who is going to eat it all? There is a store a mile away. If I need something, I can literally run to the store. My son, for the most part, does his own laundry so who cares if my laundry hamper is full. If I have no clean socks the earth will not shake, I will simply wash them. Why must the laundry hamper be empty? Do you see what I am getting at? I think it is time to break up with this creature of habit and become a renegade; at least give it a try.
Just like any nagging or ingrained habit, It is easier said than done, so I decided to take one weekend and break out of my routine. At first, it felt liberating and slightly exciting, “Look at me, I am not doing my chores!”, as if I were some teenage rebel declaring liberation from her parents’ rules. I started the day by sitting in my pajamas until 11:00 a.m. sipping coffee and watching a Netflix comedy special. I eventually showered, made a phone call to my cousin, and then finally after 1:00 p.m. I decided to head out. I did not touch a dish in the sink or any other tidying up as I exited my home. Now mind you, on any other given weekend, I would have been a moving and a shaking and probably already home by this time after running all my errands. It was early afternoon and I was just getting started. Now that’s what I call living on the wild side.
Despite the frigid cold, I went to my favorite little town with no computer in hand, no coffee shop visit, and no writing or bill paying. I did a little shopping and actually spent money on myself. I purchased a dress (of course it was on clearance), I went to the bookstore and allowed myself to buy another book that I really did not need. It will most likely be placed on top of an ever increasing stack of books next to my bed. I let my mind get caught up in the moment as I took in the fresh air and some sunshine as it peaked through the winter clouds. I blocked out any thoughts of work or responsibilities. When I felt like I was done with perusing and exploring, I called up the local pizza shop and ordered myself a pizza for dinner. No, I was not going to be frugal and whip up dinner for myself. It was time to let practicality fly out the window. I picked up my dinner and headed home for an evening of eating, reading, and binge watching Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee on Netflix. Not once did I allow myself to feel guilty. It was enjoyable, but at the same time oddly uncomfortable. Shouldn’t I be doing something? I have to admit I felt an overall sense of unease by late evening. I felt guilty for my lack of productivity and as if I wasted a perfectly good day to indulgence and laziness.
To some this may not sound very exciting, but it is just a matter of preference. I am not one for wild nights at the bar or socializing in large groups. I am, by definition, probably an introvert. I love the energy from being around others, but I also cherish my alone time. After a full week of work, I crave some quiet. I tend to have an overactive mind and I am always planning a week, if not a month, ahead. I am assuming this is something that is part of my personality or DNA, but at some point in my life it had become a useful trait to manage school, or being a working mom, or simply trying to juggle a life full of variables. These variables are much like an octopus; you are the core, and all the extensions of yourself, are the tentacles. You find you become very good at multitasking and organizing quickly while trying to hold it all together. But do I really need to be on high alert and on point all the time? Is it ok to slow down and enjoy life devoid of these routines without feeling like a self proclaimed slacker?
I have always been hard on myself and a bit of an overachiever. I expect a lot of myself and am my toughest critic. It is a great tool at times, but perhaps it is ok If I back off a bit. I have some new found freedom and maybe it is the freedom that is a bit unfamiliar and disconcerning. Holding on to patterns and informal traditions can be comforting until they are no longer necessary and just consuming time. Obviously it is perfectly fine to do whatever feels comfortable to you, but are your filling your day with purposeful living? I find myself struggling with this question as I learn to navigate through this part of life. Am I setting patterns and routines just to fill my days?
In all honesty, routines are what work for me. It gives me a sense of organization and it is how I am the most productive, but let me tell you, I think it is time to develop some new routines that remove obligation. Replace unnecessary obligation with opportunities for exploration and less time for checking off the boxes on my to do list. Holding on to routines that no longer serve a purpose, other than giving you a false sense of accomplishment, is not how I want to fill my days. Yes, old habits die hard, but I think this will be one of my goals in 2019. It is o.k. to shake things up and take care of yourself instead of trying to take care of things that do not necessarily need to be cared for. I believe time has come to tell my creature of habit to start looking for a place to stay as I prepare to kick him to the curb. Breakups are never easy, but perhaps this one will be easier than I thought.