Routines are something all of us depend on. If it wasn’t for routine, I’m sure half of us wouldn’t be able to get out the door and get to work everyday. You get up and you go through the same sequence of activities you do every other weekday, from going to the bathroom at the same time each morning to eating your toast only after finishing reading last night’s game results in the sports section.
Your routine is all about timing. Without even knowing it probably, it’s your routine that ensures your day runs like clockwork. Each little component naturally fits into the one that follows it, in your mind at least. Others may not appreciate the connection between the second cigarette and the trip to the bathroom, but for you they are all essential cogs in what makes you tick along.
God forbid anything should go wrong in the routine; you’re screwed if it does. One day the paper isn’t delivered and you go to eat your breakfast and you can’t figure out when to eat your toast, drink your coffee, or have your cigarettes. You get so flustered you lose track of time and you leave home late and miss the bus you usually take to work.
Because you missed the bus, you don’t have time to have one more cigarette before you go into the office for the morning ,and that means you’re distracted and in a rush. You go through security and forget that you have to sign in everyday, and they stop you and make a big deal of reminding you, even though it’s the same two jerks who’ve seen you five days a week for the past seven years.
You’ve been held up as a figure of ridicule and you’re late for work, something you haven’t been in all your years of working for this company. Of course today is the day the CEO has decided to make an example of people who are habitually tardy, and you happen to burst into the office conspicuous in your lateness, just as he’s half-way through his speech to the assembled office staff on how much it costs the corporation in dollars and cents for every minute a person is late.
Right about then you wish the floor would just drop out from under you as you make your way into the room with the eyes of all fixed upon you like laser beams. The day gets progressively worse, because by now you’re as jumpy as a cokehead at a southern cop convention. When your boss comes up behind you to commiserate over what happened, he startles you so much you throw your coffee at him.
As that went down as such a treat, you decide to spend the rest of your day finding ways to screw up that defy believability. You have no logical explanation for why you were caught with your fly stuck in the fax machine’s send button or one arm past the second bend inside the pop machine on the second floor. By the end of the day you’re just grateful not to have been fired and to still be alive (the bit about how you were about to board the elevator only to find, when the doors opened, the elevator had gone somewhere else will feature in nightmares for weeks, you figure).
It really makes you wonder how much of history has hinged on somebody’s routine being screwed with and them ending up having an awful day. Maybe Caesar’s paper wasn’t delivered on that fateful 15th of March when he ended up looking like a pincushion? Who knows, he might have had it a little more together and noticed the guys closing in on him with knives drawn if only he hadn’t had his routine messed up?
Is it any wonder then with routine being so important that most of us are terrified of change? Routine represents order and control, a way of ensuring we know exactly what will happen at almost any given moment of the day. If we change anything about our routine, it means we open ourselves up to the possibility of anything happening, or at least something that’s never happened before.
The real problem is that there is always a part of us desiring change; a part that’s frustrated and bored with the day in and day out routine of our lives. It might not be something we are even aware of, but periodically it will express itself either through depression or what we call a mid-life crisis. In the latter case, a person will let the pent up frustration act as a catalyst for making a drastic change in their circumstances. Its most common expression usually comes in the form of leaving a longstanding partner and establishing a new and supposedly different relationship.
The depression usually comes about due to our inability to make changes in our life. It’s not unusual for this to coincide with Autumn. All around there are visible signs of the world changing, while you’re staying the same. I know people usually link seasonal depression to the depletion of light as winter approaches, but the loss of light is just one indication of the overall changing of the season.
The majority of cultures still consider Autumn the end of one year and the beginning of a new. It’s the period in temperate climates when our year’s growth is ready for harvest and the world is preparing to become dormant. It doesn’t matter how far removed we are from the rhythm of the planet, Autumn is one of the few changes we can’t help but notice as everything around us appears to be dying.
What more tangible reminder could you want of how life is passing you by than seeing the world change while you stay stuck in the same routine you’ve followed for years? All of a sudden, what seemed like comfort and safety becomes a trap from which there appears to be no escape. Is it any wonder people become depressed?
Yet, we continue to fear and resist change as something dangerous and unwanted in spite of the evidence that change is good for us. Maybe if Julius Cesar had walked a different route to the Senate that day and come in an hour earlier or later than normal he wouldn’t have been bumped off?
After that horrific day at the office where everything had gone wrong because your routine had been screwed up, you decide you can never face those people again. You accept a severance package, take a year off work, and finally write that book you’ve always meant to. You’re happier than you ever were and you discover you quickly establish a routine wherein you’re able to do a certain amount of writing each day and have plenty of time for yourself.
Of course, if anything happens to mess up that routine…