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routine/ritual



Do we create structure in our lives to give them a shape? Do we fear that without a routine or framework of some sort, we are at risk for losing track of all that is relevant and as a result, getting nothing done to support those things? Or would we be more aware of what matters if we didn’t worry so much about staying on a specific track. What’s that saying — “not all who wander are lost” — and that other one about going off the beaten path and finding something better? Yes, okay. But that immediately makes me think of Picasso saying that inspiration likes to find us working.

I’ve always craved and needed order to not feel at loose ends. I’ve never thrived in a messy environment, and I’m constantly organizing this and that, whether this and that is a bookshelf or an abstract concept like space or hope. I always want to know what the elements are so I can sort them and get rid of what isn’t essential, or at least put everything in its proper place to try to control the inevitable chaos. I also know that how I spend my time is in many ways what makes me who I am, and I have to be careful with my days. I like to be disciplined but being dictatorial makes me miserable. Where is the line?

I do think there’s a sweet spot between the two, floating between the hypervigilance and the lackadaisical. Not that many of us can run around all willy nilly all the time, and not that many of us would even want to after the novelty wore off, but I can tell you a way in which I’ve changed since I first wrote about this topic of ritual/routine a year ago (on January 8): I threw away that productivity planner I had (I just make a regular to do list now) and I’m so glad I did. Lo and behold, I didn’t quit doing what I needed and wanted to do, but I have been working on being more flexible in the way that I do it. I didn’t miss the added task of writing down the things I’m grateful for, but I’m somehow more mindful that I have an embarrassment of riches in my life because I am more naturally taking the time to just think about them. Maybe writing all of those things down for that period trained me to do it in shorthand. Or maybe I’m just a year older and have let go of some ridiculousness that I was holding onto and I’m letting myself enjoy life more and am quite into it, thank you very much. I’m learning that if I don’t schedule spontaneity completely out of the picture, which allows for not only creativity in work but in every aspect of life, I might even be more everything I want to be if I develop cultivating free time as a skill because it makes me happier. Meditation, time spent in thought or prayer, and taking more time for nurture seems to have an effect.

I do still, however, have a pretty regimented routine. But I think it’s the increased time for personal ritual that has given that routine a more polymorphous quality. Among my many blessings is that my work allows for that. Among my many blessings is the ability to remain curious about life and the world around me and how I can better relate to it. Among my biggest blessings is the providence that is returned to me when I can be open. I believe it’s much easier to receive when we’re ready to.

May we all live openly.

Happy Wednesday, Y’all.

AM

PS. I do love a list. For some great ones, check out this piece on Susan Sontag in Lithub today. And here’s Umberto Eco’s beautiful book on the subject.

And here’s a great Murakami quote about the discipline of writing, also from Lithub:

Cultivate endurance.

After focus, the next most important thing for a novelist is, hands down, endurance. If you concentrate on writing three or four hours a day and feel tired after a week of this, you’re not going to be able to write a long work. What’s needed for a writer of fiction—at least one who hopes to write a novel—is the energy to focus every day for half a year, or a year, or two years. You can compare it to breathing.

–from What I Talk About When I Talk About Running