Daily Routines Keep Us Grounded Amidst the Chaos
2018 has taken some uncomfortable, and even downright painful turns in the last couple of months of the year. Although we managed to have a wonderful after-Thanksgiving feast in November, and some love-filled dance nights in December, I’ve joined the many who are going to be happy to say good-bye to 2018. Too much was lost, some temporarily, and some devastatingly permanent.
Through it all, I’ve taken comfort in daily routines which, no matter what else is happening, are a manageable and controllable part of my days. Like everything else in life, we can do no more than take it one step, one minute at a time. Falling back on the familiar helps me get through some of the minutes which are harder than others.
Morning Pages: Routine for a Lifetime
My now 2+ year practice of writing morning pages has become more than just a routine. It is a lifeline in a life which has, more often than not in recent days, been chaotic and outside any control I might want or need to exercise. Whether I rise with the alarm at 8 or let myself sleep in until 9 or 10, my first stop every morning is my desk where I pick up pen and paper and write for about 30 minutes.
Part of the routine is Dylan sitting beside me purring or flicking his tail across the page to let me know he needs attention. Sometimes Scrappy joins me, especially if I put a Ricola in my mouth; he seems to find menthol as addicting as catnip. The challenge is to write with a cat rubbing himself against my face in inebriated bliss. Regardless of the disruptions and interruptions, I finish those three pages daily (with the rare miss) without fail.
Doing What I Must So I Can Do As I Please
The rest of the non-negotiable morning duties include making the bed, feeding the cats, and putting in my contacts. After that, the day is mine to do with as scheduled, or occasionally, as I please.
The “as I please” part has been my practice for the last couple of weeks, leaving many of the scheduled tasks on my Trello boards undone. In years past, I’d be beating myself up over what I’ve left undone, fretting over making deadlines and meeting goals. But these days, I know my time is more flexible, and my ability to put in a few long days to make up for days I devoted to self-care has always been there when I needed to tap into the energy and focus.
Even when I worked for others, no matter what they threw at me, I met or beat my deadlines. For a long time, I failed to meet deadlines which only affected myself and my business. One day I realized I’m my most important client and, as such deserve to have my deadlines met or beaten as well.
Allowing for Flexibility
That isn’t to say life’s challenges don’t cause slippages, but as my mentor, Linda Clay tells me repeatedly, I can re-set the deadlines and forge ahead. Spending time beating myself up over those missed or extended deadlines serves no one, and keeps me from making and executing new plans.
Nearly a year ago, I planned to finish and publish “Life Torn Asunder”. Today, I’m looking at about 15 more chapters to re-write, and know it won’t be my final re-write. I also need to work on a synopsis and the rest of the information I need to pitch it to a publisher or agent. I know they won’t happen until they become a card on my Trello board.
For years, I had a written or Excel-based To-Do list. I’ve found it worked great for things like gym visits I was trying to establish as routines, but not so great for long-term projects like book re-writes and regular blog postings. I also learned having an event pop up on my phone reminding me to check the Trello boards daily helped keep me focused on the tasks I’ve committed to.
One thing I’ve learned about routines, be they daily, weekly, or monthly, is you need to allow for some flexibility. Like friendship, routines fall into three categories; a season, a reason, or a lifetime. There are only a few which fall into my “lifetime” category these days, though many only started within the last five years, and some just this year.
Routines for a Lifetime, a Reason, or a Season
Those include daily writing, making my bed, going to the gym three times a week, and writing regular blog posts. Even the last one keeps evolving. First it was once a week, then twice, now thrice. My goal is to add a similar routine for at least five clients a month so they can put their effort into building their business instead of creating content to attract clients for them to talk to. Again, this is where Linda comes in. We have weekly calls where she helps me find focus, kicks my butt, or helps me add items to my To-Do list. I also get to do some writing for her, and she’s someone I greatly admire both personally and professionally. Writing for her is the cherry on my hot fudge sundae.
My “reason” category includes things like the components for my book pitch, a long-delayed will, preparations for our after-Thanksgiving feast—the list goes on, and changes as my life expands.
“Season” is a little tougher as I enter tasks I expect to be ongoing, or perhaps, short-term, and their nature changes. Yet this is where a lot of my lessons are learned and experience gained. It might be a one-off client who needs documentation for a divorce, or someone who responded to one of my specials, and didn’t ask for anything beyond the initial tasks. Or maybe they did and became a long-term client. Either way, I’ve learned I don’t usually know whether a season task will become more, or will die on the vine until the task is completed. Sometimes they disappear for months, only to reappear when I least expect it.
Sowing Seeds to Grow New Routines
Through it all, I, like everyone else, sow seeds. Some I’ll nurture and help them grow into something to feed my soul, and hopefully a few others. Some will thrive in spite of any attention or neglect I pay them. Others will surprise me either with the fruit they bear, their tenacity, or their ability to entwine themselves into my life, creating new and exciting challenges and routines. A few will either die out or fail to sprout at all.
All of the scenarios are perfect in my mind. Not all the seeds we plant are meant to feed or inspire us. Some will even lie dormant for a long time, leading us to believe they’ve died out when in truth, they were simply waiting for their time in the sun. Those seeds are smarter than we are in that they know when it’s their time, and when it’s not.
I’m guilty of shiny object syndrome a great deal of the time (if you haven’t already figured that out while reading a post that meanders from topic to topic with no recognizable point) so I’m prone to tossing a lot of seeds into the ground just to see what they’ll do. For many, I’m less concerned about the outcome and more about the experiment I’m running. I’ll sit and watch people for the same reason. There’s a lot to be gained by watching and waiting, so long as you don’t spend your life solely in that mode.
Honoring Our Need for Times of Rest
Sue Monk Kidd wrote about the value of watching and waiting in her book “When the Heart Waits”. She compared herself to a caterpillar who has spun a cocoon. There’s no rushing the process of evolving from a caterpillar to a butterfly. Sometimes, we have to sit back and wait for things to line up properly, or rest after a long, concentrated push. Those waiting periods are as important, or more so than the periods of frenetic activity which often precedes them.
I realized this week I’d neglected my reading for quite some time. Not just books to expand my skills or knowledge, but those by writers whose story-telling skills I admire. After spending a day reading one of the Mercedes Lackey books I found at the $5 book store while seeking my daughter’s and son-in-law’s annual Christmas books, I realized I need to add reading time to my daily schedule. For me, reading for an hour is on the same level of importance as daily meditation. That too has fallen by the wayside a bit in recent weeks.
Routines Should Never Become Straight Jackets
I think the most important thing I’ve learned about regular routines we create and set is we must allow for flexibility. We can’t beat ourselves up when our schedule goes sideways for a little while. Sometimes we have to step back and deal with what life is throwing at us, even if it means missing a few meditations, gym days, or even writing time. When we do, it gives us a chance to take a hard look at what we’ve deemed important to make sure it still is. It also gives us a chance to look at what we’ve forgotten about, and what needs to be added back into our life.
Most of all, it’s important to remember we are evolving beings. When we step back and look at our routines, we’ll find some are still valuable while others have outlived their usefulness. We’ve gained the lesson and need to let go to make space for something else. Those are the seeds which lay dormant for awhile until we were ready to let go of something, harvest the crop, and turn the soil again.
The short days and long nights of winter when the leaves have left the trees and the ground is resting is a good time to review our routines, turn our soil, and rest. It’s also a good time to go within and just listen without judgement, plan, or goal. You might be surprised by what comes up when you quiet your mind.
Gratitude: A Routine for a Lifetime
My gratitudes today are:
- I am grateful for the things I’m learning about myself from my friends.
- I am grateful for the time to quiet my mind, listen to my heart and gut, and find new directions.
- I am grateful for the variety in my days; some are quiet and introspective, some are productive, some, even chaotic. But overall, it’s balanced.
- I am grateful for balance, and the ability to recognize when I need more of one thing and less of another.
- I am grateful for abundance; friendship, connection, joy, vulnerability, authenticity, deep conversations, new connections, lessons, challenges, peace, harmony, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.
Love and Light
About the Author
Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws , of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward