When your routine is off.

I am a creature of routine. This shocks people, but it’s true.
I wear the same four shirts over and over. I have two pairs of pants I wear almost every day, unless I wear shorts that day, when I will wear one of two pairs, or if I have to dress up, in which case I wear that nicer pair of pants I own. I alternate between two pairs of shoes, no matter the clothes I have on.
I drink my coffee from the same mug nearly every morning, wake up at the same time nearly every morning, eat one of three things for breakfast, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, to quote the king.
Flaubert said to “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” I like that a lot.
But sometimes things throw the routine off. Like right now, Renee is out of town to visit her family, so three cats and I are living the bachelor life here in this tiny apartment.
Which is fine – I lived by myself for a long time before I got married, and I do all the cooking anyway, and while I struggled a bit with wondering what sort of cat food we buy for the cats and where we keep the trash bags, I am doing fine.
Except that the routine is off, and things fall through the cracks, all of which makes me feel mega uncomfortable, like I am wearing someone else’s clothes.
So this morning when I woke up feeling off, I just put it down to the routine and the changes and got up to make my coffee the same way I do every morning. And in making the coffee I moved something on the counter and saw my pillbox – the one with the daily little boxes for each day of the week that I use to track the medication that keeps my depression at bay – and that it was amazingly full.
It seems I had not taken a single pill since Monday morning. In other words, I missed three doses. No wonder I am off.
Before you ask – I’m fine, and in a good place and not really depressed, just off – again, like I am wearing someone else’s clothes. But it does feel a bit disorienting. It’s the most doses I have missed in a year.
But one side effect of all of the mess that is my head – the ADHD, the chronic depression, the learning disabilities I have and all of that – is that you tend to blame yourself when things like this happen. Instead of thinking, “Of course you are disoriented – your life is a bit chaotic right now”, which is what my counsel would be to anyone else in this situation, you tend to see it as a personal failing. Like you don’t want to be healthy enough, or you are not trying hard enough, or maybe you just are not enough.
All of that to say, I cannot wait for my wife to return. I cannot wait to move into our permanent home, and I cannot wait to have a regular routine again. For me, it really is a matter of life or death.

Two Kinds of People

There is an old joke that says there are two kinds of people in this world: Those who think there are two kinds of people, and those who do not.

I didn’t say it was a funny joke, just an old one.

Recently I explained to a person I am mentoring that a key to leading people is to understand how they view the world and that generally speaking, there are two kinds of people – those who move toward pleasure, and those who move away from pain. Neither is wrong, per se, as much as it is just different ways of gaining motivation.

One woman will work crazy hours because she grew up poor and never wants to be poor again (moving away from pain) and another will work crazy hours because she dreams of a magnificent retirement in the future, and needs the funds to do that (moving toward pleasure).

I am a move toward sort of person. This is both a strength and a weakness. It is a strength because my work in this world is to help create a world that does not exist yet, so I have to be able to imagine it, to see it already, and to move towards it bit by bit.

But it can be a curse if I do not have a clear short-term goal, without something to move towards.

One consequence of this is that I do not rest well. I have a really hard time taking time off. Not because I am a workaholic, as much as I need to have something to move toward, something to structure my life around.

I basically took the month of June off to get ready for the move. It wasn’t a complete vacation as I had several meetings scheduled and some paperwork I needed to get done, but I only had maybe twenty hours of work to do in a four-week period, so it was as close to vacation time as I have had in years.

And I have been pretty miserable. My only real goal has been to get the house packed up, and that is happening, but it doesn’t take four weeks, and it doesn’t have to happen on a given day at a given time.

So my sleep cycle is off without a clear time I need to do something.  I forget to take my meds for depression, which makes my life more stressful. I don’t know what day it is, and sometimes wake up at 3 AM, wide awake and other times end up sleeping until 9 and wake up confused and lost.

All that is to say, I hate the time off and am actually looking forward to going back to work. Not because I need to work, but because I need a schedule.

Being a regular

There is a coffee shop near my office that I go to most days. Actually, more than that – it is part of my routine.

I always go there on my way to the office. It is on the way, and it is part of how I tell my brain that it is time to shift to work mode. Most mornings, I show up there about 8:50 AM.

Because I am a regular there, several neat things happen. For example, I get to know the staff, and they get to know me. We aren’t going to each other’s house for dinner or anything, but they know the coffee I like and how I like it. It is generally the same crew working, so I know their names and we laugh at common jokes and doesn’t that make the world a little better?

Other people on the same schedule as I am are also there every morning at 8:50 AM. The college professor from the college around the corner. The slightly smarmy businessman standing in front of the building waiting on his 9:00 AM meeting to show up. The soccer mom in a minivan who shows up with her 3-year-old, and every morning they have long, endearing, discussions in line about what he is going to order when it is their turn.

I try hard to be a regular at places. I am all for exploring, but there is something to be said for being a regular part of someone’s day, and they are a regular part of yours.

When I first arrived in Raleigh, I was looking for a third place to hang out and write. The third day I was here, I wandered into Morning Times, and the barista asked me my name. The next day when I came back, she used my name in greeting me, and I am now a regular there, too. I have, conservatively, spent $3,000 there over the last 11 years.

One of the things I am most dreading about my upcoming move is losing all of my regular spots. The corner table in the library. The bookstore I like to browse when my head is full. The table at Morning Times where I like to write and, when not writing, gazing at the street traffic going by. The bench in the park where I people watch. The banter with Hannah the barista in the mornings.

But one of the things I am most excited about is looking for those places in my new home in Jackson, too.