Creature of Habit

“You’re a creature of habit,” she said, setting the same old soup and salad combo I always order at the bar in front of me with a flourish.  “It’s a great habit,” I retorted.  And it was a pretty fantastic pairing, no doubt.  Best soup and salad in town.

But that’s beside the point- it was still a pretty obvious habit of mine. Performed by an obvious creature of habit. Ouch. That feels like a lesson coming on.

I guess I do like certain routines to my day. They provide much-needed structure around a crazy life.

I obsess over things like hand-grinding my coffee beans (always kept at room temperature and within-3-days-fresh). Hand-pouring each cup makes me appreciate every sip. I dig the effortless, fluid cycle of home workout + loads of laundry + house cleaning + meal prep I get rolling on my weekend mornings.  It’s the stuff of efficiency legend. Don’t get me started on string-changing days with the basses. Not to be fucked with.

And let’s face it- my wonderful career as a content manager at LinkedIn is both tailor-made for my strengths, and probably my most favoritest daily ritual (or set of interconnected rituals?) ever. It’s like the career gods opened up the heavens and bestowed upon me the most creatively-technical job in all the universe, honestly.  I love the routine things I do balanced alongside the random crazy it also encompasses.

But it’s the structure those routines provide me that’s become so necessary to my life.  Necessary because (at least for the last few years) the other aspects of my life are off-the-fucking-rails, bat-shit-crazy chaotic.  My personal life is in utter shambles, my average schedule is a nightmare, I’m always juggling about thirty side-projects alongside my single dad duties and awkward fumblings into dating – trust me, the terror is very real. I only maintain a cool head amidst it because of the fiddle-spinner nature of my everyday routines and career.

But ritual can be a crutch, too.
It can also lead to disaster, largely in the form of apathy. Something I may have been overlooking.

After my order of crow arrived at the bar I’ve noticed apathy creeping into areas of my life, so have been trying to break up my routines lately.  I’ve messed with everything from my sleep schedule, my hobby interests, the types of exercise I’ve been leaning on, the places I hang out – and love this new attitude that’s developing.

I’ve become a bit angry at my own lack of motion, and the backlash is strong. Projects that have sat stalled for months have been knocked down in days, sometimes in hours or minutes. The European trip I’d been waffling on was booked and finalized.  No waiting. No excuses. The amp that needed an RMA? Call the freakin factory right now. Get on it, man!

I’ve become empowered to not let anything get in my way, or cause me to spin my wheels if I don’t want to. It’s a bit embarrassing the reasons I’d been giving myself for not taking action in a number of areas of my life. No mas, amigo. Forward motion only.

It feels kinda awesome.

It turns out I’d become overly attached to the regularity and comfort of some of my rituals. And the more I step aside from them, the more alive I’m starting to feel.  Which leads directly to revelation number two.

I never came out of healing mode from my nearly-fatal accident, and am still finishing up processing what happened.  

I dealt with two more ‘followup’ medical situations after the hospital. By then, my marriage had dissolved to the point of extreme emotional stress, and I’m only just coming out of the subsequent 18 months or so of turmoil now. I didn’t consider that I was viewing the world through an entirely different set of eyes now.  Not exactly a time to fall back on old habits and routines, when you’re trying desperately to move forward.

A few observant friends have noticed these changes in me over the last few weeks. I’m definitely shedding some layer of shell and opening myself up to real change – by not working so hard at protecting myself from disaster for a change. It’s helping me focus in on the connections in life that truly matter, too.

Taking a trip to Europe is a big step.  I denied myself travel for years because of all the other things I thought my family needed more. Hindsight sure is painful in that respect.  I’m really looking forward to getting over to Paris and Rome (and the hinterlands of Italy) on my own now, and show my son how to break free from a routine, corporate-sponsored American life.  I can’t fuckin wait.

My wreck of a social life feels even more awkward right now, mostly because my new ‘fuck it, let’s do this’ attitude has made me quickly grow weary of communicating through abbreviated text messages and abstractly-confusing emoji combos. I want to have stunningly real conversations with people that aren’t crippled by image and pretense. But I fear we’re rapidly becoming a society of emotional wrecks hiding our neuroses behind carefully-curated social media accounts. Gaaah!

Although I don’t see myself giving up all my weird personal rituals straightaway, I’m going to be more mindful of their overall effect on my ambition and self-confidence going forward.  Nothing wrong with a solid framework of comfort for your life, as long as you’re not afraid to rethink it when things change.

Change isn’t so scary, it would appear.  After every bottom falling out of my life last few years, I’m still alive and kinda fun to hang out with.  And I’m really curious to see who I’ll become after another 18 months, if I can keep avoid falling victim to old routines.

I didn’t order this fat plate of change I’ve been choking on, but I’m wise enough to swallow a few lessons from it. Sure, the soup and salad is to die for- we’ve already established this. But next time, perhaps I’ll just have whatever the fucking chef wants to make me.  Who says a creature of habit can’t change their ways?