Three Routines

10:22 Mon 02 Aug 2010
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I don’t tend to think of myself as a particularly disciplined or organized person, a view often at odds with how others perceive me, but I will admit to liking to organize and order things in specific ways. This may be related to my left-handedness, and/or to my attraction to precision (which attraction falls short of achieving precision, although I hope that in language I occasionally come close).

I still struggle, as do most people, with trying to focus on the right things, to not become wrapped up in getting perfectly right things that just don’t matter. Without getting into what matters and what doesn’t, it seems to me that the last twelve years of my life have involved a significant amount of progress in this struggle, and that I’ve learned to route some of what might loosely be termed “OCD” (or OCPD, although in truth I don’t have either of those disorders) into fairly productive channels.

Before the age of twenty-four, I was never able to stick to a routine that wasn’t forced upon me. I’d tried and failed many times to follow daily routines, especially with exercise. Doing something regularly every day, or even a few times a week, seemed impossible.

That’s changed. I continue to struggle with being productive—two novels in various stages of incompletion, and a considerable pile of other unfinished projects, make this abundantly clear. But aside from working (which, no matter how much I enjoy it, is a routine pushed upon me by outside forces), I now have three things I do almost daily that are quite important to me:

  • Morning pages. It’s more than twelve years, now, that I’ve been doing these every day. They’re simply part of daily life, and will continue to be so.
  • This blog. I’ve been blogging either daily or five times per week for just over four years. It’s not part of daily life in the same way my pages are. Writing my blog posts still feels like an imposition some of the time, and it’s often a struggle. I sometimes feel it as a real strain, the requirement of coming up with five things to write about every week, and experience my two days off as almost like vacations due to the relief of not having to deal with that. I occasionally have to remind myself that I have opportunity to express myself in any way I choose, on any topic, in a public way unavailable to anyone who lived in the pre-Internet age, and that this makes me incredibly lucky. Of the three near-daily things, this is the one that feels most fragile, most susceptible to my (likely mistakenly) deciding at some point that I don’t need to keep it up.
  • CrossFit. I’ve been doing it for more than a year, and it hit a critical level quite some time ago, so I’m quite sure I’ll keep going with it. This is pretty clear from the fact that last week I did a ton of travelling, lost a lot of sleep, and was generally all over the place, but still managed to do CrossFit workouts five days out of the seven (five is my target every week).

While I don’t think I ever really exhibited a lot of compulsive behaviors, those I did have largely been refocused into this triumvirate. I still perceive the setup I’ve created for the latter two: I’m consciously pushing the idea that sticking to those routines is an achievement, and that there’s a kind of invisible checkbox for each of them in my mind, with a psychological payoff every time the tick mark is entered. The latter two have a public aspect, also, in that posts are public and that I log (and broadcast) my workouts, and this public aspect is a further motivator.

It’s a powerful trio of habits. My morning pages are (obviously) introspective outlets, a kind of dialogue with myself that has a dedicated place in my life every day. My blog posts are public self-expression, writing that has some degree of polish and with which I (hopefully) hone my ability to make myself understood. I’m very used to the rhythm of it, Sunday/Monday/Tuesday/break/Thursday/Friday/break, and while I sometimes worry about complacency and conservatism in my posts, I’m nevertheless convinced that it’s incomparably better than not doing it. CrossFit is the first regular exercise I’ve managed to stick to in my life, and has done me tremendous good. Its rhythm isn’t as set, as my target is to fit in five workout days per week any way I can, and by its nature it’s more susceptible to disruption (by wisdom tooth extraction, for example); I’m more willing to accede to lapses in the routine.

Introspection, self-expression, and intense exercise. Not a bad three things to have running smoothly. That’s not self-satisfaction speaking—in many ways those three things barely constitute a viable starting point for what my adult life should be—but rather recognition that I’ve managed to work out some of the things that seemed insurmountable in my early twenties.

3 Responses to “Three Routines”

  1. Nicole Says:

    Love this blog post! It’s motivating for me and you serve as a role model in all 3 areas. Self expression, introspective/centering and physical fitness. Thanks for posting it. I am motivated to keep going at it and hopefully one day have my own triad of routines.

  2. Deirdre Says:

    This has been great to read, and has made me think of starting morning pages again. My fling with them was so long ago that it may amuse you to know that my main cheerleader for doing them, when I did them, was Hugo M.

    Orla seems to be left-handed..

  3. Tadhg Says:

    Nicole: Thanks, that’s sweet of you to say!

    Deirdre: Also thanks, and naturally I recommend trying morning pages again. That’s interesting about Orla… perhaps you should have a look at The Left Stuff?

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