It’s been a while since I’ve written here regularly. There’s a few reasons for that, but the largest is that writing was part of my regular routines, and all of those routines fell completely to the wayside with the advent of the pandemic era.
For about half a year prior to that, I’d had a routine of waking up every morning and doing the same things, seven days a week, without fail; Move, drink coffee, pray, meditate, journal, some other writing, then finish with a cold shower (which was just as cold as the tap got in Phoenix. Spoiler alert: Not cold). All of this I would do before the rest of my family even woke up. Then I’d get ready and go to work.
Then, starting in March, there was no more going to work. I count myself fortunate that I was employed in one of the few industries that actually started doing better when Covid hit, but that meant that there was suddenly a lot more work to be done; endless amounts of emails to be sent, slack messages to respond to, meetings to attend. I went from working 8-10 hours a day, to working 8+10 hours a day.
Looking back, I probably could have kept to my routines with enough willpower, but I’d wake up and there it would be. My work desk, in my room. The place where normally I would just throw everything after I got home from work was now the place where I’d go to get to work.
So with so much to be done, I’d sit down to journal and would end up returning an email instead. I’d be halfway through some mindfulness meditation when I’d remember that I’d left a spreadsheet half-finished.
The shift was significant and detrimental.
You see, I tend to view the force of my life through two different lenses:
The day happens to me
I happen to the day
Now, I can preach to you the merits of my own morning routine. I have reasons for everything that I do as a part of it and I believe that I derive value from all of it. That said, your morning routine could differ from mine significantly. Maybe you wake up and garden, or read poetry, or go for a bike ride. Maybe you stand naked in your front yard and wait for the sprinklers to come on. Don’t know. Doesn’t matter. I’d argue that the details of your routine matter less than that you have one. That it’s defined. That it’s purposeful. That it’s consistent, valued, and guarded.
Because without it, the day is more likely to happen to you than you are to happen to the day.
Here’s what I mean by that. The day happening to you is waking up and immediately responding to the trajectory that the day is already on.
You want to sleep, but the day is making you wake up. It’s playing that alarm sound that you hate so much, and you keep hitting the snooze button, but the day just waits fifteen minutes and then makes the same sound again.
You finally get out of bed and your kids are waiting at the dining room table acting like they haven’t already eaten cereal and wondering what you’re going to cook.
You want to just get dressed and walk out the door, but the day tells you to get your butt in the shower. Deodorant prevents body odor, it doesn’t mask it.
Then the day rewards you with traffic, and difficulties at work, home, etc… By the time that evening arrives you are beaten, bloodied, and begging for a beer to help soothe whatever it is that just happened. You feel sorry for yourself, because you just got dayed. Not a typo, just a bad pun. You just got DAAAAAAAYed. Now let’s hit rewind and try this again.
You happening to the day is waking up and setting the course of events in the trajectory that you’ve pre-determined.
Your alarm is set for before you ever needed to wake up. The day isn’t forcing you to start, you’re forcing it to begin. You’re the drill sergeant, the day is Gomer Pyle.
Whatever your routine is comprised of, you start knocking out those actions in quick succession. Each finished task releasing a ration of dopamine, compounding and coalescing into feelings of accomplishment, capability, confidence. You think about all the people you know who are asleep right now. Feelings of superiority start pulsing through your veins.
Your kid sneaks into the kitchen for that early morning bowl of cereal they’re going to pretend they didn’t eat. You’re waiting.
And once your’e rolling, you’re rolling. There’s a calm assurance that seems to permeate everything that happens that day. You are not being happened to, you are happening.
Life is going to throw you curveballs. Sometimes you’re going to fail to wake up before the day wakes you up, and that’s okay. Major life events are going to disrupt your plans and you’re going to drop off the morning-routine wagon. When that happens, don’t lose heart. Progress is never linear, and your routine will be waiting for you the next time you rise to meet it.
To quote Mary Anne Radmacher, someone I’d never heard of until I googled applicable quotes this morning, ““Lean forward into your life. Begin each day as if it were on purpose.”
Indeed, Mary Anne Radmacher. Indeed.