Routine Dilemma

Not a dilemma with a routine but the dilemmas that routines themselves can cause. Specifically when they are taken too seriously. I don’t know if this stems from instability growing up or ADHD or both, plus some, but I used to proudly live for routine.

I looked forward to getting the predictable chain of events started each day–jumping out of bed with what has been referred to as an unnatural amount of energy and enthusiasm. There’s no time to linger about in bed when there’s a beautiful routine to kick off. I found their inherent predictable nature to be the ultimate comfort, followed immediately by pot pies, of course.

This is something I’ve been thinking about for months since there have been events completely beyond my control that interfere with (implode) my well-established, beloved, worshipped routines. I’ve put years of time and meticulous care into crafting these. From waking up to back to bed again, I knew exactly what would happen because I was very intentional about it all. Taking the guesswork out of the day seems efficient in every way.

The problem is when the rigidity around these routines becomes too unforgiving, the stress of having it messed with becomes profound. Like the ground is giving out from under me. Further, since routine was used as a crutch and as a faux sense of control, the ability to then handle problems as they arise has weakened. It’s become a muscle that hasn’t been used in too long and is at risk of withering away entirely. It’s fear and avoidance masquerading as strength.

Rigidity around routines is a fragile coping mechanism. Spiraling over an important dentist appointment that can only occur during reserved gym hours is not healthy. It starts to impact the people around you since they, too, get dragged into planning everything around this routine. It’s also a great way to be robbed of being able to live in the moment since, for example, a vacation is something to dread and get through to be back around familiar things and familiar happenings.

I haven’t always been this way to this degree. There’s a clear timeline where things got a bit too hard and scary and painful and I retreated into this pattern. While it served a purpose at the time, it has outgrown its usefulness and now actively causes harm.

Routines, in general, are beneficial, but the key is understanding how to establish and follow them responsibly and not take them too far. Uncertainty around this too far” boundary is, unfortunately, a very ADHD problem as a whole. I think I’m slowly starting to understand at what point it becomes damaging, but this is a lesson I have kicked and screamed over having to learn. I feel exposed and nervous, but each day, I let go a bit more, and each day, my jaw unclenches an amount that is nearly detectable.

Routines are meant to be guidelines, not commands. I’ll keep saying this to myself repeatedly until it feels true.

See you tomorrow over breakfast.

February 3, 2024

A tiny project byJoni Trythall inspired by friends at Wiggle Work.