Monday, April 01, 2013

Habits, Routines, and Ruts

I've not used an alarm clock in 40 years or more; I automatically wake up around 6 a.m., no matter how late I've gotten to bed, and no matter if there is a reason to wake up that early or not. On blog-entry days, I am compelled to have them posted by no later than 6:45 (even though I allow myself wiggle room at the bottom of each entry when I say they'll be posted by 10 a.m. Central time), because I know I have a couple East coast readers who look at them before going to work.

We are all creatures of habit, and the only difference between habit and routine is the frequency with which it is repeated. The repetitiveness of routine, however, too rapidly begins to wear a path into one's daily life, and soon becomes a rut. You know you've gone from routine to rut when any disruption to the routine is viewed with resistance, anxiety, and frustration. The older we become, the deeper our ruts become until we have dug a rut so deep it is almost impossible to climb out.

Friday is laundry day. (Why Friday? Just because I always do laundry on Friday. I know that doesn't answer the question, but if you're looking for logic, you're in the wrong place.) My apartment building is 11 stories tall, has 200 units, and a total of 5 washing machines and 5 driers, one pair on each even-numbered floor. So finding a vacant machine when you want it is something of a game of musical chairs. The entire process, once I do find a machine, takes about an hour and a half per load, and I always manage to have two loads, which means that unless I want to drag the process out for hours, I try to do both loads at once, which involves finding two empty machines at the same time. So as a result, I try to get my laundry started by 6:45 a.m. before anyone else gets there.

The machines are operated by the kind of electronic plastic cards which have replaced keys in hotels. You can add money to the card at any time, and having not surprisingly lost my card a couple of times, I try not to keep too much money on it. This past Friday I got up, posted the blog, gathered the laundry, and then remembered that I'd used up all the money on my card the previous Friday, and all I had was a $20 bill which I was not about to splurge on a laundry card I could and probably would lose ten minutes after I recharged it.

I was rather surprised by just how this really minor incident seemed to throw the whole day into chaos, sending me figuratively running around in circles (ruts, anyone?) wringing my hands and muttering "Oh, my! Oh, my!"

Every morning is like the morning before and the morning after: put the coffee on, turn on the Today Show at 7 a.m., have a glass of V8 juice, a cup (well, half a cup, since I never, ever finish it) of coffee and a chocolate covered donut. Why don't I have cereal? Or an English muffin? Or fix an egg? Or make a pancake? Because I have a glass of V8, a cup of coffee, and a donut, that's why. I tell myself it's because of the 350 calories in the donut....something an English muffin wouldn't provide. It is a rut I have dug from which I cannot climb out.

I write most of the day, with frequent and prolonged—but flexible—interruptions for emails and other distractions, so the time between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. is relatively rut-free. And I realize with mild horror, that it is the only time of my life that is.

At 5:30 each night I watch the evening news, then a set series of TV programs which takes me until bedtime. I almost never go out at night. (Go out on a Thursday evening and miss "Supernatural"?? Unthinkable! Go out to dinner on a Sunday evening and miss "60 Minutes"?? Impossible!)

We reach the point where we take comfort in our ruts, and this is definitely not a good thing. I have got to break mine. I've got to! Maybe I'll go to a movie tonight. Yes! I will! (But wait....Rachel Maddow is on at 8. Well, I'll go tomorrow for sure.)

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (


David Kernohan said...

Ahhh yes, the perennial question of habits becoming routines that eventually dig deep enough to be ruts. Thank you for the reminder to not let the ruts get too deep

David Kernohan said...

Thank you for the reminder not to let the ruts get too deep!

Kage Alan said...

Okay, so how did you resolve the laundry card situation with the $20 bill?

I also tended to be exactly like you regarding laundry day. Fortunately, now that I'm able to use my former father-in-law's washer and drier, I've allowed myself to become much more flexible. That it saves me money.

Dorien/Roger said...

Kage, I think I ran to the nearby 7-11 for change.