Thursday, February 22, 2018

Routine Maintenance

Man, time really does get away from you.  At the very beginning of my last post, which was in December, I admitted it has been a while since I posted.  Well, it's been a while since I posted.  Again.  There was a while that I was very regular.  Like clockwork, once a week, you could rely on a new post.  And then...nothing.  I heard the weeping and gnashing of teeth.  I'm sorry.

I've been thinking back to when I was writing every week.  What was different then?  How was I able to pull it off?  I had the same number of hours in a week, after all.  There doesn't seem to be any reason I couldn't make it happen lately, unless it just wasn't all that high on my priority list.  Maybe that's what it is, but I don't think so.

As I've been thinking on it, I'm wondering if the answer is routine.  I mean, not that it's a routine answer, of course.

Back in August, September, and October, I got in a rhythm.  It was a pattern that I wrote every Tuesday.  It's actually on my Trello to do list (it still is, actually...it's just that I don't always do it).  It was routine.  I would come in on Tuesday, sit down, and write first thing.  It may not always have been the most inspired writing (if it ever was), but it was written down, and that's not nothing.

That's the sunny side of routine.  Our brain creates these shortcuts.  Patterns.  Habits even.  Those shortcuts allow us to focus on other more important tasks while we complete the mundane ones.  There's a reason our brains evolved this way.  This kind of autopilot makes it possible for us to be WAY more productive than if we had to break down and process through every action we take on a daily basis.  Don't believe me?  Have you ever had a great idea in the shower?

Image result for in the shower
Yes!  We definitely need to have Mr T sell our long distance service!
If you had to focus on every action item in the shower, you'd never have spare brain function to be thinking about your grocery list or the reason the Bachelor should never have given a rose to that super skank girl last night.  [I'd use names in that example, but I've never watched the Bachelor.  Perhaps Sally Winter can come to my rescue?]

There is, of course, a dark side to routines.  Once our brain initiates one of these shortcuts, it largely ignores it.  That's why I once backed into my garage door!  I walked out of the house, and my brain initiated my departure subroutine.  So I got in the car, pushed the button, started the car, and backed up.  Only...the door was already open.  So when I pushed the button I closed it...on top of my car.  I'm still driving the car, and for $1 I'll show you the scrape marks.  I was already thinking about something entirely different.  Probably (since I still lived in Lawrenceville at the time) wondering if it was going to take me an hour or an hour and a half to get to work that day.

Image result for garage door
PSA: This garage door is closed. 
Do not drive out when it looks like this.

So routine can be a valuable tool, a gift.  But the inherent lack of mindfulness can also be a significant liability.

I think it was Anne Lamott who said that help is the sunny side of control.  Helping someone is, of course, a noble and excellent idea.  But if we're really honest, sometimes an offer of help is a veiled means of control--a way of making the help-ee dependent on us or somehow beholden to us.  We don't even do it on purpose sometimes.

Not to go all Star Wars on you (no spoilers, please, because I still haven't seen the newest one), but it's like the Force.  It seems like there's a dark side and a light side to just about everything.  Good and bad.  Ying and Yang.

Image result for yin yang
The odds are pretty good that if you said that out loud
you mispronounced it.
A deep understanding of things means that we see it from multiple perspectives.  We understand both the benefits and the pitfalls, which allows us to use those things for the good and avoid potential negative consequences.  After all, if you always see things positively, you're likely to underestimate the liabilities and get yourself in trouble (that frequently describes me...[singing: Always look on the bright side of life...]).  On the other hand, if you only see the negative, you'll miss opportunities!

We are invited in Lent to consider [often temporary] changes to our routines.  We can give something up or perhaps add something to our lives.  Those are good ideas.  But maybe there's another option, just in case you decide you can't live without olives (I'm talking to you, David) or you don't have time to work on mastery of ashtanga yoga. What if instead of adding or taking away, we use the season of Lent to make ourselves mindful of our routines--to consider what we do and why we do it.  To look at our lives "from both sides now."  To ask ourselves if our actions, especially the things we do so often that we no longer even notice, are truly Christlike and worthy of the calling to which we have been called.


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