Down with Routine

 Posted by at 10:42  Down with, principles
Feb 152014
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 noun rü-ˈtēn

: a regular way of doing things in a particular order

: a boring state or situation in which things are always done the same way

: a series of things (such as movements or jokes) that are repeated as part of a performance

I’m just a ordinary guy

but I find that it’s not easy being ordinary. I like my life to be predictable, manageable and, well, routine. It’s the bane of my existence that life doesn’t work that way. Much as I try to keep my ducks in a row or flying in a tight v formation, they scatter and raise a ruckus. I spend too much time chasing down errant strays and calming the fuss and not enough savoring the pleasures of the moment when I have the time to notice them. I start the day anticipating smooth sailing and fall asleep at night tying to figure how to right my capsized ship. It’s frustrating.

Hamlet with Yorick's skull

Hamlet with Yorick’s skull (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So it’s no wonder that I go back and forth about routines. Early in life I decided that by establishing a ‘good’ routine for my life I would find success. I looked around for role models and tried my best to emulate them. Then I went to college and learned that everything I had adopted was banal and old-fashioned and that I should challenge the system and rebel. I embraced the new as best I could and imagined that I had become a superior human being when all I really did was to blindly follow a different lifestyle model. I was still following the crowd. All I can say is that it felt good at the time.

It was many years later

that I actually pondered the meaning of life and began examining my own accomplishments. I started thinking about what was really important to me; stopped imitating and pondered who I really was- and even more troubling who I wanted to be. It wasn’t pretty. I asked myself why I had neglected to form a life philosophy and persona of my own instead of aping the philosophy of people that I thought were ‘cool’. I’d been drifting along in the cultural currents making no attempt to steer my boat or select a destination. Not only wasn’t I very principled in my lifestyle patterns and behaviors, I discovered that I wasn’t someone whom I could respect. I was superficial and shallow.

Trying to grow up as a mature man with career and a family was a struggle. You don’t break old patterns easily. Inertia is a powerful force but fortunately inertia can work as a positive as well as a negative. It is very difficult to fight old habits and create new ones but when you do create the new ones they serve you by helping to keep you on track. As you build the new habits it forms a structure for your life that can help you stay on track.

Along the way

I discovered that what I learned as a child worked better as a routine than what I learned in college. I found that responsibility and hard work was more satisfying and productive than saying the ‘right’ thing. I found that listening to people made life easier than telling them what to do. I abandoned the conviction that I knew the answer to most questions and asked for advice and support. I stopped bullshitting and fence sitting and started trying to do what was right and began taking chances, being responsible and living with my mistakes. At first, none of this was routine but over time it got easier. It became routine.

So these days, I’m boring and predictable.  After many years roaming the reservation and aping the ‘cool’ guys, I’m going back to the basics and the lessons I learned as a child.

Tying to put together the pieces of my life and fix my mistakes isn’t easy but time is wasting.


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Ralph is the inspiration for Cantankerous Old Coots and is our Grand Duke of Cantankerousness

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