“Depending on what they are, our habits will either make us or break us. We become what we repeatedly do.” ~Sean Covey
The morning routine beings with me breaking my vow of the night before that I will not wake up before 4.30 am. That I will be a normal person and wake up 30 minutes late for work, throw the alarm clock at the wall and go back to sleep. Except I’m up at some Godforsaken hour (as per) and up and doing before you can ask “WTF happened to the dark hours?”
Being said, I am training myself to not leap into the day the moment my eyes open. I now listen to something called a ‘Flash Briefing’ from Alexa, which is a melange of news and stories curated from various news and magazine channels of my choosing – BBC, CNN, The New York Times, et al. Although, lately, every summary consists mostly of the pigs’ breakfast the UK is making of Brexit. As a Remainer, I am now more than happy to pack up and leave this ceaseless and confused noise and go back to where I came from – Willesden Green.
I’m thinking about routines this week as I read again we are the product of our patterns. That we are what we consistently do.
Crikey, let me see.
- Turn down the bedcovers every night and remove the jungle-load of cushions which decorate the bed, promising every night to maybe have at least one less of the things the next day. As a cushion maker (or a Cushion Creative, Dahling), I routinely translate “one less” into meaning add four more. It’s a problem.
- Boil the kettle, turn it off, go do something else, come back to a cold kettle and then boil it again. I’m ashamed to say this can happen at least twice in a morning. Okay, okay, four times in a morning. It’s a problem.
- Start a new notebook, initial the front and add the date, determined to use the pages through to the end before starting a new one. I cleaned out my home desk last week and stared open mouthed at 10 notebooks, none of which had been completed. Okay, okay, 15 notebooks. This has gone beyond a problem.
- Make lists. (Typically, in half-finished notebooks). I am so anal about list making that if I do a task that wasn’t originally on the list, I’ll add it then cross it off as complete. Some weeks, nothing on the original list is complete, just the stuff I’m doing on an ad hoc basis which had no business being on any list in the first place.
- Paint my toenails. This is not the routine part. The routine part is then letting the nail polish grow off rather than take the thing off when it starts to look awful. I’m still growing out the pedicure I had done in Australia. In December. Don’t.
Oh God, let me stop there. I hate to think what even this short list is telling me about myself.
Perhaps the routine I am most proud of is the one of getting on with the business of getting on.
After Bronnie died, the simple act of opening my eyes and putting my feet to the floor seemed an impossibility every morning. That is until I adopted the 5-second rule about most of the things I now routinely get done in my life.
The 5-second principle says our brains will talk us out of anything uncomfortable if we think about that thing for more than 5 seconds.
For instance, the thought of a walk before work every morning makes perfect sense to me at night. Come the morning? You get it. I don’t even count to five now. No matter how I’m feeling – or not feeling – I just get up, throw on track clothes over pyjamas and go. (A Hard Habit To Break)
Instead, then, of routinely concentrating on the negatives about myself, which was a routine habit, I now choose to celebrate even the smallest routine wins. Like every day getting on with the business of trying to fashion a meaningful life amidst grief.
That and my toenails’ ability to hang onto nail polish for months.
Like I said, small wins.