Routine can be powerful – positive and negative. At the beginning of this situation, when it became clear that people were going to be quarantined in their homes for extended periods of time, so-called “experts” began to write prolifically about the best practices for remote working and for making the most of this time at home.
I think most of us can agree that all of those inspirational messages sounded great at first and even felt good in practice – temporarily. But over nearly 12 weeks, it’s impossible to maintain those ridiculously high standards. If I had followed all of that expert advice, by now I should have written at least two novels, become fluent in several foreign languages, be absolutely buff from all of the incredible exercise regimens, trained for a marathon, and become good enough in the kitchen to win “The Great British Baking Show.”
Frankly, the only habit I have been able to maintain is the habit of this daily blog post. Nearly everything else either went away entirely, or comes and goes in spurts. I am working on my Spanish a little here and there, I am baking more than ever (which is not much, really). My cooking has improved a little. But I have not written much on my novel and exercise went out the window long ago.
About the only other habits I had – up until yesterday – were all about my evening ritual of writing and posting this “Sparkling Isolation” series and my morning rituals including the setting up of my home office for the day. For nearly twelve weeks I had a very clear “workday” ritual and series of activities. I would wake up, prepare coffee (always in the exact same way), draw my daily tarot card, sit with my coffee and journal on a specific series of six questions/prompts (the same every day). I would then power up my iPad and check things in a specific order starting with Facebook so that I could post my daily list of five things I am grateful for. After this, I would “commute” into my home office and set things up in exactly the same way every single day.
At first, and for a long time, this gave me comfort. It also established my home office as a separate space from the rest of my life. But over time, this ritual began to feel stifling. I didn’t realize it fully until my anxiety attack of Sunday and my revelation of yesterday that I needed to “mix things up” more. So yesterday, I sat in my kitchen in the morning sunlight to write my blog post.
For the first time yesterday, I posted about the prior day instead of making myself stay up late the night before to post. I also moved my laptop and other work items into the kitchen and set up for the day there. Today, I am doing the same thing but I have moved to a different side of my kitchen table. It may seem like a small thing, but it’s a rather subtle yet profound shift for me.
Once again, I am writing this post in the morning about yesterday and did not force myself to be productive late in the evening. It feels so liberating to be able to totally unplug at the end of the day and just enjoy the evening without any sense of obligation.
So here towards what I hope is the final few weeks of this isolation, I have learned that ritual can be a great thing sometimes. But when ritual becomes rut, I began to have anxiety about it. The ritual begins to feel like an obligation and I feel like a failure when I “violate” the rules.
Now, I am working on creating new habits that focus on the essence of the ritual rather than the actual activities. What I mean by that is that I am delving a bit into the reasons behind all of the things I was doing. Why make my coffee the same way each day? Why read that Tarot card? Why journal with those prompts? Why sit in the same chair every time? Why set up the office in a dark quiet room? Etc.
As I begin to explore those questions, I am developing new routines and rituals that are based on the essence of what was bringing me comfort in those prior activities. It’s a lovely revelation to be able to keep the energy without the burden of the strict activities.
Now, if only I could figure out how to do this with exercise.
It’s only Quarantine if it comes from the Quarante province of France. Otherwise, it’s just Sparkling Isolation.