Ahh, routine, I love you.
I am slowly working my way back to my daily personal routines. After a strange 3-week bout with an allergic skin reaction, my life is finally beginning to feel normal again. I have always known that I am a creature of habit, but I took careful notice of how much so as I felt my life creep gradually out of my control and back again.
At various points in time, I get tired of my routines and life becomes boring and bland. I long for a disturbance of some sort. Remaining in once place and doing the same things I’ve always done seems intolerable. But when control is taken from my hands, the comfort and security of my normal life are found in my routines – the endless tasks that are folding laundry, washing dishes, cooking food, caring for children, reading.
As Kathleen Norris writes in her book, Acedia and Me*, repetition is life-giving. It creates order and meaning, preserves life-equilibrium, gives a sense of well-being, and allows for rest. The daily tasks of personal hygiene, housework, work, exercise, and self-care allow a person to claim their life as their own. In an “upside-down” sort of way, the repetitiveness of routine allows for freedom and joy that are difficult to find in our consumer culture of entitlement to new, better, and more.
This quote from Acedia and Me demonstrates the renewing nature of repetitiveness. Norris tells of an incident from her teenage years:
…I was a bratty kid who didn’t want to make her bed.
“Why bother?” I would ask my mother in a witheringly superior tone. “I’ll just have to unmake it again at night.” To me, the act was stupid repetition; to my mother, it was a meaningful expression of hospitality to oneself, and a humble acknowledgment of our creaturely need to make and remake our daily environments. “You will feel better,” she said, “if you come home to an orderly room.” She was far wiser than I, but I didn’t comprehend that for many years.
As I find my life returning to normal, I find myself filled with gratitude for simple things I take for granted most of the time: energy to accomplish daily tasks, interest in my children, a good night’s sleep, normal skin blemishes, bodily comfort. There is deep, abiding blessing in the daily tasks each day is made up of, and I am thankful for the opportunity to become aware of God’s quiet presence through the loss and regaining of health. There is great grace in the ordinary.
*I’ve written before about Acedia and Me. You can read it here.