Journal Entry

Thursday, December 16, 2004

In praise of routine

I used to avoid routine, preferring serendipity and chaos. But I am by nature so chaotic, distractable, mercurial, and intense, that routine is the only way I have to lead an efficient life -- to get anything done at all, really.

Writing and children have both led me to routine. Writing, because it is solitary and self-imposed, because it calls up resistance, and because it is quantifiable. How many words? What did I get done? Do I have anything to send out? Against these constant questions -- and against the fact that, really, at any given non-writing moment, while I like the idea of writing and know I'll love the process when I'm warmed up, I don't really ever feel like writing -- routine is the only ally I have.

Children, both because they crave routine (we've started a bedtime bath-and-cuddle-and-dim-lights for Noah and story and whispering-time for Aviva at 7:30 pm, and not only is it doing wonders for Noah's sleep patterns, but -- mirabile dictu -- it has Aviva falling asleep at 8pm!) and because children will fill all unplanned time with their needs and desires: so, as a parent, if you want any other space in your life, you have to carve it out with routine.

And the wonderful thing about a routine, I've discovered, is that you can optimize it. I'm a coder at heart, you know -- nothing makes me happier than to optimize some loop on the critical path. Should I set my sneakers by the side of the bed? Or by the couch by the front door? Do I save time running an extra half mile to be able to catch the 23A and 15K as well as the 3T? If I shave while in the shower? None of these questions are worth thinking about in a one-time-only process. But if we're talking every weekday for the next three years, well...

So I'm so delighted with my morning routine today. I woke up at 6:00am to Aviva tugging my arm, wanting to get in the bed (our current nighttime deal with Aviva is this: she goes to sleep in her tent in her room. If she wakes up -- usually around 2 or 3 am -- and can't sleep in her room, she can come and sleep on the matress at the foot of our bed, and one of us will groggily tuck her in. At 6am, she gets to climb in bed and cuddle as long as she doesn't wake Noah). I climbed out of bed and she climbed in.

By 6:10 I had tied my shoes and was out the door into dark, frost-glisteny suburbia. It's about two and a half miles from my house to my office. You can't run the whole way, because the interlocking sprawl of 123, I-495, and the Dulles Access Toll Road was designed with no consideration for such lunatics as pedestrians and cyclists. So I run up to 123, just before the first exit to I-495, and take a bus for one stop. There are four buses that stop there, and today I could just sprint to catch one. Perfect.

There's a gym in my office building we can use for free (routine is also cheap: you can optimize for cost as well as time). I was there by 6:40. There was one other guy there, a perfect gym partner (silent, companiable but distant, seriously engaged in his workout, wanted to listen to classic rock rather than loud ESPN debates about some pitcher's injured tendon). I turned Bjork off on my iPod for the interim, and on again when he left.

Bjork segued to Bo Diddley -- the alphabet of iPod.

Five pullups, three hundred crunches and various sets of bench presses (I am inordinately excited that I can bench 200 pounds on this Nautilus thingie) and lat pulls and such contortions later, plus one shower, plus dressing in my spiffy work clothes already laid out in the locker (see? routine), I was in the Corner Bakery having an egg and cheese croissant and writing by 8:15.

Hurrah routine, hurrah!

Posted by benrosen at December 16, 2004 01:16 PM | Up to blog
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