In praise of the predictable: the warm joy of routine

I am a creature of habit. A lover of structure. A big fan of familiarity. I have worn the same perfume for 14 years, and I’m never going to change it. (I’ve tried. Really I have. Nothing comes close to my favourite scent). In the past I’ve tended to see my fondness for things staying the same as a negative trait, or at least certainly something that doesn’t exactly set me up for embracing the unknown. And as I’ve already written about in my first blog post, it was the experience of various big things not going to plan in 2015 – finding ways of making peace with that and discovering new contentment from acknowledging not everything goes to plan – that led me to set up this blog.

Interestingly enough, having spent a long time beating myself up for my tendencies towards the predictable, one of the happy consequences of the last few months has been my renewed respect for the little, every day things that do stay the same. Especially when the bigger stuff of life goes awry (such as experiencing multiple miscarriages), I think there is real, healing power in everyday things that are familiar, that help bring that sense of ‘all is well’ or more correctly ‘I am well, happy, resilient, able to take on whatever comes my way, partly because of the happy rhythm of simple, routine things.”

Here are five of my favourite reassuringly mundane pick-me-ups:

  1. The lovely guy in the station café who knows exactly how I like my morning coffee. I don’t need to ask. He sees me coming and my coffee is ready one minute later. What a legend.
  2. The quiet, slow humming noise of the automated security gates which greet me as I arrive at work, and the familar, friendly faces I encounter at the other side as I make my way upstairs to my desk.
  3. My number at choir – 20 is my folder (though I have no actual proprietorial claim over it!). It’s always in the same place, and I reach for it in the same sequence as I walk through the vestry en route to the choir stalls for rehearsal.
  4. Knowing that when I open my handbag everything will be in its proper place, and that when I reach to a particular corner, my lip balm will be where I expect to find it. (Yes, there will also be old baby wipes, dried satsuma peel, crayon fragments, or whatever other toddler-related detritus has made its way in there. Annoying as it is when my hand gets covered in mouldy mushy banana, it always makes me smile wryly when I think of my daughter leaving “little presents for you, Mummy.”)
  5. Driving over a bridge to cross the Thames heading south. Home to South London. My heart always jumps a little, especially at nighttime when the lights sparkle along the river. There are many lovely bridges, but my favourite is Wandsworth Bridge – because it’s on my route to/from choir so I know all the bumps on the road. Weird, I know.

Of course, on their own these fairly trivial things aren’t an instant fix for dealing with whatever big curveballs life throws. But I think there can be something very meaningful about the humdrum of daily routine and minutiae for easing stress and building resilience – because of the comforting, hope-giving certainty of knowing there are some things that don’t change, even when all is else is in flux. Of course there are other (even more important) constants too – family, good friends, nourishing food, fresh air and exercise and the rest. But little, mundane daily prompts that help me feel centred, and feel like me, have their place too.

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