A New Normal

You know what’s weird to lack? A daily routine.

Most people have some variant of get up, go to work, come home, sleep with a bunch of little personal details. What they eat for breakfast, if they eat breakfast, do they eat with a spouse or on the way to work and etc. That sort of thing. We have routines from a young age starting with school and moving to work of some sort. They say that it’s good to break a routine every once in a while and it’s true. Too much of a thing, even if it’s a good thing, can be a bad thing. Change is good.

But not having a routine is a strange thing. You grasp for one that might not be there in an attempt to right yourself because not having one feels a little bit like a ship tipping over. Life last year didn’t allow for much of a routine. Now, truth is, I did that to myself. Nobody forced me to get on all those planes and to live in airport lounges, but I would have been desperately lonely had I not. Pro-tip: don’t spend the first year of your marriage in a country where you can only speak to your husband. We made it, but I’m not entirely certain how we did. In the end, disrupting my routine to the point that my routine was chaos was worth it, but it wasn’t easy and now I’m trying to remember how to build one again.

I don’t have work to go to, I don’t have school to go to yet, but I can’t exactly spend the day in bed. So what do you do when you have nothing to do? Let me tell you that while there is a small urge to clean everything in the very beginning it is small enough that I don’t actually get to clean everything and eventually I just end up bored. Being bored is no fucking fun. Having nothing to do is crazy-making. Remember that the next time when you’re talking to someone who is unemployed.

Turns out that building your own routine isn’t easy. I have no reminders or guidelines, I have no structure outside of Will leaving and coming home from work. I have email that I need to get to, but surely I can get to it later, right? I’m a procrastinator by nature. You don’t make a procrastinator their own boss for a good reason. Except now I am.

Thank ghod for Japan’s obsession with stationary. You couldn’t turn a corner in the town we lived in without running into a stationary store that had incredibly adorable pre-printed To-Do Lists. I have travel themed lists, cat themed lists, penguin themed lists and even book themed lists. And those lists are how I get things done around here. I had to bribe myself at first. Every time I got something done, I allowed myself to open a piece of mail from a friend or one of the Cards Against Humanity Bullshit items. But now I don’t need the bribes. The simple act of crossing through the list and getting to flip another page is enough motivation. I push myself to get my To-Do list done as soon as I can.

The real trick for me was to know what was reasonable to put on the list. If I put a bunch of small items on the list, it can seem like my list is longer than the Wall of China. If I put too massive of a job on my list, it feels like a boulder that I’ll never be able to work through. Learning to break up your tasks into manageable chunks is something you quickly learn in the real working world, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever get back to that world. Working through a list consisting of ‘Write letter to Brigid’ and ‘Call doctor’ can be annoying sometimes. It feels like I shouldn’t need a list to do those things. But when you’re sick, little things add up and become big things. While I’d rather my routine be filled with big things, right now I’ll settle for getting something done at all.

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