The Virtue of Crushing Routine

smallrootsLong-time members of my readership know that I grew up in a Navy family. By the age of ten, I moved four times, crossing the Pacific Ocean and the continental United States three times, and attending four different elementary schools.

Besides books, the only constants in my young life were routine family duties. When my mom refused to move yet one more time when I was thirteen — leaving her and us four kids rooted in Texas while my dad deployed overseas to the Indian Ocean’s Diego Garcia, on the other side of the planet — those routine family duties ossified. Even when he returned and was then deployed to Gulfport, Mississippi, my routine family duties as Assistant Parental Unit #1 remained unchanged.

Perhaps that’s why I fought to live on campus when I went to the University of Dallas, even though the campus was only a 30-minute commute from my parents’ house.

Perhaps that’s why I finally stopped waiting for my then-boyfriend to decide whether to take out a school loan to afford the semester-long study-abroad program in Italy, and I took out a damn school loan during my senior year and had the proverbial time of my life.

Perhaps that’s why I quit a perfectly fine first-job-out-of-college with a freight brokerage company and moved into a sketchy part of town so I could be a full-time graduate student, learning how to be a short story writer, as I took various one-off, temporary, barely-above minimum-wage office jobs during the summer and winter breaks.

Perhaps that’s why I quit a perfectly fine first-grown-up-job-with-401K-and-healthcare to go back to school, getting my teacher certificate and then, after turning down a job offer with a local junior high school, working towards my PhD and living the precarious life as an adjunct instructor while having that stereotypical delayed-adult, thrill-seeking, new-experiences-searching freedom of booze, sex, and rock-n-roll — or as close to booze, sex, and rock-n-roll as a geek with geek friends could get.

And then I got married. And then we got a house. And then I got my PhD. And then I got my full-time faculty job. And then I had a kid. And then I got divorced. And then my life tumbled down into a chaotic mess of BLAH.

That’s when I rediscovered routine family duties, when I had graduated from Assistant Parental Unit #1 from my younger years to Celibate Single Mom. At first, the daily routine was just me surviving one day at a time:

Wake up, get ready for work, get the kiddo ready for daycare (and, later on, school), drop the kiddo to school, go to work, work, run errands post-work, pick up the kiddo, both of us eat a snack and then dinner, get homework and grading done, get the kiddo ready for bed, get some more grading or chores or perhaps writing done, get myself to bed.

Three afternoons a week is the kiddo’s Tae Kwon Do, and once a week is a post-church dinner at my parents’ house, where I often help my mom with some chore that she’s saved for me to do because I can still lift stuff heavier than fifty pounds.

Rinse, lather, repeat, since 2010.

At times, this routine can feel so monotonous that it’s crushing if I do the bad habit of overthinking.

Most of the time, however, I feel so damn thankful that I have structured my life that not only do I feel safe, stable, and happy — but the kiddo’s safe, stable, and happy.

As a community college teacher, I hear all the drama-filled stories of the struggling single mom, especially that single mom who feels that she’s missing out on life, and then she makes a choice that may be EXCITING but isn’t helpful to her and her kiddo(s)’ well-being.

Eff missing out on life. I had plenty of “life.” My life these days is a structured, grown-ass routine, and it is fan-freakin’-TASTIC.

I’ve lived in the same house for twelve years, and I’m not going anywhere. I’ve worked at the same campus for ten years, and I’m not going anywhere else. Unlike me, the kiddo has been living in the same town in which he was born, and he’d gone to the same daycare from age six weeks to five years old, and he’s been at the same elementary school for the past four years, and he’s not going anywhere else until he graduates from fifth grade — whereupon he’ll go to the middle school just two blocks away from the elementary school.

Stability is AWESOME because, with stability, I remember my roots and give my kiddo roots.

I’ll end this already lengthy post with a passage from one my of favorite authors, Madeleine L’Engle, from her YA novel, A Wind in the Door (1973 edition):

“Do the inhabitants of Yadah seem more limited than human beings because once they have taken root they can’t move from their Deepening Places? But human beings need Deepening Places, too. And far too many never have any. […] When Sporos Deepens […] it means that he comes of age. It means that he grows up. The temptation for farandola or for man or for a star is to stay an immature pleasure-seeker. When we seek our own pleasure as the ultimate good we place ourselves as the center of the universe. A fara or a man or a star has his place in the universe, but nothing created is the center.” (151-52, 172)

The LQ


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