Our routines often create clashing contrasts:
- Comfort and dissatisfaction
- Security and danger
- Confidence and restlessness
- Delight and regret
- Process and immobility
- Skill and artlessness
These clashes don’t usually pose a threat to our existence. They’re just a part of our daily cycle.
The comfort of ordering the same latte on the way to work minimizes the regret of never challenging our taste buds to try something different. We may binge on movies to visualize stepping out of our comfort zone in search of a different self. But the next day, the alarm still rings at 6 A.M., and the latte is still finished by the time we get to work.
Let’s be honest: We don’t think about the routine of life when the juggling of life makes it difficult just to breathe. When climate change, pandemics, polarization, and everything else threaten to drown us, we retreat to safety, security, sacredness — routine.
While our routines may make us feel good in the moment, over time, they may end up making us feel badly
Eventually, the hard stop of confronting our routine occurs for all of us. We who have already experienced hard stops — sickness, death of a loved one, job loss, divorce — know what I mean. The day comes when thinking about our own eventual death is a part of our daily routine. We contemplate the unavoidable resignations taking root in our souls before our final hard stop. We just can’t escape or ignore our personal histories any longer. Even Starbucks gets old.
So how do we grow gracefully with our final breaths? What message do we hard-stop people leave behind for others, for those caught up in routines less satisfying, more dangerous, more restless, regretful, and artless than they want to confront? The wisdom of age is only wisdom when others hear it. It’s the tree in the forest making a sound when it falls.
How Do We Break Bad Routines?
We first acknowledge our histories as honestly as possible.
What if we aren’t 24/7 perfect parents, children, friends, workers, or retirees? What if we criticize too much and praise too little? What if we distance ourselves from others because they have wronged us or hurt us? Let it go. Let it go. Let it go. Now is the time to forgive ourselves for falling short and learn even more from the heights we achieved, even on small mountains.
If we have navigated our passages in life with some success, we can look forward to renewal on the trails we still travel. Therefore, we must turn the page on our histories. We must change the way we perceive ourselves and others even when it is difficult to do so. Even the worst sinner can be redeemed. We just need to reset the compass bearing.
Next, we need to challenge ourselves to go beyond our present-day realities.
Just like we did when we were younger. We all have struggles, obvious or hidden, that want to tie us down all day. But we still have our own stories to create as we contemplate Hillel the Elder’s question: If I am not for others, what am I?
And if not now, when? Being for others is a matter of renewal, not resignation. Finding purpose beyond self — even with our last breath — defines a life well-lived. Breathe.
But what if our past routines didn’t teach us to live in the moment with others and for others?
Maybe our routines crippled us, and we became insecure, self-absorbed, or morally challenged.
Gratitude for today can change the past, put us on a better course and make us feel good again. Gratitude that we can love and cherish both others and ourselves. Gratitude for curiosity and exploration of the world both near and far. Gratitude that our routine doesn’t have to be our enemy. Gratitude for being a falling tree in the forest making a sound.
Beverly Graves spent thirty-six years as a high school English teacher before writing articles and developing educational curriculum for the Ohio State Bar Foundation, the charitable arm of the Ohio State Bar Association. While a teacher, she authored a high school speech textbook and wrote for the Columbus Suburban News Syndicate. As the Outreach Coordinator for OSBF, she still gets her “kid fix” by presenting the educational materials to classrooms throughout the state of Ohio. The one daily routine she adheres to fanatically is playing pickleball with friends.