The seasons seem to come around faster every year. Part of that feeling is brought on by the compression of “fall” into the pumpkin/turkey/Santa/NewYear season. But even if I have to buy my Halloween candy next to stocking stuffers, I take some comfort in the pattern. It’s a way of marking the time and feeling a measure of control in knowing what comes next.
My days are packed with routines – from meals and work to the baffling number of dental and skin care steps required before bed. Repeated events fill the week, the month, the quarter: projects, book club meetings, grocery trips, budgets, and commutes. But rather than feeling like I’m on an endless treadmill, these activities are familiar mile markers I’ve touched so often, their edges are smooth and worn. Emerson said that “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” but I don’t think it’s foolish to enjoy what is familiar. Of course, I have to guard against only reading things that confirm the opinion I already have, and be willing to improvise when things don’t go as planned.
When the kids were small we established routines so we could manage getting them fed, bathed, and in bed at a regular time each evening. Reading bedtime books was my favorite part – either digging into the bag of colorful picture books from the library, or favorites from our own shelves. Like most kids, they loved repetition. If a story was interesting, exciting, or funny, they’d want to hear it over and over. Even with a story they had memorized, the anticipation of what they knew was coming next seemed to set them aquiver. That infectious joy made it a lot easier to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar for the twentieth time.
Repetition builds muscle memory that frees you from having to work out the details anew. And like practicing piano scales or push-ups, repetition also brings improvement. As I set out on another week, I’m wearing some variant of my black/gray/navy uniform and I look forward to the train ride, my cup of tea at work, and seeing my co-workers. Processing a third or fourth revision on a project, this may be the iteration when I get it right.