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A Routine
Is Liberating

Natalia J. Garland

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Most tasks and events are conducted according to routine or schedule. Everything gets timed into a sequence, and this is what makes everything possible. Life proceeds by years, months, weeks, days, and hours. The course of time itself is predictable and dependable. Within the cycle of time, it is expedient to develop a personal routine. If I get up at 6:00 a.m. every morning, I establish my pace. If I do laundry every Saturday, I make my chores manageable. If I pay my bills by the last day of every month, I ensure my survival. If I celebrate Thanksgiving Day the fourth Thursday of every November, I affirm important values and relationships.

As social workers we know the necessity of scheduling appointments for clientele and maintaining the flow of each therapeutic hour. Not only is this a part of our workday routine, but the therapy session also becomes a part of the patient's weekly routine. Terminating therapy poses an adjustment for the patient: what will they do with that time now that they no longer go to their therapist's office? They will have a morning, afternoon, or evening that will take on a different shape, and planning for this change will give the patient more control and self-determination.

Those who work in the field of addiction know how important it is for patients to attend A.A. or N.A. meetings. It is not only attendance or participation which are important, but a consistent routine of going to meetings whether or not the patient feels a need for help. If the addict waits until he feels a need to hear the A.A./N.A. message, it may already be too late. Bad habits, so to speak, must be replaced with good habits. Leaving sobriety open to random occurrence will only invite chaos and deterioration.

There is no such thing as a carefree life. There are problems to be solved, responsibilities to be fulfilled, and goals to be achieved. This is not to say that life is drudgery. Life can be difficult, but having a dependable routine brings satisfaction and pride in the completion of tasks. Routine also makes relaxation and spontaneity possible. If I decide not to wash dishes tonight because of a competing priority, I know that my routine will automatically go back into effect tomorrow morning and the dishes will get washed. The dishes will not sit in the sink until the cockroaches take over my kitchen.

Procrastination and impulse seem to be a lifestyle for some people. For example, my friend never did laundry until she absolutely had nothing clean to wear. This is not wrong in itself. However, it points to a larger lifestyle modus operandi in which my friend never realized her potential because nothing backed her into a corner where she would have no choice but to take action on her own behalf. She wanted minimal responsibility and a lot of fun. She became increasingly unhappy as the years passed by because there was nothing to reflect her presence on this earth. She locked herself into an illusion of freedom. She never learned that the key to liberating time is to use it wisely.

It is a mistaken notion that routine is rigid or boring. A routine is a system or pattern for organizing time and getting things done. Both the dreaded and the enjoyable tasks get done smoothly. Routine also makes creativity possible because it clears the mind of unnecessary decision-making and planning. When tasks and events become routinized, then the mind can plough the deeper furrows of meaning and enable self-expression to flower. (Written 11/20/06)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2006 Natalia J. Garland