“My routine.”

June 30, 2011 § 9 Comments

Italian playing cards.

Those two words belonged to my Italian grandfather, Nonno.

My brother, sister and I rolled our eyes at the mere mention. Who would want to do the same thing over and over and over?

Plus his routine was so…routine. For exercise he walked laps around the kitchen counter (a hundred tiny circles).

He lay in wait for the mailman, and then, when he was sure the small truck had moved on, he would collect the mail, flipping through it as he carried it up the driveway.

This was the part of my grandfather’s routine that caused my mother to
get a PO Box. As a frequently-rejected fiction writer (a term which applies to any fiction writer) the double-disappointment of receiving that terse “not for us” and my grandfather’s sympathy, “Oh, Gloria! Rejected again. Why don’t you just give up?” was more than she could bear.

Midafternoon was punctuated by the snap of playing cards being arranged on the counter for a few hands of hands of Napoleonic solitaire.

Looking back, I think with greater kindness of my grandfather’s maddening
repetitions. Long retired, his routine moved the day forward and gave it shape. Examining and commenting on the mail meant he was still in the game, if only as a heckler. The handling of the Italian playing cards was a way of touching home.

I even see a bit of my grandfather in myself.

Every night before going to bed I do what I call, “the three things”–probably to avoid admitting that it is “my routine.”

At any point I could chose three different things. Or add a fourth. Or drop one. But as I learned from Nonno, you don’t mess with “the routine!”

These are my “the three things.”

I stretch. I got the exercises out of a book that assured me they would cure carpal tunnel syndrome. As far as I can tell nothing short of a total hand transplant would do that.  But the stretches feel good. And they give me an excuse to lie on the floor and stare at the ceiling.

Hidden in the random strokes of some long-ago plasterer is the torso of a woman. You’d see it too if you spent as much time as I do staring at that patch of ceiling–and I often find myself looking suddenly up at my dog.

When I lie prone, Moo sees me as a much closer relative. She either, very casually, walks over me going to the kitchen, or starts a tussle–in which case I beg Ray to call her over. She is a much more capable dog than I am.

Thing two (although I do them in no particular order, I’m not that routine!) I clean the kitchen. Woo hoo! There’s some excitement! But routine isn’t about excitement, is it? Cleaning the kitchen leaves the dishes washed and the counter clear for the new day ahead.

My life in words.

Thing three, I open the journal with the pen stuffed between the pages. Just as I put up tomatoes against the long months when there won’t be any in the garden, I put up the day.

Later, when this day has vanished from memory, I will open the journal and it will be there, a little skeletal, but not gone–like the Italy my grandfather reclaimed as he spread his playing cards on the counter.

So what does routine have to offer me and you, and even the kids who roll their eyes?

Here’s my list: it calms, comforts, provides an excuse to pick up memory and hold it in my hand; it makes me feel as if I’m in control, it creates endings and beginnings–it does almost everything except cure carpal tunnel.

What do you do every day and what does it do for you? What is your

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§ 9 Responses to “My routine.”

  • craig reeder says:

    exactly 2 cups of espresso every day. no more. no less.
    one when i wake up in the morning, and one following my afternoon nap. the slightest deviation and i get out of my cycle and utterly disoriented.
    also: exactly one slow dance blog per week. the slightest deviation, and i start dancing too fast.


  • After 6 hours sleep I awaken and get up – no matter the hour! I don my hole-liest Disney T, an old pair of capris, take 5000 pills, get a bowl of Frosted Flakes with milk, and do my email. After this it’s free time until after lunch when the nap kicks in. Supper at 7 with Alex and the gang on Jeopardy, then a little TV Time – whatever baseball, tennis or golf game is on or NCIS. Before bed is another email session followed by a few games of some online majong 3D thing, then bed.

    This isn’t a routine, either. Just a normal day in the life …



    • I was stopped immediately by the six hours of sleep. Six hours?

      But I completely approve of the way you dress. Those shirts we like so much have been loved to that state of holeyness (not to be confused with holiness, which is a whole different matter).


  • Tgumster says:

    These days, routine threatens, my very own Damocles sword if I allow it but I don’t. Routine remains just outside my grasp, although I’m not ready to award it panacea status, either. So easy to know the opposite ends of any spectrum but oh to find the fulcrum!

    I like those mornings best when the kitchen is ready for a new day, too; I sleep better and longer on those nights when I write in my journal. The days I most recall are those of “going bye-bye in the car” with Cooper James, my beagle/hound. On any given day, I may have any one of these and sometimes, I get all three in 24 hours.

    Maybe I’m not so far afield after all, just in a “time out.”


    • Time out must be part of any routine–although people call it by other names such as “playing golf,” “sunbathing,” or “couch poatao-ing.”

      I call it “watching a spider,” or “checking out what’s going on in the tops of the trees on my street,” or “talking to Moo.”

      I believe your time-outs involve plenty of dog conversation. Dogs are, truly, the best listeners.


  • Tgumster says:

    I neglected to mention the energy of “routine,” probably because you do such a good job of it. Indeed, the heart of routine just may be pure energy, for in adhering to the “ritual of routine,” we often discover the extraordinary, just as you say.

    Thanks, Adrian!


  • Josie says:

    My everydays are pretty much all routine, but the good parts always involve Matthew:
    1) Laughing and rolling on the bed with him after he wakes up in the morning
    2) Reading stories about pirates
    3) Splashing in the bathtub and trading out the toys over and over
    4) Singing about poop and other fun things
    5) Sharing chocolate chips from the bag in the “baking drawer” (sometimes he sneaks into the drawer alone, too, but I don’t tell on him)
    6) Kissing his head a lot and yelling “Who’s the biggest bear?”
    7) Watching him breathing softly after he falls asleep

    Having a baby makes for some pretty good routines, I’d say!


    • I remember those routines so well! They were the very best, and you and I both had the good luck (or in your case, have good luck) of spending tons of time with our babies. Once it is gone it’s gone, so sing those silly songs with gusto!


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