Lethal Routine

ROUTINE …

A neighbour of mine, Hal, died violently this week.

He awoke Wednesday as usual, settled his feet onto the early morning chill floor of his bedroom, and focused his sights on the forthcoming day. But come evening, unlike every other day, he didn’t sink into the comfortable bed that awaited.

Yes, it began a routine day for retired Hal, probably a lot like many other days in his 70 or so years. He kissed his wife, Maica, goodbye as she left for work, put on a routine shirt and pants, and prepared a routine breakfast. He slipped on his routine shoes.

The day’s schedule? Just a bit of routine home maintenance.

A couple of hours later, Dianne, our nearby neighbour, casually strolling past his house, spotted some feet sticking straight up in the air from the outside basement stairs like toothpicks in a jar.

Hal had fallen from a ladder perched inside his back stairs, then smashed his head on a concrete ledge. He laid hanging upside down dripping thick, crimson blood from a gaping wound, eyes open in a fixed, blank stare, until Dianne happened along.

Heart in throat, she called 911 while reassuring and comforting comatose Hal – tall, slender, quiet-spoken, shy, white-haired, sweet-smiled, Salvation Army member, dog-loving, just remarried 3 years ago … Hal.

It was a routine day that began in a similar fashion to the 25,000+ that preceded it.

But 24 hours later, Hal’s routine was no longer. Routine, like Hal, was dead.

New Things

This put me to thinking about the paths we roam … about life’s routines and hidden dangers.

ROUTINE is a word, that for me, is like MODERATION.

It lacks energy and spark. It lacks a clear meaning that paints a picture in our heads. When we use a word, everyone should know the story.

Of course I have routines, sometimes I even embrace and feel comforted by routines. There are routines, but then there are … routines.

The difference?

One type of routine is pursued as a way of becoming great at something that inflames an inner passion.

Example? I try to practice my guitar a minimum of 1/2 hour each day as a way of improving my skill, my ability to make pleasing harmony – something that plunges to my deepest inner core. It is a heady, floating feeling that accompanies improvement.

On the physical side of life, I routinely run a whack of miles each week to maintain my Sidney Crosby level of fitness (cough cough) but also to develop a slightly greater pace than the week previous. I’ve attended my friend Marsha’s yoga class for 7 or 8 years now to stretch my aging muscles so I can keep running for a few years still to come.

There are times when this self-improvement business feels like the other kind of cancerous routine I’ll discuss below, but it’s a necessary evil when we want to work towards mastery.

THIS is GOOD ROUTINE

I encourage you to build a strong base of these types of routines. Put in your 10,000 hours. Become a better pianist, golfer, chef, mathematician, stand-up comic, learn German. Work hard on those routines.

Sweat. Bleed. Cry. Vomit. Improve.

.

My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation.

Arthur Conan Doyle

EXALTATION! It sounds religious, but it describes the feeling we get when we do something that excites us and we want to become better at.

 

And THEN …

… there’s the other ROUTINE …

People-Wait-Everyday-Health-Quotes-Inspirational-for-Kids

This other kind of routine I try to avoid like hair in my soup, or nails scratching down a blackboard. I don’t want to see or hear it.

No day should be a carbon copy of any other, should it?

Every day should have a little something special to say, as if it were as unique and notable as your birthday.

I struggle with this. I’m plagued by the idea of normalcy and routine. There’s a reason why some people respond to the question, “What’s new?” with “Oh, the same old, same old“. They’ve allowed the cancerous routine to set up shop. Are there sadder words to be spoken? Their eyes take on an appearance of something from The Walking Dead zombies.

Walking Dead Workout

Here’s an inspired way out of that Walking Dead routine of life….

When someone says this to me I want to grip them by the shoulders and shake them. PLEASE … find a path that makes your heart hum along with an enthusiastic beat.

I’ve said this before (maybe it’s a part of MY routine!), but if you don’t wake up on at least one Monday morning each month feeling an inner urge to skip along the sidewalk to work, then there’s a few cancer cells in your routine that might benefit from a dose of treatment.

Last Sunday, I pedalled my bike in the early morning sunshine along Highway 97, up the long, steep hill that leads to my little Okanagan town of Summerland and the Tim Hortons coffee shop perched at the top of the hill. It’s probably the last Sunday to ride a bike up to Tims as the weather grows cool, the day length shorter.

The bike ride to Tims used to be our Sunday “routine”. It needed a change-up.

It was displaced by another routine, a TRX exercise class with Andre, which then was displaced by another routine, a Boot Camp-style exercise class that a friend, Cara leads. It’s like a mixed salad that gets tossed about from time to time. One routine pushed aside by another routine by another routine. They all light a similar fire using a different spark.

Why do I rail against routine as a default style?

Death has a hold on my psyche and it shapes my life. At an early age, I was saddled with the deaths of aunts and uncles and then my parents. I hope you miss(ed) those milestones until much later in your journey.

The Grim Reaper is the fire that burns beneath my feet and reminds me that I have a finite number of days and hours to be – days and hours I can while away in a routine stupor or breathe in with verve and eagerness and fire and spirit.

I have sweet, kind Hal down the street to thank for giving me an unintended, mournful wake-up call this week.

It’s nice to know that even the unkindest chapter of life can contain a message of inspiration.

 

Calvin and Hobbes routine

 

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