I have a hard time establishing routines. I’m a free spirit, I guess. I like variety: I’ve had a lot of jobs where the words “something different every day” came up in the interview.
I’ve had a lot of jobs, period. Once, during a very brief stint as a catering kitchen assistant, I was carpooling to work with a coworker and discussing our work histories. She’d had two jobs in her life: the restaurant where she’d worked every summer from the beginning of high school all the way through college, and this catering gig.
I tried to remember all of mine. I was twenty-three at the time, and I came up with:
- Attractions Associate at Legoland
- Banquet Server at a hotel
- Dining Room server at the same hotel at a different time
- Sandwich Maker at a bagel shop
- Front Desk Agent at that one hotel
- Barista at Starbucks
- Barista at an independent coffeehouse
So maybe “free spirit” should be replaced with “flake.” I can admit that about myself. I’m not a rock. If I’m any mineral, I’m mica: soft and a little bit sparkly. And yes, prone to flaking.
I don’t have a lot of stick-to-it-ive-ness. I’m not great with organization, though I’ve always wanted to be. I envy people for whom any of the adult annoyances (as I call them) are easy: scheduling, finances, remembering to floss.
I used to, anyway. Then I realized: anything can be easy with two simple steps:
- Learn how to do it.
- Make it routine.
My husband flosses regularly because it’s a habit. It’s part of his nightly routine. I don’t floss regularly (TMI?) because as a kid my teeth were so messed up and far apart that I didn’t need to floss–the dentist told me so. Now that my teeth have been fixed, I haven’t taken the time to incorporate it into my routine. It’s not that my husband is a better person than I am (though in some ways he undeniably is); it’s just that he’s used to it. He’s like a tooth-flossing robot. It’s in his programming.
Also, he’s less rebellious than I am. There are several areas of my life that make me extra prickly, and the dentist/orthodontist/oral surgeon definitely ranks. (Remember those spaced-out, gnarly teeth? They necessitated many many many many many many many many many hours in the dentist’s chair and a whole heckuva lot of pain.) So sometimes, this snotty kid inside me goes, “You’re not the boss of me!” (I think I’ve written about this before–déjà vu all over again).
Well, I’m a mom now. I’ve learned to discipline my children (though if you’re ever behind me in line at the grocery store, you might not know it) and it’s time to discipline my inner child. Five years and two kids, an autism diagnosis, a lot of trips to hospitals (and so on) have taught me that life is work. It’s not some work and some play: even play is work. Happiness is work. Marriage is work. And work is pain. In the words of my lifelong crush, Westley (aka the Dread Pirate Roberts):
Life is pain, princess. Anyone who says differently is selling something.
Which is not to say that I’m bitter or gloomy or totally depressed. I mean, I am, but that’s not the point here. In fact, it’s about getting past all that. It’s about becoming an adult, at least in my own definition. About learning to take care of myself. I’m in my thirties now, and as Roald Dahl observed in his masterpiece, Matilda, that’s about the time most people learn to take care of themselves (which Matilda accomplished at four).
I used to think these things would just happen, like the passing of time. At some point I stopped being a teenager and started being an adult–right? Well, as I said, everything is work. Every damn thing. But the work is easier when you don’t have to think about it, so that’s my goal: to create routines and make some of that work second nature. To gain a sort of muscle memory, if you will. I’ve been working these muscles a lot more lately, trying to train myself, but tomorrow the training will truly begin.
Stay tuned, kids.
Because I might need you to help me through this.