On Structure, Habits, Routines and Rituals


Every day since I left the world of paid employment, upon waking, I savor my freedom. Oh, the joy of having my hours to call my own, to choose how I want to spend my days, an ecstasy that makes even doing laundry a delight.

I’ve known, since I was a child, that I am a person who likes, okay, I’ll say it, loves structure, and over the past years, I’ve developed a rhythm, a cadence, mapping out a time to write, or at least a time to dither about not writing while finding what might be considered odious chores around the house, rather than “sit, stay” at my desk. I devotedly make up my to do lists– they provide me with a texture of security, of protection.

This week, while putting off returning to my novel-in-progress, I happened upon Mary Oliver’s Long Life: Essays and Other Writings, in which she considers habit and life’s rhythm, and how it sets a context for the daily-ness of our lives.

I give you her words, which say it better than mine ever could:

(with habits) “life’s fretfulness is transcended. The different and the novel are sweet, but regularity and repetition are also teachers. If you have no ceremony, no habits, which may be opulent or may be simple but are exact and rigorous and familiar, how can you reach toward the actuality of faith, or even a moral life, except vaguely? The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us. Our battles with our habits speak of dreams yet to become real. (the bold is mine)

… Most people take action by habit in small things more often than in important things, for it’s the simple matters that get done readily, while the more somber and interesting, taking more effort and being more complex, often must wait for another day. Thus, we could improve ourselves quite well by habit, by its judicious assistance, but it’s more likely that habits rule us.

And so, as I consider the habits that are my master, I ask you to consider those traditions that rule you. And not all bad, I’d say.

Another Sunday, http://www.cynthiastrauff.com