This week, hungering for normalcy, I've returned to my customary schedule. Sort of.
Up at 5 a.m., I walk the dog, feed the cat and off to the gym I go. Upon my return home, I do what I always do in the fashion I've grown accustomed to. This makes me feel so ... so ... well, powerful.
I'm a creature of habit. And the older I get, the more I cling to those daily rituals that provide ballast to my existence. I encourage spontaneity, laud the romance of the free spirit -- but only in others. My body and my mind invariably demand routine. I find comfort in predictability, in the ability to plan for a beginning, middle and end.
In the mornings, for example, I may take the dog on a different route, but wherever I go, I perform long, luxurious stretches at appropriate intervals. I prepare breakfast and lunch in the same series of steps, lest I forget my vitamin supplements. At the gym, I always grab the far left stool to apply make-up in the front of a shared mirror. And before I sit down to write, before I enter that creative world where originality and imagination rule, I arm myself with a Dove dark chocolate square, consumed in tiny well-modulated bites. This is who I am, what I've become: a compilation of little calculated acts.
Some might consider this confining. I find it liberating. Not having to worry about making dozens of small decisions, I'm free to focus on the bigger picture. On what truly matters.
"Boring," a friend recently told me, "is good. I try to schedule it regularly." She should know. Her life has been anything but dull -- and rarely as a result of her own doing.
Long a fan of routine and structure, I used to prep my now-grown children two weeks before school officially started. At the end of summer, we ran practice drills and, despite their loud protestations, instituted early wake-ups long before the first bell rang. I needed to stick to a program if I was going to get all five headed out the door on time.
Unusual? Hardly. And sometimes it seems that the more extreme the circumstance, the greater the need for routine. I've read accounts of political prisoners who, when locked away in dank, dark solitary cells, develop a schedule to keep track of time -- their way of holding firm to vestiges of sanity. A couple of years ago, the world was fascinated by 33 trapped Chilean miners who divided themselves into three groups, each working 8-hour shifts to clean and reinforce mine walls until they were rescued weeks later.
These days, I've become even more enamored of habit and custom. As The Hubby recovers from sepsis, I desperately hang on to my routine. Everything in its place, everything on time.
Sure, sure, there will come a point when I'll have to step out of the proverbial comfort zone, a moment that calls for soaring without a net. Until then, I want my life diagrammed into neat portions. I want a steady rhythm to offset the cacophony that marks my days. I want the same old, same old.
(Ana Veciana-Suarez is a family columnist for The Miami Herald. Write to her at The Miami Herald, One Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132, or send e-mail to aveciana(at)herald.com.)